What are the Main Voice Types in Choir?

By Tyler Damon

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What makes the voice of one person different from another person? If you like listening to a choir or have been to a choir class in your life, you will know about the various types of voices. You can come across a wide range of choirs like boys’ choir or male-female choir that sing everything from a classical to a contemporary repertoire in different voice types. Examples of choir groups are the Vienna Boys’ Choir Christmas Music, the Choir of Trinity College, and more.

This write-up takes a look at the significant voice types in a choir.

Male Voices

Tenor: Usually sung by matured men, tenor voices are energetic and have full adult sounds. These voices can deliver thrilling high notes with a brilliant shining timbre. In early music, people with a tenor held down the melody to drive a song. The term ‘tenor’ is derived from the Italian word ‘tenere,’ which means ‘to hold.’

It has two popular subcategories – dramatic tenors with a ringing quality in the upper range and dark sound and lyric tenors that display bright tones. The typical tenor range in classical repertoire is about C3-G4, even though the accessible range can differ from one singer to another. His primo passaggio will be at C#4 for drammatico, D4 for lyric, and #4 for tenerino. His second passaggio occurs at approximately A4 for leggero. F#4 for heavier tenor voice and G4 for the lyric tenor voice.

Bass: The deep tones of a bass voice make for an essential part of choral music. They are the lowest male voices getting their name from the Italian word ‘basso.’ The strength and volume of the bass voice make it unique. The comfortable singing range of a bass singer is between G2 and A3. For bass, the primo passaggio is about G3, A3, or G34 and the second one is at C4, D4, or C34.

Female Voices

Alto: Alto or contralto is the lowest female voice in a harmony of four parts. With the darkest timbre in a female voice, this type is the rarest of all. The standard range is roughly E3-E5. The first passage happens around Eb4 or E4 and the second one around Eb5 or E5.

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Sopranos: Usually, women and young boys come under this voice type and are known for their impressive high notes. The highest female part gets its name from the Italian term – Sopra – which means above. It sports a timbre, more sparkling than other types of voices. In four-part choral harmony, the airy and soft tone of a soprano works well. The demand for this voice was so high in the seventeenth and eighteenth century that some men trained themselves or underwent operations to sing in this voice.

When it comes to singing the main tune or melody, sopranos are go-to singers. They can sing from C4-A5 or even higher. Their first passaggio is around F34 or G4and their second one is at F#5 or G5. Did you know that the Vienna Boys’ Choir that does Christmas Musicare sopranos?

Being able to identify voice types is vital for choosing music by a specific choir. You can also quickly point out errors in vocal range when singers do not follow their natural range or hit notes outside their range.

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