How to Find Your Vocal Range

American pop singer Laura Branigan

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Finding your vocal range is easy once you know what to look for. One of the simplest ways to do this is to use a five-note scale to identify your highest and lowest note, comparing them to notes on a piano or other instrument you're familiar with to get their name, and then comparing it against the information below to determine whether you are a soprano, alto, tenor, or bass vocalist.

Though it may be a bit tricky at first to match vocal to piano notes, after a bit of fine-tuning you should be able to discover your range. Do you like to sing high? Then you are most likely a soprano or tenor. Do you like to sing low? Then you are probably an alto or bass. Determine which you are most comfortable with, and voila! You've discovered the foundation of your range. 

Use a Five-Note Scale to Find Your Total Range

To find your total vocal range, it's best to use a five-note scale, singing up and down the entire scale until your voice cracks or you cannot hit a note. It is recommended that you sing the scale with a vowel sound—try "ah"—making sure to pick a comfortable middle pitch to start the scale on. From there, move your voice up a pitch. It is generally recommended to scale up in half steps so you can ascertain exactly which notes you can and can no longer hit. 

Sing the scale again in your new pitch and repeat this process until you can't sing any higher. Once you reach that, congratulations! You've now discovered the top note of your vocal range. To find the bottom of your range, use the same process but instead of going higher, sing lower with each five-note scale. When you can't sing lower, you have hit the bottom of your vocal range.

Finding Note Names of the Highest and Lowest Notes You Sing

To find the names of the highest and lowest notes you sing, you need to use an instrument or a tuner. In the case of a piano, the very middle key (or pitch) is the middle C or C4. Typically, most people (except extreme sopranos and basses) can sing the middle C note. The next C up the scale is C5 with the “high C” being C6, and an even higher C at C7, and so on. The same principle applies going down the scale: the C below middle C is C3, lower still is C2, and then C1. Going up the scale starting on middle C the names are as follows: C4, D4, E4, F4, G4, A4, B4, C5, and so on.

The famous French vocal teacher Tarneaud defines the typical ranges of the four voice types as follows: Sopranos can typically sing B3 to F6, altos perform D3 to A5, tenors belt A2 to A5, and bass singers rumble out B1 to G5. As you learn more about singing, you will find out there are types of sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses. There are also baritones, who are males that sing in the middle of the voice with a vocal range that lies between tenors and basses. Mezzo-sopranos are the female version of baritones. There are also boy sopranos and other voice types that do not fall into the norm. Be aware there is more to voice classification, but stick to the basics for now.

Sopranos and Tenors Sing High While Altos and Basses Sing Low

Typically speaking, women and girls are sopranos or altos and men are tenors or basses. Boys who have not hit puberty yet are often called sopranos or trebles in the United Kingdom and sing in the range of either a female soprano or alto.

For a beginner just starting out, this may be enough information for you. As you learn more about singing, you may find the quality of your voice may change your voice type.

However, when you're starting vocal lessons, your instructor will typically start you out on the above exercise to determine the exact range of his or her performer. With this information in mind, it is much easier to teach a singer to expand their range and even begin mixing registers!