The Difference Between Men's & Women's Vocal Ranges

Men's and women's vocal ranges have different roles and classifications, depending on the range of the singer. Women tend to have more penetrating voices since they sing at a higher pitch level. Men's voices provide excellent foundations and bass and balance well with female voices. The differences in both sexes have been exploited by composers to create effects and delineate the difference in characters to the audience.

Highest Register

There are two different names for the highest register in men's and women's voices. When men sing in their highest range they are using falsetto. Women, on the other hand, are using their whistle registry. The concept behind using these registers is the same. Both sexes have to close off the vocal cords to create faster vibrations along the edges of the vocal cords. These faster vibrations result in a higher register. However, some of the richness of the tone gets lost due to the restrictions placed on the vocal cords.


The main vocal classifications are the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. There are additional sub-classifications that appear in opera music, but each voice type can be classified into these broad vocal ranges. The female voices are soprano and alto while the male voices are tenor and bass. The soprano and tenor have equivalent ranges with soprano playing from C below the staff to C above the staff and the tenor singing an octave lower. The alto and bass both have their own registers, but the alto is considered the bass of the female voice family.


In opera, female voices are often used to play the role of young boys. These singers are called mezzo-sopranos. Since they have a deeper range, but still maintain a higher register typical of youth, these female singers often find themselves dressing up as boys. One example of this is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro." The boy, Cherubino, is performed by a woman in this opera. The main character roles are often given to the highest female and male parts.


Male vocal ranges are deeper than women's ranges. This results in a darker, thicker timbre. As the voice gets lower in the range of perceivable musical pitches it becomes, even more, important to have proper diction. Diction is the manner in which words are pronounced. If words are not articulated clearly, then the audience will not be able to hear what is being said. While this is still an issue for women's voices, men have to be extra careful to sing clearly since their registers are so low.


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