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Tenor Vocal Range

December 16, 2022

Updated on April 26, 2024

What is a Tenor?

A Tenor has a high-pitched voice that falls between the Baritone and Alto voice types.

The word comes from the old French medieval Latin word tenere, which means to hold.

This is because the Tenor, being above the other male-associated voicetypes, often held the melody.

In this article we'll outline how to sing as a tenor.

What is the Tenor range?

A Tenor has a range from B2 up to C5 in chest voice.

It's rare for Tenors to be able to sing below this, but in some cases can extend a few notes lower to around A2 or Ab2.

In rare cases a Tenor can sing up to E5 in chest voice.

Please don’t try this unless you are an advanced singer.

There are rarely if ever any situations that require this high of a chest voice sound!

Alternatively, Tenors can sing in head voice up to A5 and occasionally up to C6 in rare circumstances with certain countertenors.

How do I determine if I’m a Tenor?


The first way to determine if you are a Tenor is to see if you can sing comfortably in the middle of this vocal range from D2 to A4.

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!


A Tenor typically has a brighter and lighter tone with lots of pingy resonance compared to the Baritone and Bass voice types.


The other way to determine if you are a Tenor 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 Tenor is typically going to be transitioning out of chest voice into head voice through their passaggio around F#4 or G#4. 

What’s a Countertenor?

A countertenor is the male equivalent term to a contralto, which is a lower alto voice and in some cases even the range of a mezzo-soprano voice type.

This type of Tenor is going to sing more in head voice than the other types of Tenor subcategories.

Although this term was reserved specifically for an older style of music, many contemporary Tenors utilize a lot of head voice singing in their music.

For reference, I initially trained Classically as a Leggero and sometimes somewhat Lyric Tenor.

Although I did not train Classically as a countertenor, in contemporary music I tend to sing in the countertenor range very often, especially when working with female students.

Here is a list of some Tenor subtypes.

You can learn a lot about your vocal subtype when taking online singing lessons.

Leggero tenor

This type of tenor has a graceful and light tone that is particularly agile and flexible and sits comfortable in the highest tessitura

Tenor buffo and spieltenor

This type of tenor is defined by their ability to act well and create character voices.

They have a very similar range to a Leggero Tenor and are defined more by the types of roles they perform.

Lyric tenor

A graceful and warm Tenor with a bright and full timbre that is strong enough to be heard over a full orchestra, but still not heavy.

This Tenor also sits in a higher tessitura.

Spinto tenor

This Tenor is heavier and more pressed sounding with a solid and rich middle range.

The tessitura is generally a little lower than the last two subtypes.

Dramatic tenor

A big emotive and powerful voice that can sing high, but generally does not hang out in the higher register with a lot of agility.

This voice type is a little more rare as the tone is similar to a Baritone, but with the range of a Tenor.

Like all the other voice subtypes in other ranges in the Classical setting, Dramatic is a term that exists in contrast to Lyric.


A very rare and exceptionally heavy sounding Tenor built for singing Wagnerian Operas that require a bellowing sound and lots of stamina.

Who are some famous Tenors?

Some famous classical Tenors are Luciano Pavorati, Enrico Caruso, Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, John McCormack, Alfredo Kraus, and Andrea Bocelli.

Some famous contemporary Tenors are Freddie Mercury, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Art Garfunkle, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Justin Timberlake, Paul McCartney, The Weekend, Neil Young, Donny Hathaway, Ben Gibbard, Nate Ruess and many more.

As you can see Tenors are a very popular voice type for a lot of contemporary music genres.

Its word root for “holding the melody” due to the soaring bright quality seems to be still somewhat true to this day!

Exercises to Focus on

Tenors tend to sing much higher than other lower voice types and traditionally bring their chest voice very high, especially in Classical music.

The most important thing to watch for is tension in the jaw and tongue that can accumulate as you try to maintain a bright ringing tone.

Don’t let your chin lift up as you sing higher notes as this will close off the resonance from the back of the throat and cause you to push or strain harder.

Instead, focus on resonance and low support when working on vocal exercises.

Closing thoughts

Tenors can sometimes get obsessed with reaching higher and higher notes, but most important is trying to maintain a full, more grounded tone.

An unsupported Tenor can sound very light and thin and an overbearing one sometimes especially nasal or harsh.

Focus on balancing your brighter tone, by adding some space and cover or darkness to the tone by having ample space and solid support.

Otherwise this sound can get annoyingly bright and tight with lots of cracking!

Be patient as it can take some time to find release and a rich tone in your higher register. 


What is a tenor voice range?

A tenor voice range typically covers from around C3 to B4 in full voice, and can extend higher in falsetto. It's the highest natural vocal range for adult males and is known for its bright and ringing quality.

How rare is a tenor voice?

Tenor voices are somewhat less common than baritone voices, which are the most frequent male voice type. While not super rare, tenors are definitely cherished in choirs and various music genres for their higher range.

Is tenor high for a guy?

Yes, for male voice types, tenor is considered high. It sits above the baritone range and below countertenor, featuring a bright and resonant sound that can easily handle high notes in music.

Can all tenors hit C5?

Not all tenors can hit C5 comfortably; it depends on the individual's vocal training and natural range. While some tenors can reach this note with ease, others might find it challenging and require more practice or technique refinement.

Is C5 high for a guy?

Yes, C5 is definitely high for a guy! It's a note that lies in the upper reaches of a tenor's range and is often sung in falsetto or with a mixed voice technique by most male singers.

Why can I sing high but not loud?

Singing high but not loud might indicate that you're using more of a falsetto or head voice, which naturally produces a softer sound. Building vocal power in higher registers often requires specific techniques and exercises to strengthen your voice.

Does singing too low damage your voice?

Singing too low usually doesn’t damage your voice unless you’re straining or using improper technique. Just like with high notes, it’s important to sing low notes comfortably and within your natural range.

Is singing falsetto bad for your voice?

Singing falsetto isn't bad for your voice when done correctly. It's a useful technique for reaching higher notes, but like any aspect of singing, it requires proper technique to avoid strain.

Why can't I sing high anymore?

If you can't sing high notes anymore, it might be due to lack of practice, vocal strain, or changes in your voice such as those caused by aging or health issues. It's often reversible with the right vocal exercises and rest.

Do your vocal cords get stronger the more you sing?

Yes, your vocal cords can get stronger with regular, proper singing practice. Like any muscle, they benefit from healthy use and can improve in endurance and flexibility over time.

How do you tell if you're a tenor?

You might be a tenor if you find it comfortable and natural to sing higher notes in the male vocal range, particularly from about C3 to C5. If your voice feels most resonant and strong in this range, you could be a tenor.

How do I know if I am a tenor singer?

To determine if you're a tenor, consider where your voice is most comfortable and powerful, typically around C3 to C5. A vocal teacher can help you identify your voice type by assessing your range and timbre.

What is a true tenor voice?

A true tenor voice effortlessly sings in the higher male range with clarity and power. This voice type can maintain a bright, ringing quality even in higher notes, distinguishing it from lighter or less powerful tenors.

What is a lazy tenor?

A "lazy tenor" might be a term used informally to describe a tenor whose voice tends towards a baritone

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