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I think I'm a baritone, but I'm not entirely sure due to not being able to find a clear definition of what that is. Wikipedia's definitions vary a bit from F2 to C3 on the low end and seem to be based on different types of opera, whereas I'm more interested in how I would be classified/assigned in a choir (if baritones even work in a normal choir?).

I've never been part of a proper choir but from what I've picked up it seems that you can generally say to someone "I'm a <soprano/alto/tenor/bass>" and they'll understand what that means without needing to refer to history or style, indicating that there's some established standard range for them. This question seems to indicate there may be more variability, however. Is the same true for baritone?

Really I'm just hoping to be able to convey concisely and clearly where my singing voice falls without needing to sing :P

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FWIW, the baritones in my choir get put onto either the tenor or bass line, whichever has the better-fitting tesitura for that particular song. Our mezzo-sopranos have the same issue; sometimes they sing S and sometimes A, depending. (And when we sing music that's in etiher more or fewer parts than four, more people get moved around.) –  Monica Cellio Dec 10 '12 at 21:11
    
@MonicaCellio I thought that might be the case, thanks for confirming. –  Matthew Read Dec 10 '12 at 21:32

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

In choral settings it is a little more relaxed about what ranges are needed and what words are used to describe the singers in them. Usually singers in choirs don't have such a need for a very soloistic or virtuosic approach to singers and thus have a slightly smaller range. In opera it is pretty much demanded that you have close to a two octave range or more, Yet you'll find in a lot of choral arrangements for singers that the range for each part lays closer to an octave and a half.

This shortening of the range usually takes place on the upper end of the register because that is the part that takes more time to develop and thus more people don't end up with that part of their range. For a baritone this means that you should expect most of the baritones to have a range from G2-D4, a fourth smaller then what is demanded for an opera singer.

The other issue that you have found is the descriptions used for the singers in the different genres. Because in choral singing you are usually singing in so many different styles you learn to create many different sounds and to produce many different effects as a group and as a soloist. While you do still maintain your individual timbre you will have to compromise to develop a group sound and because of this they don't usually don't describe sections of the choir to have different timbre inherently.

Besides issues with choral singing vs opera singing, both will involve looking at and evaluating the tessitura of the singers aka The average range. Tessitura is the word used to describe the part of a singers range where the singer can and will sing most of the notes that they sing. A good example of this is looking at the difference between a tenor and a high lyric baritone. The tenor is described as much because he can sustain singing in the upper part of his range vs the baritone which does not. They both have light and high voices but one of them belongs to and resides in a different pitch world most of the time vs the other.

I hope this really long post helps out, let me know if you have any questions.

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This is an excellent explanation, thanks! –  Matthew Read Dec 11 '12 at 22:12

As Dylan Moe hinted in his answer, there's a big difference between the term "baritone" as it applies to a choral singer, and "baritone" as it applies to a solo singer. A choral baritone is often used as a synonym for a "bass I" (where "bass II" refers to the lower basses). A solo baritone part typically lies much higher (usually going up to at least an E to F#, but nowadays often including some G's or A's as well) than the choral baritone part will (which rarely strays above an Eb4--the E flat above middle C).

The solo baritone, however, does share the lower end of the range with the choral baritone at roughly G2 (usually give or take a whole step).

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