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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Find your Fach: The Importance of Vocal Classification in Repertoire Selection

Often I am asked "What kind of voice do I have?" "What sort of Repertoire should I sing?" or "Why shouldn't I sing this song for a festival, exam or competition?"".  Often the answer is that it isn't appropriate for your voice type, or classification. I even hear the question "Why can Michaella sing so loud and I have such a small voice?" Again the answer to that question lies in vocal classification you have different voices, therefore you are better at different things in singing and different repertoire showcases your voice.
 In classical music, we often refer to this at your Fach. The German Fach system is a method of classifying singers,  according to the range and colour of their voices.  A singer who is identified as being of a certain voice type will usually be asked to sing only roles or songs that belong to that Fach.  This prevents a singer from being asked to sing pieces he or she is incapable of performing well.


Your teacher understands vocal classification, and knows what repertoire suits you best.  It is a good idea to discuss your voice with your teacher and get a listening list from him or her, so you can better understand vocal classification.
Below find a list of some of the vocal classifications with Ranges and a short explanation.  Feel free to ask questions!

Lyric Coloratura Soprano
    •    Middle C to the F two-and-a-half octaves above middle C
    •    a light soprano with a high voice.  Able to do fast acrobatics with easy high notes and extreme high ranges.

Dramatic Coloratura Soprano
    •     Middle C to the F two-and-a-half octaves above middle C
    •    Able to do fast acrobatics with easy high notes and a more dramatic, rich voice. The voice  is often smoother and darker. This is a very rare vocal type, as  the physiology required to produce the large, dramatic notes usually lessens the flexibility and acrobatic abilities of the voice.


Soubrette
    •    Middle C to the C two octaves above middle C
   •    Beautiful, sweet light voice capable of singing vocally acrobatic passages similar to a coloratura. Usually a Soubrette lacks the extreme vocal range of the coloratura. Most sopranos start out as soubrettes, changing fach as they get older and their voice matures.

Lyric Soprano
    •    Range: From B below middle C to the C two octaves above middle C
    •    A more versatile soprano able to sing lovely legato segments with some agility; this voice type  has a more luscious soulful and sensuous quality.
    •   

Spinto Soprano
    •    •A below middle C to the C two octaves above middle C
    •    literally translated means pushed. A Spinto Soprano has a lyric instrument that can also create big sounds, cutting through an orchestral or choral climax.
    •   
Dramatic Soprano
    •    A below middle C to the C two octaves above middle C
    •    Rich, full sounding voice, able to project across large orchestras,because of their powerful sound. Dramatic sopranos have a darker fuller quality to the voice and have a substantial amount of volume and endurance.

Lyric Mezzo-soprano
    •    G below middle C to the B two octaves above middle C
    •    Like the Lyric Soprano with a lower range; the resulting sound is darker. The voices are similar, and many transition into singing soprano roles at some point in their careers.


Dramatic Mezzo-soprano
    •    G below middle C to the B two octaves above middle C
    •    Dramatic mezzo-sopranos are similar to dramatic sopranos the difference is in where the ease is in the voice. a mezzo will concentrate singing most of the time in her middle and low registers and will go up to notes like high B-flat only at the dramatic climax whereas a soprano will concentrate on middle and higher range.

Dramatic Contralto
    •    F below middle C to the F two octaves above
    •    A deep, penetrating low sensuous female voice. This is a very rare voice type with a darker, richer sound than that of a typical alto.


Counter-Tenor
    •    G below middle C to the B two octaves above middle C
    •    male voice with a range equivalent to a mezzo-soprano.  This is a very rare voice type.

Lyric Tenor
    •    Low C to the C-F an octave above middle C (C to c')
    •    Characteristically like Like other Lyric voice types

Helden Tenor
    •    Low C to the C an octave above middle C (C to c')
    •    Bright Tenor voice Dramatic extended upper range

Lyric Baritone
    •    B below low C to the G above middle C (B to g')
    •    Sweet sounding baritone voice with beautiful line

Lyric Bass-Baritone
    •    G below low C to the F# above middle C (G to f#')
    •    Luscious baritone voice with extended low range.

Bass
    •    E below low C to the F above middle C (E to f')
    •    Bass voices are also available in Lyric, and Dramatic classifications


Please work together with your teacher to ensure that you are choosing repertoire that is suitable to your voice.  Please don't mouth-back to your teacher when he or she suggests a piece, sometimes repertoire is like medicine and we must learn it in order to get better and strengthen our technique.  More than likely once you practice the piece, and see how well it fits your voice, you will be in love.

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