I listen to a fair amount of pop music, and I have picked up on the trend of high ranges for the male pop singers (Somehow, this seems less pronounced on the female side). The male pop singers all seem to have much higher ranges than most average males (Source: People attempting pop songs). Sure, this is to be expected, as these singers are all professional singers, but it just seems to be extremely concentrated in the higher range rather than the lower end.

I've run across a few sources claiming that most pop singers sing in the tenor range. I don't doubt this, but I'm curious as to how many of them are really tenors and how many are baritones singing above their voice type's typical range. (I know, there are many definitions of the ranges of each voice type, but I don't mean the classical definitions of types). The most common voice type is baritone, but nearly all male pop songs are in a tenor range. How does that work?

Some male singers have voices that I would not really identify as tenor based on how their voices sound as though it's a struggle to hit G4, but then they hit a B4 and I don't know what they are. (In all of these cases, I've ruled out falsetto, they sound too strong).

Who on the current (maybe last 30-40 years, although anything after the Beatles will do) pop scene would you consider to be a tenor? Who as baritone extending upward? And what are your methods/processes for determining?

There are some really extreme examples (Was Prince a tenor? Freddie Mercury? Michael Jackson?), but I mostly want a general assessment of the average current male pop artist.

  • some have even been altos. I couldn't count more than half a dozen who were not tenors, as I am a baritone too and I always wanted to sing in the range of the Beatles. So my career was dead from the start. Some names of not tenors Leonhard Cohen, Frank Zappa, Johnny Cash (and one tenor with songs in my range: Cliff Richard): So I would almost all pop singers are tenors - except of these ten - and me of course: dw.com/en/10-iconic-deep-voiced-singers-in-pop-music/a-36363015 So the tenors among the pop singers are numberless as the sand. – Albrecht Hügli Feb 7 '19 at 8:34
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    @AlbrechtHügli and Jim Morrison. ZZTop and Santana were at least in the lower-end of tenor range. – Carl Witthoft Feb 7 '19 at 13:48
  • yes, and me! and one singer of pink floyd too ... – Albrecht Hügli Feb 7 '19 at 15:10
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    I think one issue here is that the concepts of "tenor" and "baritone" are somewhat arbitrary and so there isn't a great way to determine what it means to be "really a tenor". If you're wondering why so many famous pop vocalists can sing so high when most singers can't, it's almost certainly their high range that is one of the reasons they are famous and popular in the first place! – Todd Wilcox Feb 7 '19 at 16:26
  • No. There are also a lot of Baritones and Basses... Some of them can go into falsetto and sing like alto / soprano! – user53472 Feb 20 '19 at 13:03

I may be misinterpreting your intent, but I see a "why" inherent in the question. My suspicion is that most of rock music is centered around the trials and tribulations (love, fear of transition to adulthood, etc.) of preadolescents and adolescents. The male voices there are just beginning to drop as the fanbase goes thru puberty, so tenor voicing helps set the "age apparent" of the singer.

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    It's possible you've misinterpreted my intent. I feel pretty confident with understanding the why, but I'm looking more for the extent of the pattern. But thank you! – user45266 Feb 7 '19 at 16:35

What is tricky about determining range of a pop vocalist or any vocalist for that matter is that the highest and lowest someone can sing is a poor indicator of what voice type they fall into. One of the best Tenors I ever had in my choir was a low baritone.

Some are likely tenors or counter tenors and the easiest way to determine true voice type is by the speaking voice or their basal pitch.

I agree with the assessment of a majority of male pop vocalists tend to sing in the higher range. See if you are able to find interviews or videos online and listen to the speaking voices and that will give you a good idea.

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    I don't feel that this answers my question. To what extent are they tenors? – user45266 Feb 24 '19 at 5:33

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