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Deliberate1 08-06-2021 10:21 AM

Vocal Range
 
Friends, I would be very interested to know how you accomplished singers determined your vocal range.
I am two years into the guitar. I took it up after decades of jazz woodwinds in order to give life to songs I was writing; songs that were vocal pieces. And I learned and worked up these songs with open chords, for better and worse. I never sang much, so that was new too. As my speaking voice is quite low, I assumed that my singing voice would have the same pitch. I tread on the cusp of bass/bari.
But all that changed when I went to a bluegrass camp a couple weeks ago, and was introduced to the mystery of the capo. Seems that most of the tunes we did were in B with the capo on the second fret. It obviously brought my singing voice up correspondingly, and it felt pretty good to be out of the basement. The tunes had limited range so I did not top out.
Since then, I have played a few of my songs with the capo on the second and even third fret. It feels, voice-wise, pretty comfortable, so long as the range of the song was somehat condensed. I also rather like the sound of my guitar with the capo on as well (Fairbanks SJ), though I do find that the intonation can suffer, with my cheap capo.
So, am I on the right track - basically figure out what the range of the song is and try to match it to my vocal comfort level. Or is there a more "scientific" approach to determine one's optimal range.
Obliged.
David

Glennwillow 08-06-2021 10:38 AM

Hi David,

I determined what my vocal range was because of my early experience with choral singing. I worked with the choir director on the piano and she had me sing scales with the piano to determine where my vocal range limits were. I ended up singing as a bass, though my vocal range marks me as a baritone. They enlisted me in the choir because they thought I was a tenor, but I do not have the very high range of a true tenor. My son, for example, is a true tenor. Check out this recent video for a comparison between my voice and my son's voice.

In my early days on the guitar, I used to use the capo to keep raising the pitch of a song to see how high I could sing the song. I still do that today, looking to see where I really sound best when working out a song. None of us sound good if we are pushing our voice too high or too low.

I hope some of this helps you. :)

- Glenn

rllink 08-06-2021 10:55 AM

I thought that I had an octave maybe, and it had to be in the right key. At the urging of my wife I took voice lessons. A whole two months of them. I discovered that I had a much wider range than I thought, I just had to learn to let it out and my voice coach was very good at helping me do that. He also helped my confidence, not just a with singing but musically over all. I recommend voice lessons, if just to get an idea of what you have that you aren't using. You don't have to take them forever.

Glennwillow 08-06-2021 11:09 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by rllink (Post 6779922)
I thought that I had an octave maybe, and it had to be in the right key. At the urging of my wife I took voice lessons. A whole two months of them. I discovered that I had a much wider range than I thought, I just had to learn to let it out and my voice coach was very good at helping me do that. He also helped my confidence, not just a with singing but musically over all. I recommend voice lessons, if just to get an idea of what you have that you aren't using. You don't have to take them forever.

A good voice teacher can be extremely helpful, but he or she needs to be good. A bad voice teacher can put nodes on your vocal cords. It can really help to ask multiple sources around your community regarding who is a really good vocal coach. Local colleges usually have some very good voice teachers.

- Glenn

ljguitar 08-06-2021 11:15 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Deliberate1 (Post 6779903)
Friends, I would be very interested to know how you accomplished singers determined your vocal range.d

Hi David
I was a music major in college & graduated with a teaching degree.

I always knew what my singing range was in the practice room, on stage, in the choir, or on an especially good or bad day. I rarely performed to the limits of either my highest nor lowest 'capable'.

Adrenaline changes things…





rllink 08-06-2021 11:55 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Glennwillow (Post 6779932)
A good voice teacher can be extremely helpful, but he or she needs to be good. A bad voice teacher can put nodes on your vocal cords. It can really help to ask multiple sources around your community regarding who is a really good vocal coach. Local colleges usually have some very good voice teachers.

- Glenn

My voice coach had been my wife's voice coach, so he was a known entity. He asked me straight out what my goals as a singer were and I told him not to embarrass myself. He replied that was a pretty obtainable goal. But starting the third lesson, after the exercises to warm up, he would have me play and sing, which is something a lot of people have trouble with. So he coached me through that as well. He kept telling me that there was more to singing than just singing. He also accompanied me with a piano sometimes and at that time I had not done a lot of playing with anyone else. So I really felt like I got my money's worth out of those eight lessons.

Glennwillow 08-06-2021 12:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by rllink (Post 6779976)
My voice coach had been my wife's voice coach, so he was a known entity. He asked me straight out what my goals as a singer were and I told him not to embarrass myself. He replied that was a pretty obtainable goal. But starting the third lesson, after the exercises to warm up, he would have me play and sing, which is something a lot of people have trouble with. So he coached me through that as well. He kept telling me that there was more to singing than just singing. He also accompanied me with a piano sometimes and at that time I had not done a lot of playing with anyone else. So I really felt like I got my money's worth out of those eight lessons.

Hi RL,

I'm so glad your time with your voice teacher was a good experience. I'm also glad you had the benefit of your wife's experience to guide you! :)

- Glenn

KevWind 08-06-2021 12:08 PM

Couple thoughts. Even though it sounds counter intuitive (understanding that placing a capo up the neck will raise the pitch) sometimes the key change actually works better for a lower vocal range :confused:At lease that has been my experience

I have always just assumed I was an upper Baritone

Like Glenn stated I use a capo to find what feels best for my vocal and any particular song

Here I am doing a cover and have the Capo @2 I am playing from the G form so I assume it is in the Key A


Andyrondack 08-06-2021 12:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Deliberate1 (Post 6779903)
Friends, I would be very interested to know how you accomplished singers determined your vocal range.
I am two years into the guitar. I took it up after decades of jazz woodwinds in order to give life to songs I was writing; songs that were vocal pieces. And I learned and worked up these songs with open chords, for better and worse. I never sang much, so that was new too. As my speaking voice is quite low, I assumed that my singing voice would have the same pitch. I tread on the cusp of bass/tenor.
But all that changed when I went to a bluegrass camp a couple weeks ago, and was introduced to the mystery of the capo. Seems that most of the tunes we did were in B with the capo on the second fret. It obviously brought my singing voice up correspondingly, and it felt pretty good to be out of the basement. The tunes had limited range so I did not top out.
Since then, I have played a few of my songs with the capo on the second and even third fret. It feels, voice-wise, pretty comfortable, so long as the range of the song was somehat condensed. I also rather like the sound of my guitar with the capo on as well (Fairbanks SJ), though I do find that the intonation can suffer, with my cheap capo.
So, am I on the right track - basically figure out what the range of the song is and try to match it to my vocal comfort level. Or is there a more "scientific" approach to determine one's optimal range.
Obliged.
David

I just got into the habit of warming up the voice by humming then singing up and down a scale, doesn't matter which , toward the lower end of my range I can still sing the notes but the volume starts to drop of, beyond my upper limit I sound like a rusty hinge so my range is between the two. I'd love to have a few singing lessons once this covid situation is easier, if just to learn how to protect my voice from strain, some singers seem to sound fine into their 80s and that would be a pretty cool achievement I think.

JonPR 08-06-2021 12:52 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Deliberate1 (Post 6779903)
Friends, I would be very interested to know how you accomplished singers determined your vocal range.

Well, I'm not a "accomplished" singer by any means, but working out my voal range was easy. I hummed the lowest and highest notes I could comfortably reach and found them on the guitar.
My lowest is E (open 6th string) and my highest - on a good day with a following wind - is probably D, 3rd fret 2nd string; although I wouldn't want to have to hit it too often. Singing live I can usually hit the E above that.

Then I just looked up the vocal range classifications to discover that means I am a bass.

This is not rocket science!

I am totally untrained, and I know with a few lessons I could improve my tone and projection, certainly towards the top of my range. But I don't generally sing lead, and when I do I choose songs well within my comfort zone, or transpose them until they are.

rmp 08-06-2021 01:06 PM

what ever it is now, it aint what it was 30 years ago... I can tell ya THAT much!!

Deliberate1 08-06-2021 02:12 PM

OP here. Many thanks, as always, for the generous help.

I have thought for a while about a voice coach. I have recorded myself singing and find that my pitch is pretty good. But my voice sounds unstable. And I am sure that gets worse at a jam session, when there is no mike, and I am consciously or not pushing my voice beyond its limits. Funny, but people often comment on the deep resonance of my speaking voice - I get "you have a [public] radio voice," a lot. Clients have told me that they enjoy listening to my voice over the phone. No one has ever told me they enjoy my singing voice....

One good thing is that, even at this early and untrained stage, I have no issue at all singing while playing. In fact, I find that I do both better when I do both simultaneously. I do find it interesting when someone says that is a challenge. At least one hurdle I do not have to overcome.

Glenn, I have listened to several of your excellent videos. Funny, but I would not have pegged you as a bass. Seemed to me that you were an octave or so above that.

As some have mentioned, and it is concerning, you can dp damage to your vocal chords by inadvertently mistreating them. Got to get me a coach...
Thanks again, all.
David

N4640W 08-06-2021 02:56 PM

Some songs are fairly straightforward forward and not difficult to sing and play simultaneously……..some songs are not. At least for me. Trying to sing and play: “Scarborough Fair” (Simon & Garfunkle), “Ramble On” (Led Zeppelin) and “Fragile” (Sting) were quite difficult for me. “Change the world” (Clapton) was a challenge , but easier. “Beautiful” (Lightfoot), “A girl like you” (Rascals), “From the begining” (ELP), “Spooky” (Atlanta rhythm section), “Sunny afternoon” (Kinks), “I’ll be back again” (Beatles), “Georgie Porgie” (Toto), “Miracles” (Jefferson starship), “Stormy Monday” (Allman bros.) and “Black Magic woman” (Santana) were all effortless, [once I found the right key]. And yes, I know they are really mostly ballads. How intricate the guitar arrangements were and specially syncopation is what determined the degree of difficulty playing and singing these songs solo IMHO.

Glennwillow 08-06-2021 04:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Deliberate1 (Post 6780087)
OP here. Many thanks, as always, for the generous help.

I have thought for a while about a voice coach. I have recorded myself singing and find that my pitch is pretty good. But my voice sounds unstable. And I am sure that gets worse at a jam session, when there is no mike, and I am consciously or not pushing my voice beyond its limits. Funny, but people often comment on the deep resonance of my speaking voice - I get "you have a [public] radio voice," a lot. Clients have told me that they enjoy listening to my vocie over the phone. No one has ever told me they enjoy my singing voice....

One good thing is that, even at this early and untrained stage, I have no issue at all singing while playing. In fact, I find that I do both better when I do both simultaneously. I do find it interesting when someone says that is a challenge. At least one hurdle I do not have to overcome.

Glenn, I have listened to several of your excellent videos. Funny, but I would not have pegged you as a bass. Seemed to me that you were an octave or so above that.

As some have mentioned, and it is concerning, you can dp damage to your vocal chords by inadvertently mistreating them. Got to get me a coach...
Thanks again, all.
David

Hi Deliberate,

I am not really a bass; :) I'm a high baritone, about where Frank Sinatra, Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, Paul Simon, and Jim Croce were/are voiced.

About the unsteadiness of your voice, I feel pretty confidant that a good vocal coach, hopefully male, could help you there. So much of it, as with the guitar, is about commitment. In singing a person has to put their whole body into it. Putting enough power through your vocal cords steadies out that unsteadiness, and that takes practice and learning to put yourself into it, using your diaphragm properly.

I think of it like airplane wings. At low velocity, an airplane will stall, and fall to the ground. Vocal cords are like that. You need enough velocity of air going across your vocal cords for stability.

Have fun with this! I bet you will marvel at your improvement with a good vocal coach! :) Regarding potential damage to your voice, a good vocal coach will make sure that won't happen. You should be aware of this problem but don't worry about it. :)

- Glenn

rule18 08-06-2021 06:03 PM

Years ago I had a vocal coach that was an opera singer. Her husband was a contemporary singer so I had the best of both worlds. As others have said, if you go down that path, try to make sure they have some cred and not that they themselves happen to have a decent singing voice.

I went in with a fairly solid 1.5 octave range, I came out with a solid 2.5 octaves not including sliding into falsetto. Those lessons were worth every penny.

wguitar 08-06-2021 07:44 PM

Hi David,

Lots of great advise so far, but as a practical matter a lot depends on how much time we can (or choose to) spend on voice lessons or whatever. I'm 67 and took both guitar and voice lessons a few years ago (something I always wanted to do and finally have the time). Both were very helpful but I discontinued them after a few months. I have played guitar for 45+ years but never took a lesson. All this being said, what I learned about singing in that short time continues to help me continuously improve. What I have found works great for me is BEING MYSELF vocally (and instrumentally) and not trying to sing "Crying" like Roy Orbison (his vocal range is amazing). The other thing that works for me is transcribing songs into a key more suitable for my voice. This encourages (and even necessitates) that I learn new chords -- which has improved my guitar playing immensely. For me, "continuous improvement" is the operative phrase and I'm good with that. Voice lessons (coaching), study and practice are the way to achieve the most vocally. Some are available on YouTube for free in addition to in-person lessons.

All the best!

jim1960 08-06-2021 08:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Deliberate1 (Post 6779903)
Friends, I would be very interested to know how you accomplished singers determined your vocal range.

For operatic singers, I think knowing a range is important and integral to their work, for what the rest of us do, probably not so much. I've never sat down and figured out my vocal range and that's probably because depending on the style of the song and how I'm choosing to sing it, my range will be different.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Deliberate1 (Post 6779903)
I am two years into the guitar. I took it up after decades of jazz woodwinds in order to give life to songs I was writing; songs that were vocal pieces. And I learned and worked up these songs with open chords, for better and worse. I never sang much, so that was new too. As my speaking voice is quite low, I assumed that my singing voice would have the same pitch. I tread on the cusp of bass/tenor.

There's no bass/tenor cusp because in between those two is the baritone. Most males are going to be either tenor or baritone. I'm a baritone most of the time but I can change my singing style and alter my voice slightly to move into tenor territory. Whether that style produces results with which I'm happy really depends on the song.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Deliberate1 (Post 6779903)
But all that changed when I went to a bluegrass camp a couple weeks ago, and was introduced to the mystery of the capo. Seems that most of the tunes we did were in B with the capo on the second fret. It obviously brought my singing voice up correspondingly, and it felt pretty good to be out of the basement. The tunes had limited range so I did not top out.

Since then, I have played a few of my songs with the capo on the second and even third fret. It feels, voice-wise, pretty comfortable, so long as the range of the song was somehat condensed. I also rather like the sound of my guitar with the capo on as well (Fairbanks SJ), though I do find that the intonation can suffer, with my cheap capo.

Singers don't have a "key" that they sing all their songs in. The key in which someone sings any particular song is going to depend on the highest and lowest notes in the song. You have to be able to hit both well. In the end there may be several keys for which you can hit the highest and lowest notes, at that point you factor in which key you think is most flattering to your voice.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Deliberate1 (Post 6779903)
So, am I on the right track - basically figure out what the range of the song is and try to match it to my vocal comfort level. Or is there a more "scientific" approach to determine one's optimal range.

Nope. That's really it. You put the capo where you can sing the song best. The vocal is the most important part of any song with lyrics. I don't care how great a guitar player anyone is, the vocal makes or breaks the song.

Also, the more you sing, the better you'll sing. The voice is an instrument, and like any instrument, you'll get better with practice.

Song 08-06-2021 08:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by KevWind (Post 6779988)
Couple thoughts. Even though it sounds counter intuitive (understanding that placing a capo up the neck will raise the pitch) sometimes the key change actually works better for a lower vocal range :confused:At lease that has been my experience

I have always just assumed I was an upper Baritone

Like Glenn stated I use a capo to find what feels best for my vocal and any particular song

Here I am doing a cover and have the Capo @2 I am playing from the G form so I assume it is in the Key A



Your singing and playing sound great Kev! Thanks for sharing!

nightchef 08-06-2021 10:20 PM

Singing in a chorus is a very good way to get more familiar with your vocal range and perhaps extend it. And most choruses are chronically short of male voices, especially tenors.

KevWind 08-07-2021 07:54 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Song (Post 6780303)
Your singing and playing sound great Kev! Thanks for sharing!

Thanks, I guess like many we are often prototypically our own worst critics, and feel I am only adequate to the task to get the song across but not great ...Or maybe I've just heard my own playing and singing too much :D

Rudy4 08-07-2021 08:35 AM

Put down your guitar!!!

All joking aside, it's easiest to find your key by simply singing acapella, all the way through a chosen song. You'll quickly figure out which direction you need to go (down or up...) and by how much.

When you can comfortably sing your chosen selection, THEN pick up your instrument of choice and find the key that closely matches your ability to sing that selection comfortably.

Oddly enough, you sometimes need to do this over again depending on the song. The key that fits one song may not work for others.

For me personally, I have a couple of keys that work well for me depending on the material.

Practice this technique a few times and you'll easily figure out what works for you. A capo is quite useful when you find the chord shapes you like to use don't match your vocal range. Don't let anyone tell you it's not "proper" to capo. It's just a tool.

Deliberate1 08-07-2021 09:50 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Rudy4 (Post 6780571)
Don't let anyone tell you it's not "proper" to capo. It's just a tool.

OP here, so I guess it is OK to poach my own thread. In my readings I have come across other comments similar to this one, typically defending the use of a capo. As I am new to the guitar world, and even newer to capos, using one for the first time just a couple weeks ago, I am interested to know why the disaffection. Is the argument that you should transpose into a different key if you want to play in a different key, and dispense with the use of a device like a capo; ie: “real” players transpose....
David

JonPR 08-07-2021 10:06 AM

There is a view that using a capo is a cheat, to avoid too many barre chords in tricky keys. But why is that "cheating"? There is no value in making things difficult for the sake of it!

It's worth pointing out - for the sake of the "anti-capo" argument - that you will never see a jazz guitarist using a capo (at least I never have).
But the reason for that is not that they have no trouble with barre chords. Of course they are adept at playing in any key (all 12 if they have to), but the main reason they'd regard a capo as silly is that cuts off part of the neck - they want the whole fretboard available at all times.
They also don't value open strings that much. Folk and rock guitarists often like the sound of open strings, aside from the ease of playing certain chords: the way they ring across each other and sustain across some changes. For a jazz musician, an open string is a string you have lost control of. It's a sound you might have to mute, and muting is a whole lot easier if you're using fretted notes all the time anyway.

Of course, you should still know how to transpose. Sometimes it makes sense to use a capo and to transpose chord shapes as well. E.g., if you have a song in C that you need to lower to Bb, you might find it easier to use a capo on 3 and transpose to G shapes. (You probably wouldn't want to put a capo on 10 to play C shapes... ;))

And sometimes players use capos for a particular effect, even when the key is easy enough without one. On Freewheelin', Bob Dylan sang Blowin' in the Wind in key of D (3 easy chords), but used a capo on fret 7 to play in G shapes. Why? Either because he preferred the way those shapes sat under his fingers, or he liked the higher sound, or both. (Other times he would keep the same shapes when singing it in a different key - sometimes with no capo, and singing higher.)
Of the three guitarists in the Eagles, two used a capo for Hotel California, one on fret 7, one on fret 2, while the other (Joe Walsh on lead) used no capo. The key was concert B minor, and all of them would have been quite capable of playing with no capo (or capo in either position), but those positions suited the sound and shapes they wanted to play.
In Radiohead's No Surprises, singer Thom Yorke uses a capo on 3 to play D shapes for key of F, while guitarist Ed O'Brien (playing a Rickenbacker) puts his on fret 15! Still D shapes, but in order to get a high tinkly music box sound.

Of course, where capos really become essential is when playing in open tunings, or tunings like DADGAD, where only one or two keys are easily playable, and the open strings assume much more importance, especially if fingerpicking.

KevWind 08-07-2021 12:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Deliberate1 (Post 6780639)
OP here, so I guess it is OK to poach my own thread. In my readings I have come across other comments similar to this one, typically defending the use of a capo. As I am new to the guitar world, and even newer to capos, using one for the first time just a couple weeks ago, I am interested to know why the disaffection. Is the argument that you should transpose into a different key if you want to play in a different key, and dispense with the use of a device like a capo; ie: “real” players transpose....
David

To add to what Jon said :

Jazz , Classical and many Electric players typically do not use a Capo because they often move up and down the neck, sometimes all the way up and down the neck in a single song .
So logistically using a capo would tend to inhibit that...

That said : None of really good Classical ,Jazz, and Electric players I know have any negative opinions on the use of capos at all ,,none nada zip ...........they also never use terms like "real players, do or don't do this or that" , probably they are too busy and focused on actually being good, as opposed to pontificating about it .
Terms and notions like that are purview of the insecure of ego, not the accomplished

Brent Hahn 08-07-2021 12:58 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by KevWind (Post 6779988)
Here I am doing a cover and have the Capo @2 I am playing from the G form so I assume it is in the Key A


Interesting. That's a great song for you. I'd love to hear you try it in G (no capo, same chord shapes) or ideally F# (capo up two frets with E and A chord shapes). In A, you seem a little tentative going up to those D's and it gets you out of that lovely warm chesty thing you do so well. In F#, those D's would become B's and you'd sail right through them.

Deliberate1 08-07-2021 01:52 PM

Gents, than
Thank you for the tutorial on capo use and the sometime politics of it.
David

Nama Ensou 08-07-2021 02:03 PM

A capo can be a tool or a crutch, and there are plenty examples of both.

I've bought quite a few capos over the years, but always lose them due to lack of usage. Times I wish I had one was when trying to follow someone on a song that is hard to mentally transpose in real time, but they also help deliver voicings that can't be achieved otherwise. Use what you want and let other players do the same; otherwise known as live and let live.

Rudy4 08-07-2021 07:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Deliberate1 (Post 6780639)
OP here, so I guess it is OK to poach my own thread. In my readings I have come across other comments similar to this one, typically defending the use of a capo. As I am new to the guitar world, and even newer to capos, using one for the first time just a couple weeks ago, I am interested to know why the disaffection. Is the argument that you should transpose into a different key if you want to play in a different key, and dispense with the use of a device like a capo; ie: “real” players transpose....
David

Jon & Kevwind have the answers covered!

There are many reasons to use a capo that have nothing to do with "cheating", but you are now privy to the politics.

I play as a duet with a second guitar player and one of us usually has a capo on so the two instruments are presenting different voicings. Capo use can be as simple as that.

KevWind 08-08-2021 06:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Brent Hahn (Post 6780774)
Interesting. That's a great song for you. I'd love to hear you try it in G (no capo, same chord shapes) or ideally F# (capo up two frets with E and A chord shapes). In A, you seem a little tentative going up to those D's and it gets you out of that lovely warm chesty thing you do so well. In F#, those D's would become B's and you'd sail right through them.

Thanks I will play around with that, If I remember I have in the past also played it no Capo in C maybe ?

Pnewsom 08-08-2021 07:53 AM

This is getting into advanced territory, but it's good to see and hear what's possible.

There are three ranges available to a singer. The body or full voice, head voice, and falsetto. The full voice is obvious and lots of singers can manage two or more octaves range with it. Head voice can add an octave or more, and the falsetto allows even more range.

However, crossing over from one voice to the next in a way that sounds seamless is the challenge, but once learned it can be a great asset.

Here's a nice example, with Joey Landreth moving through all three vocal ranges, along with some great harmony singing and playing.



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