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Bass Vocal Range

December 16, 2022

Updated 6/11/2024

What is a Bass?

A Bass has the lowest-pitched singing voice of all the categories.

The word comes from the late Latin word Bassus, meaning thick or low.

According to The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, a Bass voice is typically classified as having a vocal range extending from E2 to E4.

This covers the entire Bass Clef on the musical staff.

It also covers a few notes below (E2) and a few notes above, stretching all the way up to the bottom line of the Treble Clef (E4).

Let's unwrap how to sing as a Bass vocalist.

How do I determine if I’m a Bass?

Range

The first way to determine if you are a Bass is to see if you can sing comfortably in the middle of this range from G2 to C4.

Check out a vocal range chart for help in determining this.

This is often referred to as your tessitura.

Your tessitura where your voice has the best and most natural sound quality in a particular range.

This usually excludes the very extreme edge of your range on either side.

Essentially where your voice sits most comfortably.

Tone

A Bass typically has a rich and full timbre.

There's usually a deep rumbling quality as well.

You can often check to see if your lowest notes open up into a loud bellowing chest voice sound.

Passaggio

The other way to determine if you are a Bass is to determine where your “break range” is.

Also known as "passaggio."

This is where your voice cracks or, with proper training, transitions smoothly from chest voice to head voice.

A Bass is typically going to be transitioning out of chest voice into head voice through their passaggio around C4 or D4.

These transitional notes are much lower than all the other voice types.

What is a Basso Profundo?

Like all other voice types there are a number of subcategories or “Fachs” within the Bass range.

These voice types are divided up by vocal range, tessitura, tone, volume, and even based off of famous Operatic roles.

A Basso Profundo refers to the lowest Bass singer with at least a C2 on the bottom.

'Profound bass,' right?

In some cases an exceptionally deep-ranged basso profondo is called an Oktavist.

You can hear some great examples of this in Russian Orthodox Choral music.

An Oktavist can extend down to A1, and sometimes even to F1.

This is an entire octave below the bass staff, hence the famous name Oktavist.

Some famous Oktavists such as Mikhail Zlatopolsky or Alexander Ort have reached extreme lows down to C1!

A Bass-Baritone on the other hand can sing in a higher tessitura like someone with a Baritone range, but still has the warm chesty quality of a Bass.

There is also Comic Bass (Basso Buffo).

This refers to a lighter sounding Bass with lots of agility.

It gets its name from the clownish characters that a Comic Bass often plays in Opera.

A Lyric Bass, sort of like the Italian Basso Cantabile, often refers to a lighter or higher singing Bass similar to the Bass-Baritone.

The opposite of a Lyric Bass would be a Dramatic Bass, refering to a louder and more full sounding Bass voice.

Lyric and Dramatic can often be combined with other Bass voice types for a more specific description.

For example: A Dramatic Basso Profundo would be characterized as a very low AND loud often booming sounding Bass with a VERY full tone.

If you want to learn how to sing, the 30 Day Singer singing lesson program will take you step-by-step through everything you need to know!

Who are some famous Basses?

Many Basses are more famously known for singing in Classical music.

Some examples are Borsi Cristoff, Nicolaï Ghiaurov, Jerom A. Hines, Kurt Moll, and Cesare Siepi.

However, there are some notable Bass singers in contemporary music as well including Johnny Cash, Barry White, and Leonard Cohen as higher Bass-Baritones.

Tim Storms is a great example of a contemporary Basso Profundo or Oktavist.

I would recommend using nice headphones to listen to this exceptionally low singer!

Technique Tips for Basses

Working on hitting lower notes can be a challenge since many people lose their lowest notes the more active their body gets throughout the day.

Trying to push down to sing lower causes tension just like reaching for high notes.

While it may not be the most typical way a singer can damage their voice, it can certainly fatigue the voice almost just as much when we try to press too much beyond our lowest notes.

A singer trying to sing super low should watch for tongue tension.

Here are some tips for how to get better at singing low notes.

Make sure your tongue doesn't retract back into your throat creating a characteristic froggy sound like a very back placed “L” sound.

You should also watch for locking or pressing the larynx too far down to reach for these notes.

Many Bass singers use brighter vowels to help maintain these lowest pitches and I would encourage any Bass to look into this technique to maximize your lower range with ease.

Just remember there is a bottom to every range!

The most important aspect of finding your range is to make sure that you are singing in a comfortable Tessitura.

This also impacts how you select material for repertoire and auditions to fit this range

It's always about what both feels and sounds the most authentic.

If you want to test out your low range with songs, check out these karaoke songs for low voices.

Be sure to check out 30 Day Singer for additional vocal training online.

FAQ

What is the voice range of a bass?

A bass voice typically ranges from E2 to E4, sometimes even lower, making it the lowest male voice type.

Is bass vocal range rare?

Yes, a true bass vocal range is quite rare compared to other voice types, making bass singers a special find.

What is the true bass voice?

A true bass voice has a rich, deep tone with a range that comfortably hits low notes, often extending down to E2 or even lower.

Is bass the lowest singing voice?

Yes, bass is the lowest singing voice, sitting below baritone and tenor in the vocal range spectrum.

What is the rarest voice type?

The contralto is often considered the rarest female voice type, while the true basso profundo is the rarest for males.

How do bass singers sing so low?

Bass singers naturally have longer and thicker vocal cords, allowing them to produce those deep, resonant tones.

Who is the lowest bass singer in the world?

Tim Storms holds the record for the lowest note produced by a human, making him the lowest bass singer in the world.

What is a low bass singer called?

A low bass singer is often referred to as a basso profundo, which means "deep bass" in Italian.

What modern singer has a bass voice?

A modern singer with a notable bass voice is Avi Kaplan, formerly of Pentatonix, known for his deep and resonant tone.

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