When I was young and a member of a choral group, I was fascinated with the high range of the Tenors. I often looked down on the baritones because their vocal range is low. Sometimes, I would instinctively act as if they were second-rate singers. But I was obviously musically immature at that time.
Of course, there are basically six vocal categories. Three of these categories are for men, while the other three are for women. Men’s voices are either categorized as bass, baritone, and tenors, although some would add another male voice called “countertenor.”
Baritones are very common. In fact, the baritone is the most common voice for men because its range is situated in the middle of the musical scale. However, not many become true baritone masters, for only those who have mastered the middle notes become baritone masters.
What Is Baritone?
In between the bass and the tenor is a classical voice type that is called “baritone.” Baritone literally means “heavy sounding.” The notes of this vocal range usually start at the second F just under the Middle C up to the F right above the middle C in a choir. In operatic music, its range starts at the second G just below the middle C up to the G right above the C. This voice range, however, can be extended on both ends. Baritones voice can also be subdivided into different categories, namely:
- Baryton-Martine Baritone (light baritone)
- Lyric baritone
- Verdi Baritone
- Dramatic baritone
- Baryton-noble baritone
In modern operas, baritone seldom becomes the main stars of any operatic show. However, they do contribute much to operatic music, and their lack is surely greatly felt.
Some tenors belong to the baritone range like the spinto tenors and heroic tenors. Most men, likewise, belong to this range of voice. Men with a baritone voice often are young and have the capability of hitting higher notes using their chest voice. Generally, baritone’s range is between A2 to A4. This range may intertwine with the tenor’s range, though baritones carry different requirements and permutations.
However, this usually depends on the pieces being tackled in the performance. It is good to note likewise that French operas seldom use baritones. On the other hand, Italian operas tend to use baritone much. The baritone is also an excellent voice to balance out the thin voice of the falsettos, just like in the case of the works of Handel and Bach.
Types of Mid-Range Male Baritone Tessituras
Operas in the 19th century tend to lean towards the tenors. In fact, the tenors were more favored in the previous operas. Yet, the baritone was a powerful vocal force likewise, and in many operas, its powerful emotional effect was fully harnessed. Experts in music, of course, categorized baritone into five distinct types, starting from the highest down to the lowest. These types include the following:
1) The Baryton-Martin
The Baryton-Martin is considered to be the light baritone. Its range is from C3 up to the B just above the C (C3 -B4). This type of baritone is often seen in French pieces. Its name comes from Jean-Blaise Martin, who was the one who popularized this baritone type.
2) The Lyric Baritone
The Lyric baritone ranges between the A just below C3 and the G just above the middle C (A2-G4). The lyric baritone has been known traditionally for comic roles.
3) The Dramatic Baritone
The dramatic baritone comes with a darker timbre. It has a range just in the middle of G half and an octave just below the low C up to the G just above the middle C. (G2-G4). Guiseppe Verdi often employed this vocal range type.
The bass-baritone is usually classified as another vocal range just between F just below the low C to that of the F♯ just above the middle C (F2 to F♯4).
Note: Ideally, as a baritone, you should specialize in a certain baritone range that fits you well. More often, some composers like to get out of the box and experiment with baritones, pushing the baritone range further up or down the lower range.
Techniques & Skills That Baritone Singers Must Learn
If you want to learn or even enhance your skills and techniques as a baritone singer, you should learn the following techniques and skills:
1) Balancing Chords While Singing
Baritones must know which part of the chord they are singing. This is crucial in both balancing and tuning. Mathematically, if you are singing the fifth, you should sing it a bit sharp, and if you are tackling the minor sevenths, you need to sound a bit flat. You should sing the thirds, of course, a bit sharp in contrast to singing them a bit flat.
There are basically two factors that dictate a baritone’s balance. First, notes that are over the melody should be sung a bit softer. On the other hand, notes that are just under the melody should be sung a bit louder. Balancing may not be necessary, according to some experts, as long as the quality of your voice jives with the lead. The melody, of course, should be the predominant voice.
Secondly, you should be wary of the chord’s part that you are singing. The general rule is this: you should sing fifths and roots a bit louder than the chord’s other parts.
2) Strengthen the Middle Register
The best way to achieve the middle Register is by coordinating your head voice with your chest voice registers. This will create a third register that functions as the gradient or connecting bridge between the abovementioned main registers. It isn’t easy, however, to develop a Mix Register. You can only achieve it by constantly training under the guidance of a vocal coach who really knows how to achieve it.
You should remember that the disconnect or gap between head and chest registers becomes more prominent if you are constantly singing high notes using your chest voice. Hence, you need to unlearn this habit and try to bridge the gap between these two registers via constant practice.
It definitely takes determination and training to enhance the character of your middle voice. Hence, you should not hesitate to avail of the service of a professional voice coach who could help you bridge this gap.
3) Master Vocal Placement
The voice is like an acoustic instrument that has its special chambers for resonating its tone. Of course, the vocal cords produce the tone by vibrating. Then, the tone moves and vibrates through the resonating chambers. Different resonating chambers include the chest, mouth, nose, and head. So, if you want to master vocal placement, you need to learn where to resonate your voice.
As a baritone, you should learn where the proper placement of your voice should be. Yet, a lot of baritone singers struggle to resonate their tone during practice time correctly. Vocal placement is crucial to the development of a good and healthy voice, especially, if you are a baritone. Hence, you need to learn where to resonate your voice correctly.
Many baritones usually try to resonate their tone right between the eyes. This type of resonation is called masque placement. It may also be referred to as nasal placement. However, if you have a low voice, you should instead limit excess frequencies that do not resonate efficiently, for you may sound like a tenor.
Start with correct breathing. Then, practice not resonating your voice below your front top teeth for that would be resonating like a tenor. Although there is no perfect approach to mastering where the placement of baritone should be, you can surely learn where to resonate as a baritone. The trick is not where you place your voice, but on how you remove every tone of voice that isn’t well resonated.
4) Improving Musical Continuity and Flow
Becoming a remarkable baritone is not an easy endeavor. You need to become fluid in your delivery of your music. This means you should enhance the musical flow by maintaining correct diction. It also means maintaining vowel integrity, energizing consonants, and softening hard consonants. In many cases, you need to replace hard consonants with softer consonants.
A good example would be replacing the “t” with a “d.” However, you should do this alteration subtly so that your audience would not readily recognize that you are substituting hard consonants with softer consonant sounds.
5) Use Your Head Voice Properly
The fact that you are reading writeups like this may mean that you belong to the baritone range of voice and you want to figure out how you can best improve your baritone skill. Moreover, you may be someone who often blows out your voice or makes yourself sound hoarse when you are singing the Gs and lower notes.
As a baritone, you may be experiencing something like your voice sounding terrible like a screeching car, especially if you push hard. You sometimes get the tone right, but many times you feel terribly wrong and fail to reach the top range of being a baritone. When you are using your head voice and making a passage from chest to head voice, you can readily eliminate the screeching or cracking sound by using your head voice correctly.
If you use your head voice correctly, you gain control of your voice. You can complement your effort with the compression of air to gain the correct texture you are seeking. The passagio is crucial to your getting the right tones. So, you better do good when making a passage from chest voice to head voice.