Sunday, September 10, 2017

ELL vocabulary - vocal range

soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass


I am writing from a concert, listening to all of these vocal rangesVocal range is "the total span of musically useful pitches that a singer can produce."  (See the vocal range definition on Wikipedia.)  They range in pitch: Sopranos sing the highest, while basses sing the lowest.  Conventionally, women are sopranos and altos, while men are typically tenors, baritones, and basses.  (This is not always true, though.  Boys who sing before puberty, before their vocal cords have thickened, may sing soprano and alto parts.)

(Note that bass, though it looks as if it should be pronounced with a short "a" as in "apple," is actually pronounced with a long "a," as if it were written "base.")

Sopranos are high-pitched; basses are deep; the other ranges follow in order.  Each singer has a different range, or span of pitches he or she may hit.  For example, an alto with a very wide range may even sing some high notes that are usually the province of sopranos, and may sing some low notes normally within the tenor range.

Maria Callas was a well-known Greek-American soprano.
Cher and Tina Turner are famous American altos.
Johnny Cash was a renowned American bass.
José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti are such famous operatic tenors that they are often called the Three Tenors, a popular singing group from the 1990s to the 2000s.

Note that, though that some of these terms are also proper words in Italian, they are all proper, linguistically-correct words in English.

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