Choir Singing Voice Types -
Power of the Masses!
Choir Singing refers to a group of people singing together in a chorus of voices, often with harmony parts (3-part, 4-part or even more) designed to make the choral songs sound full and colourful!
Choirs can perform with or without music accompaniment, either going A Cappella (without music) or with basic keyboard, organ or guitar accompaniment. Some modern choirs even have a full band setup with drum sets and electric guitars!
There are many different kinds of choirs, and one of the most common ways to characterize choirs would be by their gender mix. A conventional choir would be one with both male and female members. These would have 4 basic voice types or ranges – Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass – commonly known as SATB.
This would be slightly different from the classical voice types, which have a greater variety, ranging from Soprano and Mezzo Soprano to the Baritone and Bass. Find out more about these Classical Voice Types by clicking on the link provided!
Other kinds of choirs include strictly male choirs, which can either have the traditional SATB voices with boys singing the upper part (Treble) and men singing the Alto part (Countertenor), or just with 2 Tenor parts, a Baritone and a Bass part (TTBB). To find out more about the various male voice types and vocal ranges, check out the section on Male Voice Types!
There are also strictly female choirs, consisting of only Soprano and Alto voices in the choral voice parts of Soprano, Soprano II and Alto, abbreviated as SSAA or SSA. Click here to read more about female voice types and their characteristics, as well as how to find out what is your own voice type!
As was mentioned earlier, a conventional choir would have 4 voice types, mainly the Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass. Interestingly, the classical singing world does not recognise the ‘Alto’ voice as a voice type, and uses the term ‘Contralto’ to describe voices that would fall in the Choral ‘Alto’ range.
This is because in Choir Singing, singers are usually classified by their vocal range, and so it is more convenient to group singers based on their ranges, ie Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass, rather on the various characteristics of their voice, as it would be in the classical world.
Here are the various approximate vocal ranges for each of the Choral Voice Types (C4 being Middle C):
You may notice a certain downward pattern evolving, and you may also notice that the classification system for choral singing is much more approximate than for classical singing. This can create problems, especially for singers whose ranges fall between the main voice categories, for example, someone whose range happens to be in between the Soprano and the Alto ranges.
One of these problems could be that some singers may find it difficult to perform certain repertoire in the voice parts that they are assigned, if their vocal range does not fit well within the specified singing range. In the long run, this could create problems especially in terms of vocal training and vocal development.
In order to prevent some of these side effects, always be sure to do some vocal warmups before you sing, and also do practise some of our pitching exercises so as to improve on overall pitching ability.
Also, singers should always learn how to find their own vocal range for singing, so as to know which parts they can manage, and also which singing parts are out of reach.
Choir singers would also need to have a keen sense of pitch and hearing, and be particularly strong in sight reading and also in reading musical score, possibly also being able to sing by ear and to sing these harmony parts accurately as well as in unison, following a strict timing so as to be able to sound well when combined with the various voice parts.
Another key characteristic of choir singing is that the members have to be able to sing as a group. This would mean that they need to be well synchronized, starting and ending parts in unison or in a specific timing. Their voices would also have to be blended well, and singers would usually try to round their voices in their head voice position so as to be able to fit in with the rest of the voices in the choir.
Also, most choirs would have a choir leader, who is in charge of leading choir practices, as well as providing the choir with training and also musical scores for various choir singing repertoire. The choir leader would also most often by the conductor, guiding the choir during performances, and making sure that their timing as well as singing is up to par during the show!
There are certainly a great variety of choirs, and these would include school choirs consisting mainly of students, church choirs consisting of congregation members, professional choirs consisting of singers who make a living out of choir singing, as well as community choirs consisting of members of the specific community singing for special events or causes.
For those who do not aspire to become a solo pop or classical singer, perhaps you might find your calling in a choir, as part of a greater good!
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