Saturday, 14 March 2009

Why having a four or more octaves singing range is rare

Below an article from the BBC website that sheds some light on the rarity of having a four and above octave range.

Source: BBC Website

"Yma Sumac, the Peruvian soprano famous for her range, has died. Her voice spanned more than four octaves, but why is that so unusual? Many things were considered amazing about Yma Sumac, from her exotic costumes to her claims about being an Inca princess. But her extraordinary voice is what really made her special.

Known as the Peruvian songbird, it ranged over more than four octaves. It made her a Hollywood star in the 1950s and she stunned audiences globally throughout her long career.

To this day Sumac, who died at the weekend, is considered to have one of the biggest vocal ranges of any singer. Such a range is so unsual and human is it limited of part small the use very voice we Such a range is so unusual because the human voice is very limited and we use only a small part of it. This makes it very difficult to expand the vocal range and articulate such high notes.

Exploiting the range we do have comes down to physical aspects, like body structure and the length of vocal cords, technique and psychological attitude.

There has been a massive amount of research over the years to try and understand why our voices are so limited, says vocal coach Janet Edwards, who's worked with Leona Lewis and Spice Girl Mel C.

"What we do know is most people are capable of three octaves. The average person could sing within this range with very good guidance from an expert."

Most classical singers who have been professionally trained are still within this three octave range.A modern day comparison to Yma Sumac is Mariah Carey. She has a multi-octave vocal range which can reportedly reach five octaves.Mariah Carey's voice also scales the heights

The young Mariah Carey used to sing in a lowish voice and then these stratospheric notes would sound more and more like whistling," says Gillyanne Kayes, vocal trainer and voice researcher.

"It takes a high degree of skill to sing across a range. The colour, or timbre, of a voice is not the same all the way through."

And octave range doesn't just come down to physical attributes and technique, it's about the psychological as well.

"People can have a fear of using their voice," says Ms Edwards.

"Teaching someone is not only about getting people to use their body properly and breath right, it is also about giving people the right attitude to free their voice. You have to look at the voice from all angles."

But having a wide range does not equal a good singing voice per se, says Ms Kayes.

"In the latter years of Billie Holliday's life it was a pretty limited range, which inevitably was due to her years of alcohol and drug use. But she had this enormous expressivity which she was able to convey in seven to 10 notes, which is actually the range of your average pop song.

'Someone like Amy Winehouse, for example, mostly limits herself to about seven notes in a song. It's very difficult at the top of the range because you just can't articulate words up there. It's more what I would call a whistling sound.'"


  1. I don't think it's impossible for a singer to possess a four or five octave range. It's about proper vocal training

  2. I suppose it depends on what you mean by having a four octave range. If you mean being able to sing within the fourth and fifth octaves than that ability isn't necessarily rare unless its done with little to no training. If you mean to have the abbility to sing easily and comfortably in every of five octaves then yes that ability is rare.

  3. Yeah, you're an idiot.

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  25. My range is 5 octaves 5 notes and a semitone I span from C2-G#7 and I'm a boy o.o. I'm very surprised with myself.

  26. My vocal range spans from C2-B5 which is 3 octaves 6 notes. And that is just what I can control, if I sing unssuported low notes and screech, my vocal range is from G#1-D7 which is five octaves 4 nontes and a semitone (Which I never count as part of my range). To be honest, I can seldom hit a C2 and this is just a lucky day. I can sing a F2 with little effort and an E2 as well. My tessitura is from B2-D#5. What range are you? I'm a low tessitura tenor.

  27. Woah sorry for the LATE reply sir. Well from what my vocal teacher tells me is that my voice extraordinary. He's still trying to figure out how my voice works where my comfort goes and what not. I can my lowest note I have ever reached is Bb1 of course by forcing it, rarely will I sing C2 comfortably the usual notes are D2 to F2. From where my belting range is, it's actually my weak part of my range because I have been singing in falsetto all of my life and I have been just been using the part of my range. I can sing comfortably up to F#4. But I can sing a clear G#4. It's just meeting A4 and over is where I start to lose control and sometimes get shrill. My falsetto is my strongest part of my range. I can sing in head voice but only for a short amount time after using it. The highest I sang in a connected head voice is A5. But when it turns to falsetto it can go up to F6. Then I started experimenting into the whistle range which wasn't easy. How I got into that range was actually by just listening to other people the sing in that range for example Mariah, Christina, Adam Lopez, Minnie etc. and after like two years of playing with that part of my range on any given day I can sing in the range. The highest note I can sing in the whistle register is C8 and sometimes beyond that, but that;s only when I'm lucky. I'm still trying to figure out my range. But I consider myself as a high tenor or countertenor. Sorry for that this is so long. (/.\)

  28. Well, my voice has changed substantially since then. Lol, go ahead and scratch 2 octaves off of my range because at this point I could careless about my WR or super falsetto. I just belt belt belt belt belt. As long as I can sing with 3 connected octaves by pop standards then I'm satisfied...Lol. But it is so great you have ease that high. Mine has gone Lol.

  29. I'm really trying hard to perfect my voice because my dream is to be a Broadway performer/recording artist and I ave begun to make my own music or write poems, anything. Maybe it might be because I'm a bit scared to make my own material. But I'm not afraid to give a phenomenal performance. But I'm still 16 so I should really be focused more on school and thinking about college.

  30. You all are lucky with the lower notes in the 2nd octave. My vocal range is about B2-B5/C6 but it varies sometimes. My lower register is not as strong as I would like it to be but I continue to work on it everyday. I can use vocal fry down to about G#2/A2 but it's not always consistent. When I sing songs I usually sing between D3-G#4, for the most part. I love belting around E4, F4, and G4 for some reason... I think I start to cover at Eb4/E4 and I can comfortably take a more chest dominated mix to A4/B4 but when I get to C5, the mix gets headier as I go. I can probably sing in full voice to about a E5, anything a little higher I can do but I tire out rapidly, so don't I don't use full voice at F5, G5, A5, and B5 unless I want to play around and imitate Patti, Aretha, or Chaka.

  31. Hey, let me just join y'all haha. I have a little problem regarding my vocal fach. Some people (music teacher included) say that I am a proper bass while other people say that I am a light lyric tenor, then there was a friend (he didn't know what he was saying) that was babbling about me being a tenor sfogato but that's highly unlikely.
    I'm not even sure about my range if I mistake every note for an octave higher, it's really confusing, what I think is that my range is F2-F6-Eb7, my break is at around an A4, and I can belt up to an E5 (used to go up to F5). My question is, what would be more likely (solely based on logic); that version or that everything is an octave lower? (F1-F5-Eb6, Break A3, belt E4) I don't know I'm so confused UGH !

  32. I'd need to hear your voice.

  33. What would I have to sing >.>

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