Voice ranges

• Feb 17, 2010 - 12:32


I'm sorry if this has been brought up before, but I find the range limit colouring to be a bit misleading in male voices.
I only use MS for male choir music, so I don't know whether this problem extends to the other voices.
The main problem is that the ranges are too narrow, both upwards and downwards, both for tenor and bass. It's not much - perhaps only a note or three, but it is a bit confusing when I see a note I (a bass) can sing comfortably, which MS tells me is uncomfortable or impossible for a professional (the C in the attached file).
The other problem is that there is only one instance where there is an "amateur" range limit, i. e. the high tenor limit. All other limits go directly to "professional".

Will this issue be addressed, or, preferrably, will we be able to determine custom ranges for voices in future releases?

Attachment Size
Male_voice_range.mscz 1.24 KB


The ranges are stored in the instruments.xml file. You can find it in your MuseScore directory and edit it with a normal text editor.
You could make suggestions for better values.

In reply to by lasconic

Thanks for the tip, I might try fiddling about with the code to make it fit my needs :)

As for ranges, Wikipedia suggests (Hz given from a tempered piano keyboard)
Soprano: C4 - C6 (261.626 - 1046.5Hz)
Mezzo-Soprano: A3 - A5 (220 - 880Hz)
Alto (Contralto): F3 - F5 (174.6 - 698.456Hz)
Tenor: C3 - C5 (130.813 - 523.251Hz)
Baritone: G2 - G4 (97.998 - 391.995Hz)
Basso: E2 - E4 (82.4 - 329.628Hz)

These could be considered the "amateur" ranges, I suppose.
The "professional" ranges seems to be
Soprano: B3(A3) - D6 (246.942 - 1174.66Hz). Some coloratua soprano roles go up to A6 (1760Hz)
Mezzo-soprano: G3 - C6 (195.998 - 1046.5Hz)
Alto (Contralto): E3 - Bb5 (164.814 - 932.328Hz)
Treble (Boy soprano): A3 - A5 (220 - 880Hz)
Countertenor: G3 - F5 (195.998 - 698.456Hz)
Tenor: Bb2 - G5 (116.541 - 783.991Hz)
Baritone: G2 - A4 (97.998 - 440Hz)
Basso: C2 - G4 (65.4064 - 391.995Hz)

Whistle voice (flageolet): D7 (2349.3Hz)
For males, the record is by Adam Lopez at Db8 (4434.9Hz (yes, above the piano keyboard))
For females, the record is by Georgia Brown at G10 (25088Hz (yes, that is basically ultrasound))
"Strohbass" (Vocal fry): F1 (43.6535Hz)
J.D. Sumner has the record at C1 (32.7032Hz)

That ought to cover it...

In reply to by xavierjazz

Don't ask me why, but octaves are counted from C to C.

As for tessitura, I'm not sure it should be implemented as a feature in musescore, mainly because most people won't use MS to create 3 hour long operas with very demanding tessituri, and besides, if you intend to write a part with a certain tessitura, you will probably have a plan for how to keep within that tessitura.

In reply to by xavierjazz

Depends on which system you're using to designate Middle C. The Note Name plugin in MuseScore calls Middle C C3. That would make the bottom note on a piano A-1. MIDI protocol labels Middle C as C4. Bottom A on piano would then be A0.

These octave numbers may be confusing, but it's better than the old system of calling the Middle C octave One-Line, next octave up Two-Line, and so on (which at least makes some sense), but going down: the octave below middle C is the Small Octave, next octave down Great Octave, followed then by the Contra and Sub-Contra Octaves respectively.

As long as you which numbering system is being used, Middle C = C3 or C4, you can figure out the other octave designations.

Fun with numbers!

In reply to by Stubb

I think the Wikipedia ranges are already a bit _too_ optimistic… maybe except the basses, all our voices (with some exceptions, although I'm probably closer to counter-tenor so I don't count for tenor) would complain about the amateur range, and despite being an amateur choir we're told (by soloists and instrumentalists we occasionally hire for concerts) that we're not half bad.

So I’d rather stay on the safe side and shrink the suggested ranges a bit.

As for the tessitura… that's probably an interpretation question. I'd personally have the notes I can't sing well or for long denoted outside of my range. As long as everyone agrees on that (handbook!) and playback doesn't entirely skip these notes (it does, for low flute notes), this would work: componists know that they _can_ use ochre and red notes, but that they should keep it down; vocalists can prepare for that.

So, how about this, as a “middle” way, for the classical separation (most choir Sopranos and Altos are probably Mezzo anyway; I looked at some literature we did and considered how well that went):

\ Soprano Alto Tenore Basso
MS amateur C4 - G5 G3 - D5 C3 - A4 F2 - C4
my amateur C4 - G5 F3 - E5 C3 - A4 E2 - E4
your amateur C4 - C6 F3 - F5 C3 - C5 E2 - E4
\ Soprano Alto Tenore Basso
MS prof. C4 - C6 E3 - F5 C3 - C5 D2 - D4
my prof. C4 - C6 E3 - G5 A2 - E5 C2 - E4
your prof. B3 - D6 E3 - B♭5 B♭2 - G5 C2 - G4

And even these may be stretching it for real amateurs…

In reply to by mirabilos

… on second thought, there is this: http://music.stackexchange.com/a/5979/27450

This suggests C4-G5, G3-D5, C3-G4, E2-C4 “for vocal ensembles”, and is apparently “from a well-regarded college textbook on music theory”.

Maybe the amateur/professional range is more a safe/recommended vs. still doable with a bit of training thing for vocals, anyway?

This document http://www.fransabsil.nl/archpdf/vocrange.pdf shows that even those estimates above vary somewhat and are rather optimistic, e.g. tenor lower ranges from C to F (and indeed, in most pieces we don't go lower than that).

In reply to by mirabilos

The MS ranges are based on my working experience as a choir director, being a much more conservative version of the ranges I was taught as a student many years ago.

With amateur choirs, though you also have the problem of people singing in sections for which, actually, their voices are not intended.

The biggest problem here is "sopranos" most of whom are actually mezzosopranos, but are in many cases really contraltos who don't want to sing inside parts.

Alto sections often exhibit females who should actually be singing tenor, but think tenors are always men.

Tenors are very like rocking horse droppings - difficult to find :)

Basses often feature many baritones who could actually sing in the tenor section but psychologically think it is too high for them, and consequently have difficulty getting down even to G2.

So, like many things in music-making, particularly the amateur vocal ranges given are a bit of a compromise between theoretical exactness, and actual reality.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

I don't know if it is useful to put too much effort into this. As stubb hinted at in 2010, MS can only set values for recommended ranges and knows nothing of tessitura. (The same could be said of brass instruments as well.) Dynamics are also a concern; I have seen my share of badly written choral music with (for example) basses at pianissimo on c-sharp 4 or d 4 for several consecutive measures. And most amateur sopranos can belt out an f5 or even g5, but to float that same note out at pp is a rare talent. It takes more than just reading a music book to acquire the knowledge to write good music when at the limits of the instrument.

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