Female Singers R Us
DIVADEVOTEE: Feels like "¯\_(ツ)_/¯" sums up my year perfectly.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Countdown: Top 5 Contemporary Contraltos

Note: "Alto" should read "Contralto"


The operatic contralto range usually spans from an F3 to a G5 but amazingly our lovely pop Divas can do better than that, with many of them demonstrating the ability to reach at least 4 notes below the lowest requirement.

Apart from the ability to reach an F3, contralto voices have other characteristics usually associated with them- though they are not always present- such as a smoky timbre, a lower access point to the chest register and a heavier weight to the voice. So celebrate this rare vocal type, below is a list of my 5 favourite contralto range capable Divas.

Note: Of course, in reality, comparing a pop singer to an opera singer is like comparing an apple to an orange so any opera aficionados don't bite my head off please...I need it for living.

5) Mariah Carey:
A singer who is associated more with the extreme highs of her voice rather than the lows its capable of. Her version of Stevie Wonders' You and I has Mariah demonstrating her contralto chops admirably, but she gains a lower place on my chart because some of the lowest notes she hits are produced by improper technique.



4 ) Lalah Hathaway:
Has a weighty, thick contralto voice, that though heavy, is still able to sing beautiful and complex melisma with ease.



3) Cher:
I've said it before and I'll say it again, Cher is a vocalist that is constantly overlooked. Her voice has a clarity that the other contraltos on this list do not and her chest register starts relatively low but, despite its weight, is still capable of hitting the fifth octave.


2) Sarah Vaughan:
Her contralto range was warmer and sweeter than any of the other singers on the list. The voice also had a beautiful smoothness, richness and an operatic like quality that was imparted to the voice via her exception control.


1)Toni Braxton
 Her voice has "contralto" written all over it, producing the tone, timbre and colour most people would straight away associate with the lowest female vocal range. Out of all the singers on the list Toni's is the one that sounds best, and most comfortable, in the lower ranges of her voice .




Let me know of your favourite contraltos in the comments below!

56 comments:

  1. Totally agree with your list. Pretty much spot on. Would have to say although cliche as it is at this moment Amy Winehouse would be up there only for the total uniqueness of her voice along with the power and passion she possessed in her voice. Also Annie Lennox is another incredible Contralto with a velvet and massive range, if you could make a profile for her that would be awesome too ;-) Stuey x

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's like you're reading my mind Stuey! I gave thought to both Amy and Annie but was worried, in regards to Amy, that my judgement may have been clouded by her tragic passing. As for Annie she has got a massive range and she would definitely be in my top ten of contraltos, expect a vocal range soon! :D

    ReplyDelete
  3. Did you just forget Tina Turner?!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. How about Bonnie Raitt?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Tina Turner is never forgotten!! She is an awesome contralto. ;) As for Bonnie, I'm only familiar with her song "I can't make you love me". Can you direct me to some other classic songs of hers?

    ReplyDelete
  6. "Thing Called Love","Something to Talk About", "No Business", "Not the Only One", "Fundamental Things", "Cure for Love"...all fantastic songs from Bonnie Raitt!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Another great Contralto is Clare Maguire, while she is new to the music scene she has an awesome voice, beautiful colours and texture to her voice. You should check her out on youtube - Light After Dark is her debut album, tracks to look up would defo be the title track, Bullet, Shield and Sword, Last Dance and Break these Chains....all great songs. Stuey

    ReplyDelete
  8. And what about Mercedes Sosa? She was a Diva and a contemporary one :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Judy Garland had a beautiful contralto voice.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I loved Last Dance. Was supposed to get round to listening to her album, but just forgot!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Never heard of her. Will check her out! :D

    ReplyDelete
  12. How can it be that no one has mentioned Karen Carpenter?!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Amazing singer. Think I'll do a vocal profile on her soon to celebrate that gorgeous voice.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Great! She was known mostly for her full, beautiful lower register. It was like hot fudge!

    ReplyDelete
  15. i would have placed Stevie Nicks in Mariah's spot seeing as Mariah isn't a contralto.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have said to myself that I'm a light-lyric contralto but others that I'm a sfogato to lyric soprano. I love these contraltos so make this vocal type predominant. :D

    ReplyDelete
  17. Anita Baker is one of my favorite contraltoes. Thick, rich, and smooth.

    ReplyDelete
  18. now im curious A_A.range?colour?typing?tessiture?

    ReplyDelete
  19. In my opinion Annie Lennox is without a doubt the greatest contralto in non classical music. Such an agile voice that is consistent in all of her registers, able to project deep down into the second octave (G2), and yet able to belt into the soprano territory with ease (A5). She can scale octaves in one breath (Such as in "No Fear, No Hate, No Pain" where she travels from C4 to C6 and hits the C6 with such resonance and power yet at the same time she is "floating" the note. and in "Must Be An Angel" where she goes from G5 to C3 like it's nothing) and perform intricate melisma in her lower register, upper register or headvoice. All these other women are marvelous singers, but in my opinion Annie Lennox just takes the cake. Incredible vocal dynamics, great tone, vocal agility and strength throughout all her register. Also it doesn't hurt that she's an incredibly talented songwriter and an incredibly kindhearted humanitarian ^^

    ReplyDelete
  20.  I meant to post this as "Serendipity"

    ReplyDelete
  21. I can't believe I left out Annie Lennox. Think I'm gonna bump Mariah for her.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Sometimes things just escape our minds haha.
    Glad Annie is being added though ^^ She's such a wonderful singer, although she can overdo it sometimes live (i.e the end of "Why" performances)

    ReplyDelete
  23. this is a kuwaiti singer and she should sounds like an alto to me. she should be second on this countdown. here is a song that showcase her lower range 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE44ClmO7qE she has such a warm, soulful and unique voice.

    ReplyDelete
  24. My personal list
    1. Annie Lennox
    2. Tina Turner
    3. Toni Braxton
    4. Sade or Sara Vaughn
    5 . Cher

    ReplyDelete
  25. 5. Toni Braxton
    4. Adele
    3. Brandy
    2. Amy Winehouse
    1. Jazmine Sullivan

    ReplyDelete
  26. I know she's not considered relevant anymore but Des'ree had the most beautiful contralto I ever heard. "Kissing You" from the Romeo+Juliet soundtrack is one of the best contralto songs ever.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Jazmine is my all time favorite contralto. Did you see her stuff when she was 11 years old?

    ReplyDelete
  28. MarinaAndTheDiamonds9 December 2012 at 20:02

    Where's Anne Lenox?????

    ReplyDelete
  29. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrJ4DUP1oss

    ReplyDelete
  30. I've said it once and I'll say it again, Annie Lennox is the best contralto in popular music. No other contralto has everything vocally like Annie does. She's peerless.

    ReplyDelete
  31. My favorite in this list is Cher, since she's a true contralto. I'm a bigger fan of Mariah but she is not known for her low notes so... May I add that Britney Spears is most likely a natural contralto. She hits a B2 in this demo at 1:03 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8H8ZnJWbGk

    ReplyDelete
  32. thank you, all wonderful singers.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Disregard this list. Some of these ladies aren't contraltos :)

    ReplyDelete
  34. Britney Spears is not a natural contralto, more like a lyric mezzo. Her low notes are strong but not that strong.

    ReplyDelete
  35. It's highly debated whether Toni Braxton is a contralto or not. In her higher range she definitely sounds more womanly, however she does sound really comfortable in her lower range. Also, not sure if your intention was to list 5 contraltos or 5 women who can sing in the contralto tessitura comfortably? Cher is the only true contralto in that list. But where is Annie Lennox and Nina Simone? Also, Heather Small - totally underrated vocalist!

    ReplyDelete
  36. None of those 5 are true contraltos. Well, maybe Jazmine but I don't know her stuff well enough.

    ReplyDelete
  37. You've not added her yet! Also, Heather Small? I don't know if you're based in the UK or not or heard of her but she's a true contralto too.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Jazmine isn't a contralto. She is a very low, thick, and extremely bright mezzo.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Yes you are right. Her voice is not that heavy naturally and with good technique she could easily sing in the 5th octave.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Toni is a true contralto, Her reaching high notes can factor due to her mother being an opera singer, so it can be placement and pallet raising...


    But her natural tessitura def lies in the contralto range and she can stay on the lower notes for longer periods of time with no air issues... Mezzos and sopranos run out of air on low notes at the end of phrasing bec low notes are harder for women to reach.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Britney spears is not a contralto...


    She's actually a soubrette, meaning a lighter lyric of the voice classification of either soprano or mezzo...


    She is a soubrette mezzo... a lighter voice than lyric mezzo...

    ReplyDelete
  42. Listen to less commercial songs of hers...


    As a fan and a classically trained singer i can def bet she is a true contralto, for she said herself she can't do Whitney songs (mezzo) because her voice lies on a lower place, but she probably would attempt.

    ReplyDelete
  43. She is very far from a soubrette. Her voice isn't naturally light at all. Most people are fooled by her official commercial "baby voice" but it's just a way she changes her vocal tract to lighten her sound substancially. Her natural sound is much darker and weightier. With good technique she is able to produce a very powerful sound, good technique meaning before her first album in 1999.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Actually she is...


    "Everytime" showcases a pure soubrette voice.


    She sings with forced throat and that makes ppl hear a false weight to her voice, but in reality her comfortable place is def somewhere in the range of "every time"

    ReplyDelete
  45. You have absolutely no clue what a contralto is, do you?
    Cher is the only contralto listed here.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Toni is a lower set mezzo. Contraltos are perfectly capable of hitting high notes, what defines a contralto is a manly/androgynous chest voice and middle. Toni's lower chest voice is manly but it stops there, she is a mezzo.


    If a singer runs out of air on any kind of note it is a lack in breath control, not a matter of fach.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Legend Umm Kalthoum is probably the most skilled contralto ever.

    ReplyDelete
  48. No not true, lower notes take more air than higher notes the higher a persons voice the harder lower notes can be even with proper technique more so for women, and if you listened to her song " woman" or '' If I have to wait" Her voice is a heavier more soulful version of Cher, She def is contralto with a wide range.


    Also when she sings with her sisters, she always takes the lowest notes in harmony indicating she is more comfortable in her low range as oppose to her other mezzo soprano sisters in the mid range or Tamar a higher register singer soprano.

    ReplyDelete
  49. 1. Toni Braxton
    2. Anita Baker
    3. Sarah Vaughan
    4. Lalah Hathaway
    5. Chaka Khan (on a good day)

    ReplyDelete
  50. Sarah vaughan needs to be there. Here Black Coffee

    ReplyDelete