What is the Highest Singing Voice? The highest singing voice for a female is soprano; it is classified into 5 subtypes. The highest singing voice for a male is tenor; it is classified into 7 subtypes. The subtypes are determined by the nuances in each voice.
Legend has it that an opera singer once delivered an aria so powerful it shattered the chandeliers and champagne flutes inside the performance hall. The spectators gaped, speechless, a few of them gawking through cracked monocles.
Can a high C really break glasses, like what happened in the story? According to physics, breaking glasses with nothing but human voice is not impossible. But for this to happen, it should meet some variables first, such as resonant frequency and amplification. And if the glasses already have microscopic fractures, it can facilitate the process.
This myth may have never actually happened, but one thing we do know is that there are singers with singing voices so flawlessly high they can shock everyone’s eardrums.
Soprano: The Highest Female Singing Voice
Diana Damrau’s spectacular F6 in Queen of the Night (Der Hölle Rache). Ariana Grande’s breathtaking F5 in Breathin’. Mariah Carey’s vocal pipe-popping G7 whistle in Emotions.
These singers are all sopranos—the highest female singing voice. When you think of female opera singers, you are most likely picturing a soprano: a beautiful heroine enchanting the crowd with her gleaming voice as it soars to the heavens.
Soprano is derived from the Italian word sopra, which translates into “over”, “above”, and “on top of”. Interestingly, the term soprano can also be applied to male singers; they are called sopranists, male countertenors who can reach the soprano range through head voice or falsetto.
According to the School of Rock, a soprano’s vocal range is between B3 to C6. Sopranos have a bright, powerful, and crystalline timbre that can sometimes go rich and deep as well. They have a strong head voice but have a bit of a struggle projecting in the middle voice.
Examples of singers with this kind of singing voice (other than those mentioned above) are Maria Calls, Sarah Brightman, Whitney Houston, and Christina Aguilera.
Not all sopranos are the same. The soprano voice is classified into 5 general subtypes. Each type has distinct characteristics. Let’s have a look at them:
A coloratura soprano is a highly skilled vocal performer as her voice can do complex tricks that can be difficult for the other soprano subtypes to pull off. She can sing exceptionally technical music and is known for her vocal gymnastics with her embellished, virtuosic melodies.
A coloratura soprano can be a lyric coloratura or dramatic coloratura. The former has a sharp, light, well-defined sound quality. Meanwhile, the latter has a larger, broader, and somewhat heavier sound.
A soubrette is best described as lively and melodic, yet coy and flirtatious. The sound has a light, bright, and sweet timbre reminiscent of a young lady. This is why most young singers fall into this category and are later classified into another category as their voices ripen into maturity.
A lyric soprano, like a soubrette, has a young sound quality but is much fuller than the latter. It is gentle, ethereal, warm, and penetrating; it is easy to hear a lyric soprano among the chorus of voices and orchestra music. Many soubrettes eventually transition to this subtype.
Also referred to as lirico-spinto, meaning “pushed lyric”, a spinto soprano is a rare kind, capable of thrusting her voice to dramatic heights with ease. It is similar to a lyric soprano, except for its distinct darkness in timbre. And just like the lyric soprano, a lirico-spinto has an extended high vocal range and can also be heard easily over the orchestra.
A dramatic soprano possesses a big, powerful, rich sound quality; compared with the other subtypes, a dramatic soprano is less agile but has the power to cover and penetrate a full orchestra.
Tenor: The Highest Male Singing Voice
If you haven’t heard of Dimash Kudaibergen, let us introduce him to you through his Diva Dance pop-opera cover:
And that’s tenor for you!
Kudaibergen is a Kazakh singer classified as a tenor and is celebrated for his impressively extensive vocal range. His range expands 6 octaves, from D2 to D8.
The tenor is the highest male singing voice; just like its female counterpart, the soprano, a tenor can perform marvelously high notes ranging from roughly C3 to C5. Their strength is their head voice, while their vocal dexterity is a bit fragile in their lower voice. The timbre is bright, full, dazzling, and ringing. Tenors were typically portrayed as the leading men and romantic heroes.
Its name is derived from the Italian word tenere, which means “to hold”. The term illustrates their role in the early days of music as the driving force in every song by leading the melody. Even in these modern times, tenors are often the lead singers in rock bands like Steven Tyler (Aerosmith), Jon Bon Jovi (Bon Jovi), and Chris Martin (Coldplay), and in pop groups like Justin Timberlake (of ‘N Sync) and Brendon Urie (Panic! at the Disco). Even most metal bands have tenors as lead singers, too; notable examples include Jonathan Davis (Korn), Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden), and Rob Halford (Judas Priest).
Tenors, though, are more often imagined as the dazzling male lead in an opera, with the likes of famous tenors such as José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti coming to mind.
Just like their female counterpart, tenors are also divided into several subtypes. There are a total of seven general subtypes for tenors. They are:
Characterized by its lithe sound quality and the ability to execute remarkably difficult vocal embellishments, a leggero is the tenor’s answer to soprano’s coloratura.
A lyric tenor has a warm, sweet, and rich timbre that can be heard over an orchestra. The sound quality is lighter than other tenor types, high and bright but not heavy.
Translated as “pushed”, a spinto tenor owns the same bright tonal quality as a lyric tenor. But its darker timbre and heavier vocal weight allow it to be pushed to operatic climaxes with much ease compared with lighter-voiced subtypes.
Also known as tenore di forza or robusto, a dramatic tenor holds a ringing, powerful and expansive, dark and heavy sound quality with an emotive note.
Translated as “heroic tenor”, the name implies a tenor with a full, dark, powerful, and dramatic sound quality typical of heroic roles in opera.
A Mozart tenor’s voice has a dramatic expression about it; it is characterized by exceptional breath control, flawless diction and intonation, wide dynamic range, and an elegantly agile vocal quality.
●Tenor Buffo or Spieltenor
Similar to a soprano’s soubrette, a spieltenor has a lively and light vocal quality typical of comical characters in opera.
What is Your Vocal Range? (Fun Time!)
This scenario is much too familiar: you’re singing along to a song, gloriously hitting every note, when suddenly the octave went too high (or dropped too low) and you could no longer sing with ease. That’s when you realize the song is outside of your vocal range.
Have you ever been curious about what your vocal range is? In case you don’t know, here is a simple way to find out (you will need a piano/keyboard to do this but if it’s not at hand, you may use an online piano keyboard):
- Play the Middle C (C4, marked with a red dot on the virtual piano). Sing the note as you press.
- Play each key from Middle C downward as you sing along to the notes.
- Take note of the lowest note you can sing with ease; mark the note.
- Now, back to the Middle C, play each key upward as you sing along to the notes.
- Take note of the highest note you can sing without straining; mark the note.
- You’ve now found your vocal range, from the lowest to the highest notes that you can sing comfortably!
Here is a quick guide:
It’s cool to know your vocal range and discover singers with your matching voice type. It gives you an idea of your singing capacity. The next time you sing, you will know exactly the songs that will go well with your voice!
Without a doubt, the highest singing voices are popular as they always seem to be in the lead, whether it’s a play or a band. Their vocal artistry has inspired countless people to see the beauty in the art. When a soprano or a tenor schemed, squabbled, or sympathized with other vocal types, it creates an enthralling scenario that’s worthy of your emotional investment. But many will agree—the best scene is a tenor and a soprano in an emotionally charged duet, like this one. Enjoy!