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The Levels of Singing Voices

Few singers can perform well in multiple pitches.
Polka Dot RF/Polka Dot/Getty Images

A singer's voice falls under one of seven possible classifications, based on pitch. As the Star Singing Lessons website points out, knowing your voice type will help you determine what songs are appropriate for you to sing or, if you choose to sing those outside your range, whether you need the help of a music arranger in rekeying those songs.


The bass is the deepest of all voice levels, male or female. As voice trainer Aaron Lim points out, the bass singer is strongest in his low voice, with a range between an F note one octave below middle C to the E note just above it. He can change from a chest voice to a middle one around the A or A flat note just below a middle C. He can transition to a head voice at D-flat just above middle C.


The baritone voice, one level above the bass, is the most common male voice, according to Lim. A typical baritone range is between an A flat note one octave below middle C to the A flat note below middle C. The baritone shifts to middle voice between A and B just below middle C, and turns into a head voice at D or E just above middle C. The baritone's performance is strongest in the middle range pitches. Lim cites John Charles Thomas, Leonard Warren and Robert Merrill among the most famous baritones.


Although the tenor is not the highest of the male voices, it is the highest masculine range with which most people are familiar. The tenor's range is between the C one octave below middle C to one octave above it. He transitions into middle voice around D or E above middle C and goes into his head voice at F sharp or G above middle C. Examples of famous tenors, according to Lim, are the late Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Elton John and Stevie Wonder.


The contratenor is the highest male voice of all. It is a rare voice type that is similar to a female's contralto. A contratenor can sing in the G range below middle C to the F range one octave above it. He can sing the high head notes with clarity and brightness of tone, according to Lim. Listeners are likely to confuse him with a female singer. The late Freddie Mercury was an example of this type of vocalist.


The treble voice is similar to that of the female soprano in its ability to hit high notes. This is the vocal type of an adolescent boy before his voice begins to deepen. According to Lim, the vocal range of this type of singer lies between an A note below middle C to the F note one octave above it. Examples of prominent pre-adolescents over the years with this range have included Donny Osmond, the late Michael Jackson and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" (1958) singer Lorrie London.


The contralto is the lowest female voice of all. According to Lim, it is less common among female voices than the mezzo-soprano or soprano. Its definition is the same as the one for alto. However, as Lim says, "contralto" is the correct term for the voice type, while "alto" is the proper word for the part a contralto sings. Her vocal range is between E below middle C to the second G note above middle C. Famous contraltos include Tracy Chapman, Toni Braxton and Gladys Knight.

Mezzo Soprano

The mezzo-soprano is the most common female voice type. A woman with this vocal level can sing between G below middle C and C more than two octaves above C, making hers a range of about two octaves. She transitions from chest voice around E just above middle C to head voice around E one octave above middle C. Beyonce, Aretha Franklin, and Natalie Cole are famous mezzo-sopranos.


The soprano is the highest of all female voices. A soprano singer can hit the highest notes with much ease. According to Lim, her range is between the A below middle C to the F or G note two octaves above middle C. She moves out of her chest voice around E flat and goes into her head voice in F-sharp one octave above middle C. Famous soprano singers include Mariah Carey, the late opera star Maria Callas, and Charlotte Church.

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