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I would like to know what is the percentage in the population that have a tenor voice.

I guess it is difficult to find this number. And I guess it changes depending on the region of the world, culture.

Actually, I would be interested in any study about the distribution of voices (tenor, etc.) in populations.

If we can't find any study, can you tell from you experience as a voice coach or singing teacher?

  • Probably only 48 - 52 percent of the population can be tenors seeing as they are usually men. Then if you factor in an even spread of basses, barries, and tenors you would probably be looking at 13 - 16 percent at best. – Neil Meyer May 7 '17 at 7:40
  • So you say there is an even spread of tenor barrys and basses. Do you have any evidence of that? – Colas May 7 '17 at 7:59
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    I think you've answered your own question: it's difficult to find this number. Not only because (at least as far as I know) no one has studied this, but because it's not at all clear how to exactly identify a "tenor" voice. It's not like there are clearly defined boundaries here, not to mention differences in training, etc. – Scott Wallace May 7 '17 at 9:46
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    In my experience as a choir director and singer, the default assumption is that there are fewer tenors than baritones or basses. It's a very common problem of amateur choirs to have plenty of baritones and many basses to choose from, but to suffer a chronic lack of tenors. But on the other hand, untrained voices typically can't sing as high. It's often said that many baritones are lazy tenors. But as I said, the borders are not hard and fast, and being a "tenor" rather than a "baritone" is often only a matter of choice and training. Thus the difficulty in answering your question. – Scott Wallace May 7 '17 at 9:57
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    You can easily have people whose range goes from the low end of baritone to the high end of tenor, but whose favoured tessitura is either closer to tenor or baritone. This increases the difficulty of answering your question further. (As an aside for how hard voice classification can get for females, I'm female, and my singing range right now goes from the A below low C to the C above high C. I can hit even higher notes with warmups beforehand.) – Dekkadeci May 7 '17 at 14:28
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According to this Reddit post, the numbers are roughly as follows:

Men: 20% Bass / 45% Baritone / 35% Tenor

Women: 15% Contralto / 35% Mezzo / 50% Soprano

For males, the ordering implied by these numbers agree with this statement in Merriam-Webster, which is listed under the entry for "baritone":

baritone In vocal music, the voice or register between bass and tenor, the most common category of male voice.

For females, the ordering implied by these numbers agree with this statement from Wikipedia:

The lyric soprano is the most common female singing voice.2

...

2: Aronson, Arnold Elvin; Bless, Diane M. (2009). Clinical Voice Disorders (4th ed.). New York, NY: Thieme Medical Publishers. p. 278. ISBN 978-1-58890-662-5.

Another user in that same Reddit thread states:

In The Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults, James McKinney asserts that voice types are roughly distributed on a sort of bell curve, with most people falling into the middle voice types (mezzo/baritone), which lines up pretty well with my experience.

The graph below is taken from a study on the frequency of someone's natural speaking voice and it seems to provide at least some sort of evidence that might lend support for the claim that a bell curve distribution exists for vocal classifications. I read about this study on this page, which is also where the graph is from:

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/myl/SWBf0Quantiles1.png

Given the information in the more credible sources, I am probably inclined to trust the rough numbers from the Reddit post. Glancing through the user TotoCotogni's other posts, he seems like a relatively credible source, as the Internet goes for hard-to-answer questions.

Note: this same question was asked in another music.SE question, but it doesn't look like a numerical answer was ever given.

  • The Merriam-Webster reference seems to contribute nothing except the ordering, which can be considered as known. – guidot Jun 14 '17 at 14:45
  • I would've thought the same thing--that the ordering could be taken as a known/established fact--but when I was doing a little research I found conflicting orders. That source is supportive only insofar as it agrees with the ordering, as you say. That does count for something and I think is worth mentioning, but it's not everything in the sense that it doesn't completely validate the claims in the Reddit post. That's why I've tried to write my post with qualifiers (may, might, could, etc.). – jdjazz Jun 14 '17 at 15:09
  • @guidot I've adjusted the language to make clearer the way in which the two citations are supposed to provide (limited) support for the Reddit post. – jdjazz Jun 15 '17 at 13:36
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    I am so happy to see this, because my experience was always so different. At my music college (RCM), everyone had to be in the choir in first year. So, we had about 45 Sopranos, 55 Altos, 10 Tenors and 90 Basses. Maybe us boys just smoked too much - anyway, it sounded like a football crowd... – Bob Broadley May 15 at 20:52

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