Female Vocal Types All Over The World

Hồ Quỳnh Hương’s Vocal Range
April 15, 2017
Quãng Giọng Của So Hyang
April 22, 2017


 There is a variety of female voices in music, each has their own pros & cons and their specifications is what makes them diverse.

 In this article, we will only be doing a general sum up about the voices, and each will be annalyzed specifically in other articles.

I. Contralto

 In ancient definitions, a contralto is combined by contre and alto (an old definition for castrato’s voices). This is the female voice with the lowest vocal range, mainly sing with their chest voice and all have thick, deep, powerful voice.

 There are some features of a contralto:

  •  They have a thick timbre, deeper, heavier and darker than a mezzo.
  •  They sing in a man tone and their tone have a side of a hermaphrodite.
  •  Their tessitura lies above their low range and mid-low range.

 Contralto is a rarity comparing to mezzo-soprano and soprano especially in Asia (Vietnam). There is only a few contralto in Vietnam in recent time.

  • Contralto is divided into subtypes:

1. Dramatic Contralto

 This is an extremely rare contralto, specific of their large volume which remain largest at low range, mid-range and middle-high range. The vocals are the heaviest, darkest and sounds like a male. Some examples are Baranova, Ewa Podles, Sara Couden, Nina Simone,... and none is Asian.

2. Lirico Contralto

 It's a common subtype of contralto all over the world. It consists of :

2.1. Opera and Classical music:

  •  Marian Anderson, Marie Nicole Lemieux…

2.2. Pop Music:

  •  Cher, Mercedes Sosa, Marla Glen, Tanita Tikaram, Ana Carolina, Tracy Chapman, Moon Ju Ran, Dalida, Toni Braxton…
  •  There is only 1 lirico contralto in Vietnam which was Thanh Thúy.

3. Coloratura Contralto

 also a rare subtype of contralto, requires the natural vocalist to do regular trainings for advanced skills. The specification of a coloratura contralto is a wide vocal range that can reach to the high notes of a mezzo-soprano, and is less heavy and dark than a regular contralto. This subtype have not been seen in Asia.

 Coloratura contralto includes:

3.1. Coloratura dramatic contralto

  •  Delphine Galou, Lisa Gerrard, Grace Jones…

3.2. Coloratura Lirico Contralto

  •  Karen Clark, Anita Baker…

II. Nữ Trung (Mezzo)

 Mezzo is the type that lies between contralto and soprano. There are some features of this type:

  •  The ability to sing low range better than a soprano and high range better than a Contralto.
  •  A darker and heavier timbre than a soprano but lighter and darker than an alto.
  •  The tessitura lies between mid-range and mid-high range.

 Mezzos are usually divided into 2 subtypes: mezzo alto and mezzo soprano.

1.1. Mezzo Alto

 This is the type that is pretty close to alto with a thick, stable, heavy and dark timbre. Their tessitura lies above the mid-low range and mid-range. They can master the low ranges or sub-low ranges. A mezzo-alto is easily mistaken with an alto.

 Some typical mezzo-altos:

  •  Tina Turner, Etta James, Adele, Amy Winehouse, Edith Piaff, Karen Carpenter, Mahalia Jackson, Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, Mahalia Jackson, Mai Diễm Phương…
  •  Vietnamese: Thanh Lam, Hồ Ngọc Hà, Thu Phương, Bảo Yến, Hoàng Quyên, Mỹ Tâm, Mỹ Hạnh, Ngọc Anh, Khánh Ly, Tâm Đoan, Uyên Linh…

1.2. Mezzo Soprano

 This is the type that is close to soprano, the timbre is bright and thinner than a mezzo alto, yet darker than a soprano. Their tessitura lies above the mid and middle-high range, but they can still master the low and high notes. The vocal range of a mezzo soprano is quite wide, and they are able to sing extra low notes and extra high notes as well. A mezzo soprano is easily mistaken with a soprano.

 Some typical mezzo-soprano :

  •  Beyonce, Barbra Streisand, Jane Monheit, Lee Sun Hee, Donna Summer, Ethel Merman, Marilyn Horne…
  •  Vietnamese: Hương Tràm, Mỹ Linh, Hồng Nhung, Thanh Hà…

 However, in a more original classification, they are divided into:

2.1. Dramatic Mezzo

 It's an infrequent voice type with a heavy, thick, dark, trenchant and metallic timbre, develope in mid-low range and mid-range. A dramatic mezzo usually has a large volume, able to sing in a dramatically continuous pitch. This voice type is specific in the ability to handle continuous pitches on mid-range. 

 Some typical dramatic mezzo: Milla Edelman, Christina Carr, Fiorenza Cossotto, Jennifer Holiday, Ethel Merman, Anastacia, Shirley Bassey, Mahalia Jackson… There is no dramatic mezzo in Asia.

2.2. Lirico Mezzo

 A quite common voice type with a soft, thick, warm timbre, medium volume, develope in mid-low range, mid-range and middle-high range. A lirico mezzo can also have a strong, powerful mid-range. Some typical lirico mezzo are: Grace Bumbry, Barbra Streisand, Lee Sun Hee, Adele, Edith Piaff…

 Mezzos in Vietnam are mostly lirico mezzo.

2.3. Spinto Mezzo

 the mezzo that is half-dramatic and half-lirico. A spinto mezzo has a strong, powerful mid-range and middle-high range with large volume, a thick and heavy low range but not with a high and epical intensity like a dramatic mezzo. Nonetheless, a spinto mezzo can still sing lyrically and softly in some parts.

 Some typical spinto mezzo are: Tina Turner, Etta James, Yolanda Adams, Whitney Houston (1990-1994 era), Lani Misalucha… This voice type have not been found in Vietnam.

2.4. Coloratura Mezzo

 the voice type with a wide range, a timbre that is the brightest and thinnest among the mezzos. A coloratura mezzo is specific in the flexibility when changing ranges, yodeling or the ability to execute a various of florid virtuosos. They can reach extremely high notes, but the tessitura still lies above mid-range, subhigh range and darker comparing to a regular soprano. 

 Some typical coloratura mezzo are: Marilyn Horne, Beyonce… This voice type have not been found in Vietnam.

III. Soprano

 The female voice type with the highest vocal range and the most common among them. A soprano usually has a brighter timbre than a mezzo and alto, with tessitura lies between their middle-high range and high range. Sopranos are divided into:

1. Dramatic Soprano

 The soprano with a huge volume and is metallic, powerful and inner-forced, trenchant and stable; and the timbre is somewhat cold and epic. This voice type is specific in the endurance while having to sing in high pitches the high notes with frequence. 

 Some typical dramatic sopranos are: Birgit Nilsson, Kirsten Flagstad, Jessye Norman, Ghena Dimitrova, Patti Labelle, Monica Naranjo… This voice type have not been found in Asia.

2. Lirico Soprano

 The soprano with light, soft and girly timbre and medium volume. Lirico sopranos are divided into 2 subtypes:

2.1. Full Lirico Soprano

 This voice type expands their best in middle range and middle-high range (some notes are higher than mezzo soprano). Even though the softness and lyricalness are still remained, the timbre is thicker and warmer than a light lirico soprano; and they have the ability to sing with inner force in middle-high ranges. 

 Some typical vocalists are:

  •  Monserrat Caballe, Anna Netrebko, Angela Gheorghiu, Mirella Freni, Lara Fabian, Celine Dion, Ruthie Henshall, Ock Joo Hyun, Lee Young Hyun, Linda Eder…
  •  Vietnamese: Siu Black, Thanh Tuyền, Thu Hiền, Bích Việt, Hà Phạm Thăng Long…

2.2. Light Lirico Soprano

 This voice type with the bright, slim and lightest timbre, tessitura expands the most in high ranges, so they are able to sing the notes above E5 easily with frequence.

 Some typical vocalists are:

  •  Kathleen Battle, So Hyang, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna (thời debut), Jessica Simpson, Lee Heari, Diana Ross…
  •  Vietnamese: Lan Anh, Anh Thơ, Thu Minh, Hồ Quỳnh Hương, Văn Mai Hương, Thanh Hoa, Như Quỳnh, Thái Thanh, Lê Dung, Phương Thanh, Hà Trần…

 The majority of sopranos in Vietnam are light lirico sopranos.

3. Spinto Soprano

 The lirico soprano that can turn dramatic in high tides. A spinto soprano can be warm and lyrical, yet at high notes, they can be powerful, trenchant, dramatic with a huge volume. The voice expands in middle range and middle-high range.

 Some typical vocalists of this voice type are: Leontyne Price, Renata Tebaldi, Whitney Houston (debut time), Cissy Houston… Spinto sopranos have not been found in Vietnam.

4. Coloratura Soprano

 The voice type with a wide range, bright and slim timbre, the flexibility in high range, the ability to control extra-high notes and to execute various florid virtuosos.

 Coloratura sopranos are divided into:

4.1. Lirico Coloratura Soprano

 The subtype with a soft volume, light, gentle and pure like birdsongs. Some typical vocalists: Sumi Jo, Mariah Carey, Lily Pons, Mado Robin, Mady Mesple, Anna Moffo, Beverly Sills…

 Lirico coloratura sopranos in Vietnam include: Bích Thủy, Tường Vy, Ngọc Tuyền…

4.2. Dramatic Coloratura Soprano

 Dramatic coloratura soprano: the subtype with a huge volume, solidation, metallic, a bit trechant and the flexibility on high range. Some typical vocalists are: Joan Sutherland, Edda Moser, Cristina Deutekom, Jessie J… Dramatic coloratura sopranos have not been found in Vietnam.

 Moreover, there are some rare types of female vocals:

5. Assoluta/Sfogato

 the most uncommon type of female voice, takes shape by natural and enduring training. This voice type has an extremely wide tessitura, and the people who own it can sing with comfort the vocal ranges of an alto, a mezzo or a soprano as though they were a natural at all three.

 A sfogato has a large volume, the trenchancy and solidation can be compared to dramatic soprano/mezzo, and they can be very flexible in mastering the ranges or the florid skills of a coloratura soprano. They can also sing softly like a lirico.

 The most typical vocalist for this type is Maria Callas - the singer that can sing any type of role in opera.

 In Pop music, the only vocalist who should be considered as an assoluta is Rachelle Frelle.

6. Falcon Soprano

 Quite a rare type that is half-spinto-mezzo-half-spinto-soprano. This voice type has a wide tessitura that lies from the low notes of a mezzo to the high notes of a soprano. A falson soprano can sing either the dark, heavy low range or the powerful, trenchant, epic middle range, and are well-supported at high notes of a spinto soprano.

 Some typical vocalists for this voice type are: Shirley Verrett, Aretha Franklin, Vanessa Amorosi.

7. Soubrette Soprano

 The lightest, softest and girliest soprano with a narrow tessitura that is lower than a lirico soprano and a pure, bright and soft timbre like the sound of an angel. Some typical vocalists for this voice type are:

  •  Erna Berger, Patrice Munsel, Norma Burrowes, IIRIS, Britney Spears and Anita Ward…
  •  Vietnamese: Thùy Chi, Khánh Linh…

8. Dugazon

 The type that is half-lirico-mezzo-half-soubrette-soprano. This voice has a soft volume, the timbre is bright and warm at middle range and the low range is excelent. A dugazon can sing softly with timbre of a mezzo or a soprano. 

 Some typical vocalists:: Cecilia Bartoli, Lana del Rey, Mylene Farmer.

 Vietnamese Diva Hong Nhung has this Vocal Type too.

Long Pham

Mình là Thảo Phương, một cô gái với âm nhạc là nguồn sống ^^. Mình đã từng được vào vòng đối đầu của The Voice và hiện giờ vẫn đang trên con đường làm ca sĩ :).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *