What is a Baritone?
A Baritone has a middle-pitched voice that falls between a higher-pitched Tenor and a lower-pitched Bass voice. This is the most common voice type for a male singer. Baritone comes from the Italian word Baritono, which is derived from the Greek Barytonos which means heavy-toned.
What is the Baritone range?
A Baritone typically has a range from G2 to G4, but can extend in either direction depending on the particular subcategory. It's important to understand that Baritone used to be interchangeable with Bass in its earliest classification and later was redefined as an all-encompassing average male voice type. There is naturally a lot of overlap between both Bass and Tenor voice-types at the low and high end of a Baritone range.
What about Head Voice?
If you notice a lot of voice-type classification for lower voices like Bass, Baritone, and Tenor only focus on the chest voice range as a defining characteristic. There is little mention of head voice in the Classical classifications of voice type because lower voiced singers didn’t historically sing in head voice in Opera and most Classical music.
Baritones can often sing up to C5 or higher in head voice, but it will often have a distinctly different quality from their chest voice or sound darker in tone than a Tenor singing in head voice. I’ve heard plenty of Baritones sing up to F5 in head voice when properly supported with the correct resonant space, although it's less common to do so than a Tenor.
How do I determine if I’m a Baritone?
Range: The first way to determine if you are a Baritone is to see if you can sing comfortably in the middle of this range from A2 to E4. This is often referred to as your tessitura, meaning your voice has the best and most natural sound quality in a particular range, usually excluding the very extreme edge of your range on either side!
Tone: A Baritone typically has a weight or heavy sound to the tone, hence the name. This is probably the biggest defining characteristic. The tone sits in the middle between the light-ringing and buoyant quality of a Tenor and the rumbling thickness of a Bass voice.
Passaggio: The other way to determine if you are a Baritone is to determine where your “break range” also known as you passaggio is. This is where your voice cracks or with proper training transitions smoothly from chest voice to head voice. A Baritone is typically going to be transitioning out of chest voice into head voice through their passaggio around D4 or E4.
Bass-Baritone: Also sometimes referred to as a Heldenbariton in the classical setting. This singer often has a big booming voice and sits on the lower end of the spectrum. There is overlap here as the highest subcategory for Bass is also Bass-Baritone. It's just a matter of perspective!
Dramatic Baritone: This refers to a louder and more full sounding Baritone. A Dramatic Baritone with a considerable amount of stamina is sometimes referred to as a Verdi Baritone for the kind of difficult music they are able to sing.
Kavalierbaritons have a metallic voice that can sing both lyric and dramatic phrases to represent a nobility. Usually muscular and or physically large.
Baryton-noble is French for "noble baritone,” but has a smoother vocalization along with a forceful declamation, all in perfect balance.
Lyric Baritone: A sweeter, more mild sounding Baritone with a higher tessitura as a contrast to a Dramatic Baritone.
Baryton-Martin: Also known as a light Baritone and is characterized by the lighter and brighter Tenor-like quality in the tone. This Baritone has the highest tessitura of all the other subtypes and in this case is named and styled after a famous singer named Jean-Blaise Martin.
Who are some famous Baritones?
Some famous Classical Baritones are Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Gerald Finley, Tita Ruffo, Sherrill Milnes, Bryn Terfel.
Some Contemporary Baritones are Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble, Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Josh Groban, Neil Diamond, Louis Armstrong, Bill Withers, Jim Morrison, David Bowie. The list goes on and as you can see there are a lot of famous Baritone singers out there!
Don’t get hung up on the concept of Baritone being the most common voice type. As you can see there is a lot of nuance to the different subcategories as a Baritone and being a Baritone doesn’t in any way mean your tone and quality of voice is generic. I encourage you to find what makes your Baritone voice unique!