Knowing your own vocal range is a fast way to improve your singing. Many amateur singers struggle with singing songs outside their range, and this can make them feel like a worse singer than they are.
In this guide, we will help you find your vocal range. With this information, you can find your voice type, specific exercises for your voice type, perfect songs for you voice type, and work on improving your range.
So let’s get on with our vocal range test.
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What Is A Vocal Range?
In this guide, we are going to be discussing vocal range in depth, so before we begin, I would like to provide a working definition for the idea.
Your vocal range is a measurement from the lowest note to the highest note you can comfortably sing.
Your range will usually be written as a range between two notes, for example: C3 to C5. This means that the person can sing from C3 (the C below middle C) to C5 (the C above middle C).
Middle C is C4, so if you get confused, that is a good place to anchor your understanding of vocal range.
Your vocal range is the range of notes you can comfortably and regularly sing. I can get a few extra low notes when I am fresh out of bed, but after an hour or two of being awake and singing, I can’t hit those notes anymore, so I wouldn’t necessarily count them in my range.
Benefits Of Knowing Your Vocal Range
You may be wondering – why is your vocal range worth knowing?
Knowing, understanding, and improving upon your vocal range is an important part of developing as a singer.
Amateur singers tend to sabotage themselves by singing songs that are out of their range.
It can be hard to know which songs will sound good with your voice, but knowing your vocal range allows you to quickly find out if they will fit.
Knowing your vocal range also allows you to improve your vocal range. Yes – it is possible to improve your vocal range, and we’ll tell you how later in the guide.
Finally, knowing your vocal range allows you to choose warmups and exercises that are right for your voice. Doing the wrong warmups and exercises can be difficult and can damage your voice.
How To Find Your Vocal Range
Finding your vocal range is easy. When you are testing your range, make sure that you are singing the right note – it is possible to end up singing the right note in the wrong octave or sing a harmony note to the note you are supposed to sing. If you are not confident in your ear, have someone else help you perform this test.
- Go to a piano/guitar OR download a keyboard app on your phone. You can also visit a virtual piano website to perform this test.
- Find middle C on the piano or guitar. On a piano, the C4 is in the middle of the keyboard. On a guitar, it’s the first fret on the B string. Sing this note on an “Ah” vowel.
- Move downward one note at a time. Go slow, and try to sing each note clearly. Keep moving down until you hit your lowest note. Mark the lowest note that you can sing.
- Go back to middle C. Move up one note at a time, going slowly, on an “Ah” vowel. Once you reach the highest note, write it down. This can be the highest note in your falsetto (or head voice) or it can be the highest note in your chest voice. It depends what you want to measure.
- Write out your vocal range. You have the lowest note and the highest note, so you can now find your vocal range and type.
Write out your vocal range as [Note Name and Octave Number] – [Note Name and Octave Number].
Finding Your Voice Type
Once you’ve sorted out your vocal range, you can discover your voice type.
Generally, vocal ranges are categorized into six types: Bass, Baritone, Tenor, Alto, Mezzo-Soprano, and Soprano. These are classifications developed by Italians long ago, but they are still used today, as you probably know if you have ever sung in a choir.
Generally, males have Bass, Baritone, and Tenor vocal ranges and females have Alto, Mezzo-Soprano, and Soprano ranges.
Of course, it is possible for a person of any sex to have a vocal type outside what is considered normal. In fact, having a particularly low voice or a particularly high voice can be a good thing when it makes you unique.
It is also possible to have a vocal range that defies traditional vocal ranges. Freddie Mercury had a vocal range that exceeded three octaves. Mariah Carey can sing over five octaves. Tim Storms has 10 octaves of range.
To include more people with exceptional or unusual ranges, people sometimes use additional categories such as Counter-Tenor and Contralto.
Find out where you fall:
Bass voices have a range between E2 and E4. It is possible that you have a few extra notes on either end, but if this is your general range, you are a Bass!
It is the lowest singing range. Depending on your voice, you may be able to sing from a C2 – G4.
Some famous singers with Bass voices include Barry White, Johnny Cash, and Brad Roberts.
Baritone range goes from A2 to A4. It may extend lower, down to F2 or up to C5, without becoming a Tenor or Bass voice.
Baritone is the most common type of male voice, because it covers the most territory.
Classic Baritone voices include Elvis Presley, Eddie Vedder, David Bowie, Jim Morrison, and many more.
The Tenor range extends from C3 to C5. Generally speaking, tenors have greater control and a stronger head voice or falsetto. This lets them sing notes well into the typical female register.
Tenor voices are the highest type of male voice. If you are able to sing notes higher than the average tenor, you may get the label countertenor.
Famous tenors include Luciano Pavarotti, Bille Joe Armstrong, Michael Jackson, Bono, and Cee Lo Green.
Countertenors are generally only considered countertenors in classical music.
Altos can typically sing from F3 to F5. Alto is the lowest type of female voice. Though the alto range is similar to that of a mezzo-soprano, the alto voice is usually richer and more full in the lower range.
Altos who can comfortably sing lower than an F3 are called contraltos and have a similar range to that of a tenor singer.
Some famous altos include Annie Lennox, Diana Krall, and Chaka Khan.
Some famous contraltos include Cher, Fiona Apple, Patsy Cline, Lana Del Ray, Lady Gaga, and more.
Contralto and alto voices tend to be more popular in pop and rock music than in any other genre!
The mezzo-soprano range lies between A3 and A5. It is the middle range of the female vocal types. Often, mezzo-sopranos sing the same lines as sopranos until the line splits off into harmony, where they take the second highest notes.
Some famous mezzo-sopranos include Adele, Beyoncé, Pat Benatar, Sheryl Crow, and Miley Cyrus. It is a great range for singing powerful pop and country!
The typical soprano range lies between C4 and C6, likely with a few extra notes on the top and/or bottom. It is the highest vocal range.
Some famous sopranos include Christina Aguilera, Kristen Bell, Mariah Carey, Björk, and Kelly Clarkson.
It is a great range for singing pure and beautiful classical music or belting out power-pop ballads.
Remember, your vocal range is less about the maximum range of notes you can sing and more about the range of notes you feel comfortable singing in.
Many altos can sing up to a mezzo-soprano range, but they are more comfortable singing lower, in an alto range. This makes them an alto.
Personally, I have the range of a bass or a baritone. I don’t have quite enough notes to be a true baritone, but that is the range I feel comfortable in, so far all intents and purposes, I consider myself a baritone with a strong low-end range.
How Does Vocal Range Work?
Vocal range is a little bit different for everyone, but the mechanics are basically the same. You create sound by lengthening your vocal folds. This creates vibrations (like strings on a cello), which produces sound.
We each have a unique voice and a unique vocal range because there are so many factors working together to produce the voice. It starts in the lungs. Air is exhaled, creating an air stream in the trachea and across the larynx.
Stretched across the larynx are your vocal folds, often called vocal cords. As air passes over them, the vocal cords vibrate to produce sounds. The higher the rate of vibration, the higher the pitch.
Your range is determined by the length and tension of your vocal folds. You cannot control the length of your vocal cords, and the length of your vocal cords does present some physical limitations on your range.
The length of vocal folds in children is similar across sexes. Children generally have a similar range whether they are born male or female. As they go through puberty, the vocal folds elongate, giving adults lower ranges than children.
By the time you reach adulthood, females have vocal folds that are between 12.5 millimeters and 17.5 millimeters long. Adult males have longer vocal folds, between 17 mm and 25 mm in length. This can change dramatically between individuals!
Can You Improve Your Vocal Range?
Many singers want to expand and improve their vocal range. There is a myth out there that you are stuck with your vocal range. This is not true.
Most singers can expand their vocal range, it just takes practice. Doing a few exercises regularly can pay huge dividends. You can gain a few extra notes up top or down low, and some singers can make huge gains!
As noted, there are some physical limitation on your voice. Your vocal folds may simply be too long or short to produce certain sounds. That said, with practice, you can achieve vocal control in ranges you never thought possible.
Discovering Your Head Voice (Falsetto)
Singers that are just starting out may not be aware that they have a head voice or falsetto range. The head voice is created by thinner vocal folds. It is breathy and can extend over an octave above your regular range.
Check out this video of Charlie Puth & Selena Gomez singing “We Don’t Talk Anymore.” The entire chorus (which is what starts the song) is sung in his falsetto range. It is high, breathy, and hollow sounding. It can be very beautiful!
Here is how to quickly identify your falsetto voice.
- Relax your tongue, jaw, neck, and shoulders. The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be for you to produce a strong and controlled falsetto sound.
- Imagine you are at a concert or a football game, and are cheering. Give me a “WOO!” in a high, excited voice. That is the falsetto voice. Practice a couple of these – WOO! WOO! WOO! – and get used to the feeling of using the falsetto voice.
- Imagine you are a ghost. Or at least have a ghostly voice! Pretend you are a kid under a blanket and sing, “ooOOOOoooOOOoo”. That’s the falsetto voice!
Now that you have identified the falsetto voice, you need to work on controlling it. Once you can control your falsetto/head-voice, you can work on blending your chest voice and head voice.
Discovering this head voice or falsetto can immediately expand the range of your singing by over an octave.
How To Increase Your Vocal Range Without Falsetto
Okay, you already know about falsetto and are a total expert at using it – what now? Can you expand your chest range? Yes, you can.
You need to work on exercises that allow vocal folds to stretch while maintaining their resistance. Sound confusing? No problem.
Vocal folds resist air like a door. If your door is too thin, you’ll be able to run through it. This is what happens when the vocal folds are too thin – the air whistles through it and creates a breathy falsetto.
You need to improve the stretch and resistance of your vocal cords. Here are some exercises to try:
Always warm up before singing or doing any other vocal range exercises. Warmups allow you to stretch out your range and can actually help you improve your range over time.
I recommend Eric Arceneaux’s Vocal Warmup:
2. Practice Scales & Intervals
Practice going through all types of scales. This will gradually strengthen both your lowest and highest vocal boundaries.
Humming while practicing scales can help you to reach higher and lower notes than you could when you are singing normally.
When you are practicing scales and exercises, go through your boundaries every once in a while. Let your voice crack. It will sound bad, but that is part of the process.
3. Practice Singing Sirens
Range exercises can help you improve the extremities of your range. Practice singing “sirens.” These are vocal slides starting at the lowest note you can comfortably sing, all the way up to the highest note you can sing. Over time, your highest note will get higher!
You can also sing different vowels on ascending and descending notes. Sing through “ae, ee, ah, oh, oo” while connecting through each vowel. Move up or down a semitone, and continue moving up or down until you are at the end of your range.
4. Keep Your Voice Healthy
Note that these exercises should not hurt. If you are in pain due to vocal exercises, you are not singing with correct technique. You need proper posture and breathing to safely increase your vocal range.
To reach peak vocal range, you need to be in good vocal health. You should be getting a good night’s sleep every night. You need to be hydrating at least a half-gallon of water every day.
Staying healthy is also important. Getting sick sets your progress back, because you should not sing as much while sick. In particular, singing with a sore throat can cause more harm than good.
5. Set Goals Ti Widen Your Vocal Range
Finally, setting small goals is the key to expanding your vocal range. Keep in mind that your regular vocal range is already great. You can do a lot with a limited range if you learn to sing beautifully.
When an athlete shaves a second or two off their time, that is an accomplishment. Getting an extra note is the same thing! It may take you months or years to reach your goal – but you can do it, so just keep at it.
Identifying Weak Spots In Your Voice
As you expand your range, you will find that certain spans of notes are difficult to sing. You may be able to hit a brand-new high note, but it might not sound good!
Most singers have one or more trouble spots in their voice. For many, that trouble spot is where your voice cracks or breaks – often near the end of their chest voice or the bottom of their falsetto range.
This crack occurs when your vocal folds are not vibrating strongly enough to transition from chest voice to head voice.
Working on your vocal break will help you become a better singer and it will likely improve your vocal range at the same time, by strengthening the highest parts of your range.
Here are two exercises that can help you strengthen your voice over the break.
First, the lip trill:
- Take two fingers and put them in the middle of your cheeks (one on the left cheek, one on the right).
- Blow through your lips to start them flapping. Once the lips are vibrating, and an “uh” vowel. You should hear a clear note on this vowel.
- Sing from your lowest note up through your vocal break and then back down while your lips are trilling. Allow your voice to break.
- Repeat this exercise, but work on getting through the break smoothly and with control. When you come back down, work through the break smoothly.
Lip trills reduce the strain on your high notes and boosts the volume of weak notes. Over time, this helps you control your volume and to project more consistently.
Next exercise is the “Gee” exercise, as outlined below:
- Say “Gee” out loud with a hard “G”. Like the word “Geese.”
- Find the note at the bottom of your range, and repeat the “Gee” sound on that note.
- Sing from the low note up through your vocal break and back down, while maintaining that vocal shape.
- Keep an emphasis on the “G” consonant as much as the “ee” vowel. This helps you find a strong sound on each note.
This is a popular exercise that helps you work your vocal range. Make sure you are opening your mouth nice and wide and supporting each note with a good breath.
What you are really working on here is fully developing your chest voice in all registers. You should be able to sing strong high notes and strong low notes, and eventually you will have enough control to sing through your break without your voice cracking.
Strengthening your breath and your breath control is also hugely important. Supporting each note with enough breath allows a full sound and better control over your voice.
Finally, as you work on these exercises, practice keeping your jaw relaxed. This helps reduce vocal strain. In fact, you need to work on relaxing your entire body. The more relaxed you are, the better you sound. This applies for almost all instruments!
Finding The Right Songs For Your Vocal Range
Working to improve your range is great, but it is even more important to embrace your range and learn to use it well.
A huge part of this is listening to and singing songs by artists that have a similar range to yourself.
Finding the perfect song becomes a lot easier when you know your range. Do the test we covered earlier in the guide to discover your vocal range.
Once you know you range, figure out your voice type. Knowing whether you are a bass, baritone, tenor, alto, or soprano will help you find similar artists.
Finally, search for “Famous alto singers” or “Famous songs for alto singers.” You will be surprised at how quickly you get answers!
When you are starting a song, try looking up sheet music for the song. You should be able to determine the range by looking at the melody.
You can also sing along to the song – if it feels comfortable, that is a good thin.
However, singing along to songs can be deceiving, especially if your ear is not well-trained. You may be fooling yourself by singing the same notes in a different octave. If this is the case, you may be surprised at how difficult singing becomes when you are singing on your own!
Vocal Range Test, Final Thoughts
So that’s your vocal range test. Once you know your vocal range, the world of vocal education opens up for you.
There are specific warmups and exercises for every type of voice, all you have to do is look.
Understanding your own vocal range allows you to become more comfortable with your voice and in time, you can improve your voice too.
Let us know if you have any questions about vocal range, picking the right songs, exercises, or best practices!