Vocal range


Audio: vocal range (0:04)

Vocal range
Figure: vocal range

vocal range is a sung melody. The score in the vocal range figure shows the range of a typical solo singer. The middle of the range is the note, middle C.

Vocal range is an umbrella term for all the sounds that a human voice can produce. These range from unpitched grunts, gurgles and whistles through largely unpitched speech to the bit we are interested in, pitched notes that can be sung.

A singer has a standard vocal range and a sounding vocal range in the same manner as every instrument has a range. The standard range, shown in vocal range, represents the range of pitches that an average singer can sing. The sounding range is much wider than the standard range because it includes partials as well as the fundamental and it can extend beyond the audible spectrum. For example, some bass singers can produce a subaudio fundamental and some sopranos can produce ultrasound.

Tessitura is the comfort zone of an individual singer. It describes the range of pitches that can be sung without distress. A trained singer should be able to sing a range of two octaves or more. An untrained singer should be able to manage an interval of a tenth, an octave plus a third, without too much trouble. vocal range shows the tessitura of an average untrained singer. It spans a range from a fifth below middle C to a fifth above.

The most remarkable feature of the vocal range is how narrow it is. A vocal range of a tenth, an octave plus a third, is pretty much the limit for writing music for a solo singer. The vocal range is much smaller than in musical instruments, equivalent to a range spanning ten white keys on a piano.

The main point to take from all of this is to limit the span of a sung melody to an interval of a tenth or less when writing music.