I heard this somewhere and was wondering if it's true that women's voices are one octave higher than men's?

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    How could this be? There are basically two male voices - bass and tenor, and two female - alto and soprano. Given that most voices can range a couple of octaves or more - some three or even four - where would we start?
    – Tim
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 15:54
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    Highly related: music.stackexchange.com/questions/65999/…
    – Dom
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 15:49
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    @Tim: The number range 25-35 is 5 higher than the number range 20-30. Where you start doesn't really matter; the relationship between the two ranges is clear. Also the notion that there are two male and two female voices is not correct - see below. Commented May 24, 2018 at 19:10
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit - my beef is the vague question. So a soprano ( female) is one octave above a bass (male). Sorry, the question is vague.
    – Tim
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 19:38
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    Does this answer your question? What are the typical ranges of voice types?
    – Aaron
    Commented Mar 6, 2021 at 19:48

5 Answers 5


Yes, roughly. The standard ranges are often listed as:

  • Bass: E2-E4
  • Baritone: A2-A4
  • Tenor: C3-C5
  • Contralto: F3-F5
  • Mezzo-soprano: A3-A5
  • Soprano: C4-C6

You can see that the three women's ranges are one octave above the corresponding men's, with one slight exception.

Of course, everyone's voice is unique and few people fit cleanly into these categories. Trained men frequently have a little more than the two octaves listed, and women frequently have at least half an octave more. But in general, you can fairly safely categorize voices as high, middle, or low, and think of women as being one octave above men. A great deal of vocal music is written gender-agnostic, assuming that men and women will simply pick the appropriate octave.

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    I think your ranges might be a bit wide. (can't imagine a bass singing an E4 or a baritone an A4, a tenor would have to be very talented to sing a C5 without falsetto.) Also, you have Contralto but not Alto.
    – AAM111
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 20:58
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    @OldBunny2800 Those are the classical/operatic ranges, and in that context, contralto refers to a human voice type while alto refers to a particular musical line in SATB counterpoint. Commented May 23, 2018 at 23:11
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    @NotTelling Not sure if it's the source he's using, but these ranges are as listed (with sources) in Wikipedia. Commented May 24, 2018 at 14:19
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    @NotTelling: These aren’t necessarily meant to be “the range of the typical bass”, but rather “the range traditionally considered safe for bass parts”, so effectively more like “the range that you can typically expect all basses to be capable of”.
    – PLL
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 18:23
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    @foreyez It's not so complicated. The three lowest ones are men (bass, baritone, tenor) and the three highest ones are women (contralto, mezzo-soprano, soprano). Commented May 24, 2018 at 23:14

Well, if you compare the ranges of male and female voice types you will see that the female types are one octave higher than the male types. This means that the highest female voice is in general one octave higher than the highest male voice, and the same for the lowest. In classical music this might be a good generalization, because composers often try to explore the singer's range. So the soprano voice can be really one octave higher than the tenor voice, for example.

In popular music I don't believe it's true. You hardly see women singing above F5 or G5, while tenors, like Bruno Mars for example, easily reach A4 or C5. At the same time, you can find women (not only contraltos) singing around F3 and G3, but I can't think of any popular song these days where a male singer reaches one octave lower than this.

In terms of speech I don't believe it is true either. I don't have references for this, but try to talk one octave higher than you do and think of a woman who talks at this pitch (or do the opposite if you are a woman). I bet it will sound too high (or too low). It could only sound OK if you have a very low (or very high) voice, but these are extreme cases, not the average.

So, in terms of voice types it's indeed true, but I don't think that's the case most of the times.

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    beyondthefourthfloorblog.com/2015/08/23/… suggests that just under an octave is about right for speech too, though interestingly that this might be partly cultural. Commented May 23, 2018 at 16:15
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    Looking at the graph, I would say the average of male pitch is around 120Hz, and the female one is just below 200Hz, not so close to an octave. Looking at each separate culture, the relations seem to be much closer to an octave though. We can't conclude anything for sure, but I liked the reference.
    – coconochao
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 16:34
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    You'd be hard put to find a culture anywhere in the world where women and men don't sing together in octaves, without undue straining for anyone. It does seem to be a happy accident of physiology that puts our voices at least very roughly an octave (maybe a seventh) apart, so that we can celebrate the second harmonic together. Commented May 24, 2018 at 8:13
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    In popular music, even men you wouldn't think of as particularly deep voiced (Billy Joel, George Michael...) often sing down to E2 or C#2 where it is quite rare to find women hitting even A2 or G2 (Think Annie Lennox, Tracy Chapman, Alison Moyet...).
    – J...
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 12:41
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    @J... I still haven't had time to look this up, but as MattPutnam answered, E2 is the lowest theoretical range. I bet Billy Joel and George Michael don't reach C#2, only bass singers. Maybe you are thinking of Do#2, witch is C#3, no?
    – coconochao
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 19:44

Yes, that's broadly true. A soprano can squeeze out a top C, above the treble clef, a tenor can just about manage the C an octave lower. Basses can approach C below the bass stave (Mahler asks for a Bb!), the deeper female voices have a similar lower limit an octave higher.

This all gets a bit complicated in popular music where some women don't use their head register at all, and men often use their falsetto rather than a full-bodied tenor sound. So if you're publishing song copies for generic male and female voices, it might be sensible to print the female version a 5th or 6th higher than the male.

This is all very general rule-of-thumb stuff though. Choose the right key for the individual singer, not their gender.


A males C3 is equivalent to a females A3 and that is close to the difference between the two voices. I would say children(boys and girls) are closer to an octave higher than male voices as they talk around a C4 while men talk at C3. Women talk around A3 in general.


The answer is definitely yes. Not because of the relative ranges. It's simply an innate characteristic and very easily demonstrated. Play C3 and ask a male to sing it. Then ask a female to audio match his pitch. Her response will be middle C, C4. Q.E.D.!

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    You're presenting a false dichotomy that men's and women's voices are either in unison or octaves apart. While it does illustrate that, men and women do indeed have different comfortable vocal ranges (contrary to your answer), what note they choose is based on octave equivalence -- of course she wouldn't sing any interval other than an octave, so it doesn't really demonstrate anything about the specific range of the intervals. Also, wouldn't their ranges be an innate characteristic?
    – awe lotta
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 17:25

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