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In music, a soprano is a singer with a voice that ranges from, approximately, the A below middle C to "high C", two octaves above middle C (i.e. A3-C6). Some sopranos can go much higher, up to F6. In four part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody.

The word "soprano" generally refers to a female singer of this highest vocal range and to her voice. Male singers whose voices have not yet changed are known either as "boy sopranos" or, in the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions, as trebles.
Historically, women were not allowed to sing in the Church, so the soprano roles were given to young boys, and later to castrati, who were men whose larynxes had been fixed in a pre-adolescent state through the process of castration.More generally, a soprano is a relatively high-pitched member of a group of similar instruments (for example, the soprano saxophone).

Mezzo Soprano

A mezzo-soprano (meaning "half soprano" in Italian) is a female singer with a range usually extending from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above (i.e. A3-A5 in scientific pitch notation, where middle C = C4). Mezzo-sopranos generally have a darker (or richer) vocal tone than sopranos, and their voice type sits between the soprano and the contralto. The terms Dugazon and Galli-Marié are sometimes used to refer to light mezzo-sopranos, after the names of famous singers. A castrato with a mezzo-soprano range was called a mezzo-soprano castrato.Mezzo-sopranos typically sing secondary roles in operas, with the protagonist in Bizet's Carmen and Rosina in Rossini's Barber of Seville as the most notable exceptions. Typical roles for mezzo-sopranos include "witches, bitches, and britches", a common expression that summarizes their function in opera. Witches are the old hags, nurses, and wise women, such as Azucena and Ulrica (which can also be performed by contraltos); britches are male roles sung by female singers, such as Cherubino; and bitches are villains and seducers, such as Amneris or Eboli.Some roles designated for soubrette sopranos are also often sung by mezzo sopranos. This gives the roles a fuller and more dramatic quality, which often suits them well. Such roles include Despina in Così fan tutte and Zerlina in Don Giovanni. Other roles designated for dramatic sopranos walk a fine line between soprano and mezzo territory. Mezzos quite often play Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana, Lady Macbeth in Verdi's Macbeth, and even Isolde in Tristan und Isolde. These examples are simply proof that the line between soprano and mezzo soprano is not clearly defined.In soul music, a person will sometimes be classified mezzo-soprano, if she can sing both contralto and soprano.[citation needed] To earn this classification however, she must be able to reach the D and even E above Soprano C, as well as the corresponding note below Middle C, thus possessing a three-octave range.


In music, an alto or contralto is a singer with a vocal range somewhere between a tenor and a mezzo-soprano. The term is used to refer to the lowest female singing voice, or to a kind of male singing voice utilizing falsetto called a countertenor. Alto pieces normally span between G below middle C to the E a tenth above middle C (i.e. G3-E5). At the bottom of their range, male altos sound almost like tenors. Some altos have even larger ranges; from the C below middle C to the C two octaves above (C3-C6 if middle C is C4), but like all singers, their vocal type is defined mostly by their "vocal center" and not by their range (a soprano for instance could technically possess the lower range of an alto, but would not be comfortable singing it). In four part choral harmony, the alto is the second highest voice. Alto pieces were originally written in the alto clef, but now use the treble clef.Although both men and women may have voices in the alto range, the word is usually used to mean a female singer. The word "contralto" can be used to refer specifically to a female alto singer, versus alto male singers or instruments or clefs. However, choirs singing early music frequently include adult male altos, also called countertenors. If a singer is a man and a natural tenor, if they choose to sing using falsetto they are referred to as a countertenor, whereas a male alto's true vocal weight usually is that of a baritone or bass.

In English church usage, the term alto is sometimes exclusively used to mean a boy with this range, while contralto is used for a female singer. However, this is not done consistently, and for most practical purposes, alto and contralto can be thought of as synonyms (the phrase "boy alto" can be used if there is a chance of misunderstanding). A few popular music enthusiasts define the contralto and alto separately, as the contralto having an especially dark range, from the D above low C to Tenor C, which is essentially a female of tenor range, while alto is a voice with a range from G below middle C to the F an eleventh above middle C, and is closer to the mezzo-soprano. The majority however define contralto and alto as synonyms, and assign the adjectives light and dark, with a dark alto being a female of tenor range, while a light alto, commonly referred to as simply alto, to include mezzo-sopranos as well.In medieval polyphony, the principal voice was the tenor. When additional voices were added, they were called contratenor (meaning "against the tenor"). When two such voices were added, they were called contratenor alto and contratenor bassus, indicating high and low respectively.Contraltos are fairly rare in opera, since there is very little work that was written specifically for them. Most of the time, contralto roles are limited to maids, mothers and grandmothers, but they do occasionally get notable roles, with witches being the most common outside of the three former roles (a common saying among contraltos is that they are only allowed to play "witches, bitches, or britches"). Baroque opera features a large number of alto roles.

The word, "alto", is often applied to instruments to indicate their range in relation to other instruments of the same group. In common usage, particularly among jazz musicians, the word has become synonymous with the alto saxophone. In US usage the alto horn is an Eb saxhorn, a brass instrument.


A sopranist, also sometimes referred to as a sopranista, is a countertenor who is able to sing in the soprano vocal range, normally spanning from A3 to C6 in total physical range, though at times going much higher. Both baritone-based and tenor-based singers can possess the wide-ranged and effective falsetto needed to produce the alto, mezzo and soprano ranges, though like some countertenors, some sopranist possess natural head-voice alongside their natural bass-voice (which is normally a chest-voice) and need not employ any falsetto (in fact, their falsetto is hardly usable, seeing as it hardly reaches A4 for baritone-based sopranists or C5 for tenor based sopranists


A countertenor is an adult male who sings in an alto, mezzo or soprano range, often through use of falsetto, or sometimes natural head-voice. This term is used almost exclusively in the context of the classical vocal tradition. The countertenor voice went through a massive resurgence in popularity in the second half of the 20th century, partly caused by pioneers such as Alfred Deller and by the increased popularity of Baroque opera and also due to a need of male singers to replace the castrati roles in opera. Although they have been considered largely an early music phenomenon, some modern countertenors explore a much larger repertoire.


The name "tenor" derives from the Latin word tenere, which means "to hold". In medieval and Renaissance polyphony between about 1250 and 1500, the tenor was the structurally fundamental (or ‘holding’) voice, vocal or instrumental. All other voices were normally calculated in relation to the tenor, which often proceeded in longer note values and carried a borrowed Cantus firmus melody. Until the late 15th-century introduction of the contratenor bassus, the tenor was usually the lowest voice, assuming the role of providing a harmonic foundation. It was also in the 15th century that "tenor" came to signify the male voice that sang such parts It is perhaps in opera that the tenor is most revered, and often considered the most glamorous male voice types. Because of the lyrical tone quality as well as the dramatic high notes, composers have given tenors some of the best-known melodies and arias in the operatic literature, which have then spilled out as well into popular culture (e.g., The Three Tenors). Also important to the operatic tenor is its common association with youth, vigor, and romance.Operatic tenor lead roles have thus tended to parallel the soprano roles, in that they customarily play the most sympathetic male character. They are usually the protagonist, and most commonly the hero or the lover, though they are also the occasional villains (the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto; Lieutenant Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly).A professional operatic tenor typically has a range extending up to the C above middle C (C5), which is often called the "high C". A solid chest-voice "high C" is often said to be a requisite for a "true" operatic tenor. This is disputed, however, as it has been suggested that even some well-known tenors do not have (or retain) this coveted ability.

Rosario la Spina, an Australian born tenor

In opera, several different fachs are recognized among tenors, including the comic, lyric, dramatic, spinto, and heldentenor, ordered from lightest to heaviest in tone quality.Famous operatic tenors from various countries include Carlo Bergonzi (Italy)Andrea Bocelli (Italy), Beniamino Gigli (Italy), Georges Thill (France), Jussi Björling (Sweden), Nicolai Gedda (Sweden), José Carreras (Spain), Enrico Caruso (Italy), Placido Domingo (Spain), Jon Vickers (Canada), Richard Tucker (USA), Franco Corelli (Italy), Lauritz Melchior (Denmark), Fritz Wunderlich (Germany), Luciano Pavarotti (Italy), Juan Diego Florez (Peru), David Hobson (Australia), Mario Del Monaco (Italy), Ignacio Gomez(Chile), Bülent Bezdüz (Turkey), Wu Pak Chiu (China) and Nicholas Dore (England).


"Baritenor" is a slang word describing a male voice whose tessitura lies between the baritone and the tenor. The word is frequently used to describe one of the most common male musical vocal types, rather a pop singer than a true operatic baritone with an upward extension into tenor territority and with a baritonal quality.
In classical music, the term may be used to describe male vocal students who have not determined into which voice type they will mature. It is rarely used to describe an adult voice, as baritones can have an extension. A baritenor is closest in tessitura to the heldentenor, a special tenor having a thick-baritone lower register. The baritenor's voice is more lyrical in quality, and usually cannot pitch as high. A baritenor's range is usually B2 to A4 but there are some who can infrequently sing lower notes.Occasionally in soul music, like the mezzo-soprano, a baritenor is a person of full voice, capable of singing both baritone and tenor. This classification is not as widely used as mezzo-soprano however.


Baritone (French: baryton; German: Bariton; Italian: baritono) is most commonly the type of male voice that lies between bass and tenor. Originally from the Greek βαρυτονος, meaning 'deep sounding', music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second G below middle C to the E above middle C (i.e. G2-E4), though it can be extended at either end.


A bass-baritone is a singing voice that shares certain qualities of both the baritone and the bass. The term arose in the late 19th century to describe the particular type of voice required to sing Wagnerian bass roles like Wotan (in the Ring Cycle) and Hans Sachs (in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg). Wagner wrote those roles for what he called Hoher Bass ("high bass," this is explained in more detail at fach).

The bass-baritone voice is distinguished by two attributes. First, it must be capable of singing comfortably in a baritonal tessitura. It must also, however, have the resonant lower range typically associated with the bass. For example, the role of Wotan in Die Walküre covers the range from the F# above middle C to the F below the bass clef but only infrequently descends beyond the C below middle C.


Bass (vocal range)

A bass (or basso in Italian) is a male singer who sings in the lowest vocal range of the human voice. According to Grove Music Online a bass has a range extending from around the F below Low C to the E above middle C (ie F2-E4). [1] The Harvard Dictionary of Music defines the range as being from the E below low c to middle c (ie E2-C4). [2] It is also common for men who are classified as "basses" (and have a full bass choral range) to have a speaking voice which may sound much higher than would be expected. Most seasoned basses also can train a very versatile falsetto making their usefulness in a choral arrangement even more welcome.

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