Wikipedia lists these guidelines as typical ranges for different vocal types:

  • Soprano: C4–C6
  • Mezzo-soprano: A3–A5
  • Contralto: F3–F5
  • Countertenor: E3-E5
  • Tenor: C3–C5
  • Baritone: G2–G4
  • Bass: E2-E4

My range is A2 - G4 which puts me as a cut & dried baritone; I can just reach G2 and as high as C5 but not reliably or with good tone.

Christmas is approaching and with it, carol singing. All the pieces we have are in standard SATB format which leaves me struggling, especially as an inexperienced/untrained singer, not knowing what to do.

From the point of view of a singer, what would work best? Equally, what is helpful to the "choir master" and what should I avoid doing?

1 Answer 1


It's simple. If you are a baritone, and the music is arranged in four parts, you sing the bass part. You might be a bit weak on the lowest notes, but hopefully there will be other bass singers in your section who can cover that part of the range. On the other hand the baritones sound good on the highest notes in the bass part which the true basses can't reach easily. It all averages out if you have just a few good basses and baritones in the bass section.

Enjoy your caroling. It's much more about getting into the spirit of the season than it is about having great singing technique. Just tell them you won't go until they bring you some figgy pudding. That's worked for centuries.

  • It absolutely should be fun, but as the one time of the year I sing from sheet music it's quite stressful. You think you know all these songs from childhood, then you have to sing parts and learn all the songs over!
    – Mr. Boy
    Nov 18, 2015 at 11:08
  • 2
    I tell my guitar pupils that sight-singing is "musical-porridge". You might not like it, but it's really good for you... Nov 18, 2015 at 12:18
  • Out of interest why do you view it as such an obvious choice to go bass rather than tenor? I think my range covers as much of the tenor range as the bass - maybe because it's more grating hearing a bad high note than a bad low note?
    – Mr. Boy
    Nov 20, 2015 at 11:12
  • In choirs all over the world, baritones always sing in the bass section. It has always been this way. There is no exception to this. If you are put in the tenor section, then by definition you are singing tenor because you are a tenor. If you are put in the bass section, you may be either a baritone or a bass. That is what the bass section is for, and choral composers write their music in such a way that they want baritones and basses singing in the bass section.
    – user1044
    Nov 20, 2015 at 16:39
  • Solo singing can be a bit different. There are exceptional baritones that can actually cover the entire tenor range as well as the traditional baritone range (in some operatic roles, for instance), but they are very rare. However, it's not only about the range of notes but also the tone or timbre of the voice. If your choir director recognizes you as a baritone, they will put you in the bass section. The music is written and arranged for your voice type to be singing the bass part.
    – user1044
    Nov 20, 2015 at 16:45

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