What am I a Soprano, Alto, Tenor or Bass?

I cannot count the requests I get from students on vocal fach, or “what voice type am I”?   How can I tell if a singer is a mezzo or soprano, baritone or tenor? It is a subject of great controversy in terms of importance. My first answer is always;  You are a singer, sing for fun, communicate, and worry about category later!  If a singer comes to me trying to make the transition up to a higher fach, I have two words to say: "BE CAREFUL!" I have seen so many ruined throats from singers trying to be a tenor or soprano when they were actually a lower-voiced singer. It can also be difficult on the voice for a singer to be singing as a lower-voiced singer when in all actuality they are a higher singer. Both circumstances are extremely detrimental to vocal health.

Sometimes a lyric mezzo can sound very "sopranoish", and the same goes for lyric baritones who think they are tenors.  So what are the determining factors in such a situation? (1) vocal timbre and (2) vocal tessitura. If a lyric mezzo or a lyric baritone sing their high notes, the result will NOT be a soprano or a tenor sound quality. Remember "middle voices, such as lyric mezzos or lyric baritone have a specific timbre.  A lyric baritone may have a "tenorish" sound, however, does it ring like a true tenor voice and does it have a true tenor quality within the tone?

My advice to most singers is: "If it feels wrong, it IS WRONG". Vocal fatigue is a "red light" to any singer whether they are professional or amateur. Vocal health is dependent on exercising the voice correctly.  Thomas Hampson was asked what fach he was, and he replied, “Singing is not about timbres or category labels, singing is about fascinating acoustical properties like the colors of the human voice which derive from thought and emotion”.

Please take a look at the following article and follow the links at the bottom to investigate your fach more thoroughly. 

Guide to the Singing Voice
by Graeme Kay

There are four main voice-types in singing: soprano, alto, tenor and bass, representing the upper and lower pitch extremes of the female and male vocal ranges. Choral music is invariably set out for combinations of the SATB voice spectrum.

However, in opera and song, these pitch categories are sub-divided into voice-types which reflect not just the singer's range, but also the dramatic requirements of his or her roles.

The German term Fach (literally, 'division') is often used as shorthand for voice-type specialization. But beware: when you look into the history of singing, you find that the trend for singers to work almost exclusively within their own Fach is a modern one. In former times, some singers - for instance Maria Callas - often sang roles across several voice-types. And operatic roles are often claimed by more than one type - Mozart's Don Giovanni, for example, is sung by baritones, bass-baritones and basses! (Emphasis mine—DT)

German Fach System

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