Vocal Range. The broadest definition of vocal range, given above, is simply the span from the highest to the lowest note a particular voice can produce. This broad definition, however, is quite often not the one meant when someone speaks of "vocal range." This is because some of the notes a voice can produce may not be considered "musically useful" for a particular purpose. For example, when speaking of the vocal range of a male opera singer, one usually excludes falsetto pitches, which are not used in most opera.
A male doo-wop singer, on the other hand, might quite regularly deploy his falsetto pitches in performance and thus include them in determining his range. For this reason, it is important to clearly define what is meant when discussing a vocal range. For example, one might say of a man that he has a two and one-half octave range in full voice and an additional one half octave in falsetto. Similarly, when discussing the range of a woman one might say that she has a "useful" two octave range with an additional major third on the bottom that is only audible with amplification. Vocal range in classical music
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Vocal range is generally very important in classical music. In opera and solo classical music, two considerations are paramount in determining vocal range: consistency of timbre across the vocal range, and ability to project the pitches (that is, to be heard clearly over an orchestra without amplification). Of course, if any pitch cannot be properly projected, it is not considered part of the range.
Choral music is somewhat less stringent than opera. In contrast to opera, the large number of voices that can be deployed in each group make it somewhat less important that each individual voice be flawlessly produced and completely audible. Thus, for example, choirs can often deploy notes that are lower than those that might be deployed in an operatic performance - no single member of the choir might be able to project such a low note individually, but taken together the note might be quite audible.
In much choral music the vocal ranges are often divided not into the three parts per sex as they are in operatic solo music but into only two parts per gender - Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass - or into four parts per sex - Soprano I, Soprano II, Alto I, Alto II, Tenor I, Tenor II, Bass I (or baritone), Bass II. |