I've noticed that a lot of singers who would be classified as a bass singer can sing in the tenor range. For example, Axl Rose and Brian Johnson come to mind. I've also read several forums where people say they are technically bass singers but sing tenor for their choir because they are the only one that can hit the high notes.

Is there a correlation between bass and tenor singers? Perhaps the fullness of an underlying bass voice adds power to their falsetto?

  • I don't think they're really bass singers, where do you take this from? Anyway, at least Brian Johnson is also not what you'd classically call a powerful tenor – sure he's loud, but it's a very forced, screaming kind of loudness; probably has a lot to do with the fact that he's singing way higher than his “natural range”, but that's definitely not all there is to it. Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 10:31
  • @leftaroundabout this answer about falsetto says Johnson is a natural bass, and several articles I've read classify Rose as a bass-baritone. I don't believe Johnson sings outside of his range. Although he looks and sounds like he's in pain, it's just a bunch of compression, twang, and mask.
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 10:56
  • 1
    Yeah, I don't think either of those would qualify as "singers" if you introduced them to the Juilliard staff. Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 11:11
  • @CarlWitthoft Haha I definitely agree with that, but I'm asking about their tessitura and the notes they can easily hit, rather than if they actually sound pleasant.
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 11:40

2 Answers 2


It's probably more a question of a singer's range. The term bass refers roughly to a range of D above middle C down two octaves, while tenor refers to a range about a fifth higher. There's baritone between them, as well. It's not etched in stone, and some will only just fit into a particular category - we just love pigeon-holing - as the quality may waver on the edges of the ranges.

So, if a singer has a range of greater than that roughly quoted two octaves, he could easily be re-categorised. Some singers have a range of easily 3+ octaves - Karen Carpenter (not a bass or tenor...) had 4 octaves, all crystal clear.

  • Thanks for the answer. I'm mostly looking at what seems to be their tessitura in the upper range. The reason I'm asking is because on a personal level, I can easily imitate Johnny Cash or Paul McCartney, but a baritone like Michael Buble or most country songs are too low for me to comfortably sing.
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 11:38
  • Tessitura maybe isn't the best term here. That refers mainly to a sustained pitch range of a song, usually high, but not too high to sing , although many notes involved will make for a high tessitura, thus difficult to keep it up, so to speak... Hence, for voice - range.
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 15:51
  • Okay I think I get that. So do you mean to say if I can hit the notes of a baritone song, then I should be able to sing it? It seems like when the chorus comes, and I know they're switching to a higher register, it's too low for my upper register. So I'm always singing a little too sharp. Does that make sense?
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 4:40

It may be that a Bass can sing very high notes in falsetto, if required, but that does not make them a Tenor.

Tenors do use a different register at the high end of their voice, but it not falsetto. If you were to sing Nessun Dorma with a falsetto top B, you'd be laughed out of La Scala.

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