Singing range is defined in two different ways. Range refers to the general span of one's voice, for example, from "G" below "middle C" to "treble E" (E near middle C plus one octave). Tessitura refers to the area within the general range where one feels most comfortable singing. Knowing your vocal range even if you sing only for leisure will help you sound your best and most of all help you enjoy singing! This article focuses on the bass baritone range, which can be a little tricky to identify and find songs that suit it. The best way to find songs that are comfortable for you is to read a book on the basics of singing, listen carefully to artists and then sing along to a recording or a video recorded performance, for example as can be found on YouTube.
Identifying your Range/Tessitura
If you wish to actually have some knowledge when you get on stage for Karaoke night, purchasing at least one basic book on singing is a good idea. If you read diligently and follow the instructions for singing, then finding the artist on the radio whose songs match your range/tessitura becomes much easier.
Veteran Country Music singers like Johnny Cash (1932 to 2003) and Dwight Yoakam (b. 1956) sing in the bass baritone range. Johnny Cash had great flexibility and depth and could sing in the fullness of the range. Dwight Yoakam generally sings from the middle to the top of the range. Songs by either of these artists would be a good match. Steve Earle, slightly younger than Yoakam, also sings well within the entire range. Keith Urban is in this range, too, although he generally sings at the top of it.
Of the solo artists in the Popular Rock genre, Elton John, Billy Joel and Eric Clapton consistently sing in the bass baritone range. Billy Joel sings in the full range, Elton John tends to sing in the middle to top of the range and Eric Clapton generally sings at the very top of the range. James Taylor also sings in the full range. Chances are these artists' top hits appear on most Karaoke lists. Several songs by the artist Prince offer comfort for singing in this range. For those who favor icons, Bob Dylan is worth looking for, as is Jim Croce.
Many of the groups with male leads in the bass baritone range truly fall into the "catch all" category of Alternative Music. The instrumentation and themes of songs seem to defy typical rock style, such as a heavy bass line, electric and acoustic guitar and keyboard. Even so, they have a strong steady beat that drives the song and some mix of acoustic and electric guitars. Bands like the Black Crows, Blues Brothers, INXS and Talking Heads offer just enough interest and challenge. David Byrne, lead for Talking Heads, uses his range with large leaps (i.e., he begins a phrase at the top of the range and ends it at the middle or bottom of the range). Much of the time, however, Byrne seems to sing at the top of this range. Black Crows and Blues Brothers both consistently sing in the middle to top of the range.
Singers Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Dean Martin and Perry Como offer many titles for those who wish to "croon." There are any number of hits from these great singers and entertainers.
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