- The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. Mahatma Gandhi
Find My Vocal Range
About Vocal Ranges
Understand what constitutes one’s vocal range
Before you can find your vocal range, it’s important to understand exactly what you're looking for. Everyone is born with a particular range of notes their voice is capable of reaching based on individual vocal cords and vocal folds. We naturally have a tough time reaching the notes at the ends — the highest and lowest notes — of our vocal ranges, so extending one’s vocal range has more to do with strengthening one’s voice at the high and low end of one’s natural range than it does reaching notes outsides of one’s vocal range. Trying to reach notes outside of your range is a surefire way to damage your voice.
Clarify voice type classifications
Many people have heard the terms soprano, tenor, or bass, but may not know to what they actually refer. In opera, voices are another instrument that have to reach particular notes on demand just like a violin or flute. Due to that, range classifications were developed to help classify voices, which made it easier to cast opera singers for specific parts. While most people aren’t trying out for opera these days, being aware of your voice type helps you be more aware of notes you can reach for additional types of sheet music or even simply knowing what songs you can effectively cover while singing karaoke. Check the guide under “Voice Types” for a categorization of ranges descending from highest to lowest. The numbers beside them will make more sense soon. For even more information, you can read about voice types here.
Understand some key terms
Now that you know what a range and the range classifications are, you can begin understand some other terms helpful to finding your vocal range. You can divide the range classifications into categories based on their respective vocal registers. The vocal register concerns primarily the modal (or chest) voice and the head voice.
One’s modal voice is essentially his or her range where the vocal folds are in their natural manner of action. These are the notes one can reach without adding a low, breathy or high, falsetto quality to one’s voice. For some very low-voiced males, a lower category called “vocal fry” is also added, but many people cannot even reach this low end. One’s head voice includes the high end of the range where the notes feel the most resonance in one’s head, and they have a distinct ringing quality. Most notably, the falsetto — the voice most people use as an impression for female opera singers — is included in the head voice register. Like the “vocal fry” register extends to super low notes for some men, the “whistle register” extends to super high notes for some women. Again, many people cannot actually reach these notes. Think the infamous highest notes in a song like “Lovin’ You” by Minnie Riperton or “Emotion” by Mariah Carey. An octave is the interval between two notes, one of which has twice the sound frequency of the other. This gives the two notes a melodic quality together. On a piano, octaves will be seven notes apart (excluding the black keys). One way to express one’s vocal range is by expressing the number of octaves that range spans. Lastly, understanding scientific pitch notation. Scientific pitch notation is a scientific way of writing and understanding musical notes. The lowest note on most pianos is A0, making the next octave above it A1 and so on. What we deem “middle C” on a piano is actually C4 in scientific pitch notion. The full expression of one’s vocal range will include three of four different pitch notation numbers, including his or her lowest note, highest note in modal voice, and highest note in head voice. Those who can reach the vocal fry and whistle registers may have pitch notation numbers for those as well, always ranging from lowest notation note to highest. You can read more about scientific pitch notation at How to Understand Scientific Pitch Notation as well.
Your Lowest Note
Sing the lowest note you can sing in your normal (modal) voice
Make sure you do so without croaking or breathing the note (breathy or scratchy tone quality). It is your lowest modal voice note. The goal is to find the lowest note you can still sing comfortably, so do not include notes that you cannot sustain. You will likely find it helpful to start with a higher note and work your way down the scale into your lowest registers. You should always warm up your voice first before singing, especially when you will be using the edges of your vocal range.
Sing the lowest note you can, including breathing
Breathy notes count here, but croaky notes don’t. These breathy notes may feel slightly more powerful such as the way an opera singer may project. Some men capable of reaching the vocal fry register may find it easiest to do so in this singing style. For some singers their normal and breathy lowest notes may coincide. For others, they might not.
Write down your lowest notes
Once you have found the notes you can reach comfortably, write them down. Having a piano or keyboard handy to identify the notes easily simplifies this process. For example, if the lowest note you can hit as you descend the scale is the second-to-last E, then you’d write down E2
Your Highest Note
Sing the highest note you can sing in your normal (modal) voice
You want to do the same thing you did for low notes but using the high end of the scale. Start with a high note that you have no problem reaching and ascend the scale, but do not let yourself go into falsetto for this exercise. You may find it helpful to project more when reaching high notes.
Sing the highest note you can in falsetto
Now you can use your falsetto voice to find the highest notes you can reach in that vocal style. The notes will likely be higher than those you can reach with your normal singing voice.
Sing the highest note you can in whistle voice
If you are capable of reaching the whistle register, then you can try to reach those notes now after warming up with a falsetto scale.
Write down your highest notes
Again, you want to track the highest notes you can reach without straining. Some of these notes may not sound wonderful before you’ve given them more practice, but include them as long as you can reach them comfortably. For example, if your highest note in your normal voice is the fourth ascending F, then you would write down F4 and so on.
Count the notes between your lowest and highest notes
On a keyboard, count the notes between the lowest note you could sing comfortably and the highest. Do not include include the sharps and flats (black keys) in your count.
Calculate the octaves
Every seven notes is one octave, so A to G, for instance, is one octave. You can therefore, determine your number of octaves by counting the total numbers between your highest and lowest notes as sets of seven. For example, if your lowest note was E2 and your highest note was E4, then you have a range of two octaves.
Include the partial octaves as well
It’s normal, for example, for someone to have a range of 1.5 octaves in full voice. The reason for the half is because the person could only comfortably sing three or four notes in the next octave.
Express your vocal range as a vocal classification
Using these numbers, you can then express your vocal range on paper and compare it to the classifications of ranges. For instance, if your collection of numbers reads D2, G2, F4, and B♭4, then you’d fit directly into the baritone category of vocal ranges. However, the notation is usually expressed as: (D2-)G2-F4(-B♭4)