I have read on many many sites that the vocal breaks for the male voice is between E4 and F#4 but in the male vocal groups you have bass singers, baritone singers and tenor singers and their respective tessitura or most comfortable vocal range varies a lot more than just 3 notes. For example. Say I am a bass-baritone, my tessitura will be at least half an octave lower than a tenors tessitura so how can our vocal breaks all be within 3 semitones?

They say the tessitura of a singer is generally below the passagio so if my passagio begins at around Bb or A and a tenors passagio begins half an octave above mine, how can our vocal breaks lie within only 3 semitones apart?

  • Specific to the general position, or lie, of notes in a song - tessitura. Thus a song with quite a few high notes together, although not necessarily out of a reachable range, would be a song with a high tessitura. The word doesn't really apply to a person's singing range.
    – Tim
    Jul 26 '18 at 8:38
  • @Tim yes I understand this. I am studying a lot of beatles song and I listen to a lot of J.Lennon parts his main singing range seems to be around C4 - F#4, thereafter Paul would step in on higher parts. For me, I have to lower this by at least 3 full tones for it to sound comfortable. So since my Tessitura would be around 3 tones lower than Johns or perhaps even 4 or 5 tones lower than Pauls, how it ispossible that all our vocal breaks are said to be within 3 semitones. Assuming our tessitura is just below our bridge, my bridge would have to be 6 times as long as those of the tenors
    – armani
    Jul 26 '18 at 9:43
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    Problem would be , you, and millions of other singers, don't have a tessitura... Songs do, however.
    – Tim
    Jul 26 '18 at 16:03
  • @ Tim according to wikipedia: "Tessitura is the most esthetically acceptable and comfortable vocal range for a given singer." So not sure what you are talking about
    – armani
    Jul 27 '18 at 11:07
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    That explanation, I guess, refers to particular songs that have 'the most aesthetically acceptable and comfortable vocal range for a given singer'. It's written ambiguously, more's the pity. And it's not particularly accurate.
    – Tim
    Jul 28 '18 at 9:58

the vocal breaks for the male voice is between E4 and F#4

This is false for sure. As you said range differences between bass/baritone, and baritone/tenor are in general 2 tones. I believe their breaks will be as much distant from each other.

To refute the statement for good, any tenor can reach chest voice above E4 or F#4. As an example, check this tenor reaching D5 with chest voice. This means the breaking point for tenors is higher than this, and for sure for bass singers it's much lower.

  • Which part of it is false? Also, I am not talking about what notes can be reached, I was talking about tessitura or main singing range.
    – armani
    Jul 27 '18 at 11:11
  • @armani this is false: "the vocal breaks for the male voice is between E4 and F#4". And notes that can be reached with chest voice, i. e. without needing transition to head voice, relates a lot with tessitura, tight?
    – coconochao
    Jul 27 '18 at 17:01
  • @armani I hope to have clarified my answer with the edits.
    – coconochao
    Jul 27 '18 at 17:04
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    I have done 2 singing programs that say that these are the male vocal breaks. But I won't take any ones word for it just yet :) So according to you, where would you say the male vocal breaks are and also, what is your source for this?
    – armani
    Jul 27 '18 at 19:41
  • @armani I don't know and have no source, I can just say that, as you suspected, they are not within 3 semitones, but probably within half an octave.
    – coconochao
    Jul 27 '18 at 20:30

I have heard these ranges, concerning the passaggio, which seem to hold true very well. I am a bass and my "break" is at A below middle C, and that also makes me a bass because it is where the passaggio starts. The passaggio is a biological feature (muscles) of the human because you are born with your unique body and vocal cords.

Basses/altos have their passaggio start at (= I think this is the break you are talking about) the note A below middle C, and end at the E above middle C.

Baritones/mezzos have their passaggio start at the middle C, and end at the G above middle C.

Tenors/sopranos have their passaggio start at the E above middle C, and end at the B above middle C.

Your statement the vocal breaks for the male voice is between E4 and F#4 is probably false because only tenors have a break at approximately those notes. Baritones and basses have their break lower.

Try singing a scale and finding where your voice starts to change / turn direction. There you could find your passaggio.


"How can our vocal breaks all be within 3 semitones?" Short answer: They can't, because they aren't.

You said it yourself: respective tessitura and/or most comfortable range vary a lot more than just three notes. As for why your singing programs and other sources claim this? Those are average figures. In reality, many singers will fall outside of that narrow range.

There are times when that average is useful, and there are times when it is decidedly useless. Sure, your average man off the street will probably have that sort of range, as most men naturally fall into the baritone range with which the "E4-F#4 break" is very consistent. There are of course tenors and basses who have different breaks in their voices, but on average, and with a high concentration at that point, that's where the male vocal break typically lies.

So if you are writing a (male) solo in your piece and don't know who from your group will be the one to sing it, then you may want to take that into consideration. However, if you're writing for a choir at large, it's a complete mistake to apply that information to the entire male part of the group - one should always work with the best information they have, and the E4-F#4 figure is too general to ignore what kinds of voices each section may have in it.

Another point: the E4-F#4 break mark may be more or less valid in some choirs than in other choirs. A typical high school choir may find itself short on natural tenors and bass voices, and some of the singers in the tenor and bass sections may be more like baritones singing beyond their normal vocal range; thus the statistic may be more accurate. In a grade school choir, this statement is almost certainly going to be false every time, since almost every singer will have a higher range than the average adult male singer. So consider the group, or best yet, consider the individual singers or sections if you can get to know their voices/sounds!

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