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When I sing higher songs, it’s much easier and I can do all sorts of fun things. However, I have a short beard and I talk with a deep, almost vocal fry voice, so it feels weird. It’s not really girly, but I’m also not a 16 year old boy anymore.

Even though I’ve accepted that’s my voice, I still try to learn songs by baritones, and they always give me the most trouble. I’m guessing most pop and rock singers are baritones who have a good head voice, because my selection of cool songs is limited.

The reason they give me trouble is because I’m either pulling up my chest voice too high and using tons of breath, so it comes out sounding like an opera singer; or I’m pushing my head voice/mid/mask/whatever down too low, and can’t get the same power. I do feel like pushing my head voice down may be strengthening my lower notes, but I’m not sure.

Is it normal for a tenor to have trouble singing songs in a baritone range?

NOTE: this question is about contemporary music and not classical. I realize vocal fach is not usually associated with newer music, but surely passaggio transitions are still different for contemporary vocalist.

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I’ve got a few thoughts here and will try to address everything:

1.) It is very common for men and women to speak in a different tessitura than they sing. I know men that speak high and sing low and vice versa.

2.) Typical tenor and baritone range differ by about a perfect forth, so the trouble you’re likely to have will be connecting the low end of the baritone range to the low end of your tenor range.

3.) Speaking with vocal fry is incredibly tiring for your voice. See if you make yourself more aware of when you’re doing it and correct it. Usually for me it just means I need to speak a little louder.

4.) There’s nothing “girly” about using falsetto: boys and girls have the exact same voices until puberty.

5.) You didn’t say how old you are now, but depending on your singing history (and I’m guessing you’ve been singing for a little while since you’re comfortable using the terminology and you’re not classically trained), but it could be possible that you developed a strong, coordinated sound before puberty, and then when your voice changed, you’ve mainted the pre-puberty voice and have never properly learned how to access your new lower range. Men need a lot of help in this way.

6.) Even though you talked about it like a negative thing, instinctively, you’ve been doing a good thing: bringing your chest voice up and bringing your head voice down. Vocalists do this to create a mixed, coordinated sound that help to create a seamless instrument. Use lots of air; be careful that you’re not belting, but “sounding like an opera singer” is actually a good thing; it means that you’re doing a lot of things right and achieving nice resonance, rich timbre, lots of air, and a coordinated sound, among other things. Everyone thinks that if you don’t sing with a breathy pop sound then you’re immediately singing opera (thanks “Greatest Showman”....) but it’s sinoly false information / thinking.

7.) You should definitely consider voice lessons. Especially with someone with a background in vocal pedagogy, that will help you be able to learn the mechanics of your vocal mechanism.

8.) Irrespective of genre, everyone has issues with their passagio.

9.) Singers often get sucked into “yeah but this is my vocal fach”. A wrong classification can tailspin singers for years. Also, you’re voice won’t fully mature until your mid-30’s, so your fach will likely change. Go where you sound good / feel good - you and your voice should feel good; don’t worry about what you’re “supposed” to be doing and strain yourself unnecessarily.

Hope this helps.

  • I thought we'd sorted out what 'tessitura' represented. 'Range' works perfectly well. – Tim Aug 26 '18 at 20:15
  • @Tim - patronizing tone not appreciated; I’m perfectly aware of the word and how it is used. – jjmusicnotes Aug 26 '18 at 21:44
  • Thanks this is great stuff. When you say the range of a baritone and tenor differ by a perfect fourth, do you mean if a tenor played a song with the capo on the 5th fret, they would feel similar resonance as a baritone playing standard? – anonymouswho Aug 27 '18 at 21:55
  • No, I mean that baritones typically go from about G2-C4 while tenors typically go from about C3-F4. Please note these ranges are not exact as every voice is different, but each range should be considered as the “majority” of where those voices lie. – jjmusicnotes Aug 28 '18 at 11:14
  • @jjmusicnotes okay I thought that was really high lol. I’m wondering how high Myles Kennedy would go if he sings Sweet Child O’Mine with as much mask as Axl Rose does. I’ve read A LOT about singing online, and I feel like most of the information is wrong- so that makes me hesitant to get a teacher. Like the whole head/chest voice had me very confused for the longest time, until I realized there’s no such thing. The terms are useful I guess, but they’ve caused me a lot of unnecessary strain. – anonymouswho Aug 28 '18 at 12:57
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There's generally a clear cut-off point regarding how HIGH a singer can go in chest voice. The lower limit is less well defined. I'd be surprised if a tenor COULDN'T sing in the baritione range even if he didn't feel that was where he made his best sound.

But this isn't opera. There's no accepted sound that you're aiming for. Men croon, belt, scream, mix, use falsetto... I expect you're using a mic. Maybe go for sound - with the aid of the mic - rather than power?

  • Thanks for the answer. Yes, I use a mic, which I believe is essential for a lot of contemporary music. I’m trying to see if there are other guys who have experienced this, and if it’s a common tenor problem. Like, would Justin Timberlake have trouble singing a country song? I’m also hoping that some of the guys here might try pushing their head voice down, because they may find out that they’re tenors- rather than chesty baritones who have to transcribe songs a few keys lower. I know several tenors who sing bluegrass, but if I start playing Simple Man, they tell me it’s too high. – anonymouswho Aug 26 '18 at 2:08
  • @anonymouswho - what's the relationship with country songs and vocal range? Also, each singer will have his own range, which may or may not encompass tenor and baritone, for example. Some will, some won't. – Tim Aug 26 '18 at 6:38
  • I think maybe you have it backwards: singers blend their high chest / low head to create continuous sound. The bottom is clearly define because the voice will basically just give out. – jjmusicnotes Aug 26 '18 at 11:00
  • @Tim I don’t mean to say that tenors don’t sing country music, but I’ve never heard a country singer hit multiple D5’s in a song. I’m not even saying they couldn’t, just that stylistically it’s more popular to sing higher in pop and rock. I don’t think even Gary LeVox ever sings that high. I actually wonder if some of the deep voices like Josh Turner are actually tenors who don’t use their higher registers. – anonymouswho Aug 26 '18 at 19:10
  • Yodelling is not unknown in country music. – Laurence Payne Aug 26 '18 at 19:27

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