My most popular post – by far – is “Tenor or a Baritone: Five Questions to Help You Decide”. It seems like this is a big issue for singers, and – understandably – singers are confused and looking for answers in any place they can find help.
I still think the five questions in the original article are mostly sound. What are they?
- Are you uncomfortable or in pain? If you feel regular discomfort when you sing, then that is a tell-tale sign that something is wrong.
- Where is your passaggio? There are “break” points in your voice that can help you identify your type.
- What are the extremes of your range? People with extreme high or low notes can use those to help identify their type.
- What is your reaction to other singers? If you feel something is possible for you yourself to sing after you hear another singer, then that might be a clue.
- Are you faking it? There are stereotypical clues given by singers who are forcing themselves to be a particular voice type.
The two that I would question (based on my own experience, working with my students, and the comments I received) are my emphasis on the passaggio and my assertion that we should trust the extreme notes in our voices.
The experience of the passaggio is very elusive for men. There are a number of places in our voices where something changes, but it’s hard to interpret those changes properly – especially by ourselves. Plus, I don’t think it’s static. If I drop all of the “body” from my voice, then it feels like my passaggio goes up. By adding “body” back it drops. So where is it?
A better focus is on tessitura. That’s the general average of pitches in a given piece. By discovering what tessitura feels best, we can discover more than passaggio alone can tell us. You’ll figure out pretty quickly whether a high, medium or low tessitura feels good or not. Just take a piece that you’ve sung in one key and try it in another.
In a similar vein, it’s important that we focus on how we’re producing tones in the various parts of our voices. I agree with the comment made by kenwanderson:
What a person CAN do, and what is easier (and more appropriate?) on the voice may not be the same.
Absolutely. I didn’t emphasize this enough in my previous posts.
Every voice type has great and varied music to sing, and we don’t need to feel bad or worried for not being another type. There are great baritone roles that I was sad to lose when I switched to tenor. I’m excited to be working on them again.
And there is something to be said about not making a choice too early. It takes time to figure out what works best for your voice. There’s nothing wrong with playing around with different music while we practice, so long as we don’t actually damage our voices. If we do feel discomfort while we play, then that’s a clue. A side benefit is having greater familiarity with a larger variety of music.
Find a Teacher
Lastly, the best tip I can give is to find a voice teacher who you can trust and who can guide you through your voice. They are out there, and they can help make the whole process much easier.