Sunday 6 January 2013

[Vocal Profile] Etta James

Vocal Type:Contralto
Vocal Range:3 octaves 1 note and a semitone G#2-B5
Whistle Register:No
Vocal Pluses: Fiery, earthy voice that though known for its gritty growl, was in fact a versatile and multifaceted instrument.

With a solid, thick and comfortable low and midrange, it was possible for Etta James to manipulate the tone and timbre in these registers to suit a variety of styles and genres. She could make it soft and soulful [ Misty Blue], fierce and sassy [Something's Got a Hold of Me] or create a timbre that entirely omitted its trademark growl [I Sing The Blues].

The coarse tone, and the grunts and growls were usually associated with the singer's belting range, and they're often what is most remembered about Etta James' voice. These vocal traits were noted for their power, rawness and ability to convey emotion. However, being a versatile singer, it was also possible for Etta to produce a clearer, smoother tone in her belting range by mixing with her head voice [At Last].

Etta James was an emotive, honest and smart singer that could turn her voice to any number of genres. Her voice was dexterous enough to sing melisma, and  had the power to hold notes, but her real strength lay in her ability to interpret the music she was singing: expertly varying her tone, timbre, and delivery accordingly.

Vocal Negatives:Questionable technique used to achieve trademark grunts and growls.

Thanks to Serendipity for the negative and pointing me to the video!


  1. I've been waiting for decades....Diva.....DECADES... On behalf of humanity....THANKYOU!!!!

  2. What I liked most about Etta was that she knew how to sing the blues and manipulate her voice on purpose. Not just because her voice was stuck that way but because she had enough knowledge to be able to manipulate the textures and colors of her voice. Which is also probably why she was able to sing with that technique for so long.

  3. Now I am not gonna lie, I was never a massive James fan, in fact I found her voice to be exceptionally painful to listen to at times....however I am taking nothing away from her outstanding talent. Not many vocalists of this generation or indeed past have been able to do what this lady could with her chops!

  4. F#2-B5

    Anyway good profile! Her voice was incredible and she inspired so many as a soulful singer!

  5. Her lower register dips down into Tenor and Baritone range giving the impression of a man's voice. she clearly is a dramatic contralto. and voices like these are difficult to get into the whistle register if it can because it isn't high enough. it's like a female Tenor

  6. I think she's a mezzo. Not contralto.

  7. No she is a contralto.

    Wayyyy low of a singer to be mezzo.

  8. This is one vocal profile that shouldn't have had any negatives. Just sayin'.

  9. Very nice post. I absolutely appreciate this website. Keep writing!

    Look at my page: freecams