Vox Daily The Official Voices.com Blog

Voice Types : Which Fach are You?

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

September 26, 2007

Comments (24)

Puzzle piecesWhen you describe your vocal range and voice type, what do you say you are?

Learn how to discern what your voice type is and also discover many different vocal classifications.

How do you define or classify your voice?

The basic voice roles are Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass. You've likely already identified yourself as one of those four vocal orders.

Seems simple enough, doesn't it?

Well, what if I said there were more, many more in fact, than just those four categories?

Source Cantabile-Subito.de mentioned that as of the mid nineteenth century, the four categories have been expanded and subdivided to indicate not only the singer’s approximate range, but also the relative weight of his voice and in many cases, the type of music for which he is particularly suited.

Once the subdivision and reshuffling of the vocal deck began, there needed to be a term or new classification system developed to assign particular voice types to their newly found niches.

The overarching word in question?


Fach


The German term "fach", literally meaning "compartment", is widely known as the German Fach System. The German Fach System is a method of vocal classification used in opera houses to classify singers and pair them with complementary operatic roles.

If a singer is identified as being able to sing in a certain "Fach", they are given roles that are designated as such, making it easier for the casting director to choose a voice and more pleasurable for the singer selected to perform a specific character role.

Usually, someone is only asked to sing roles within their fach to ensure that singers are cast in roles that best suit their voice, however, there are exceptions to the rule that grant singers with more versatile voices and ranges liberties outside of their designated fach.

A point of interest: The plural of Fach is Fächer.

Each of the four main voice classifications has a variety of tiers within them based upon vocal weight and coloration.

To find out which fach you belong to, consult a voice teacher who has experience performing in opera - they'll know for sure, but it's always good to get more than one opinion to be sure.

Check out this German Fach Translation Chart as referenced from Cantabile-Subito.de website:


Soprano

• Soubrette
• Lyric Coloratura Soprano
• Dramatic Coloratura Soprano
• Lyric Soprano
• Lirico Spinto Soprano
• Spinto soprano
• Dramatic/Heroic Soprano


Mezzo-Soprano

• Lyric Mezzo-Soprano
• Dramatic Mezzo-Soprano


Contralto

• Dramatic Contralto
• Deep Contralto


Tenor

• Tenore Buffo
• Lyric Tenor
• Spinto Tenor
• Charaktertenor
• Dramatic/Heroic Tenor


Baritone and Bass-Baritone

• Lyric Baritone
• Kavalierbariton
• Dramatic Baritone
• Bass-Baritone


Bass

• Basso Buffo
• Bass
• Basso profondo


Do you know which fach you belong to?

If you come from a classical or operatic singing background, you likely have found your niche. Some people have even been known to belong to a certain fach only to find out that their voice has changed several years if not decades later! This means learning new repertory and having to tackle new roles.

While this article may appear to be directed at singers in particular, it really applies to anyone who uses their voice professionally as an instrument. You all have different voice types, colors, weights, and ranges. Also, your voice may change over the years. Ladies, you know what I'm talking about! If not, check out this article from earlier in the year that touches on how the female voice ages.

Oftentimes, we get caught up in the industry classifications of Radio Announcer Guy, Voice of God, Girl Next Door, Nerd, Surfer Dude, Southern Belle, Valley Girl, Soccer Mom and others.

How do you classify your voice?

Add a comment :)

Best wishes,

Stephanie

©©©iStockphoto.com/geopaul

Related Topics: German, how to, industry, radio


Comments


    I'm a 2nd tenor: lower than a tenor, but a little higher than a baritone.

    Posted by:

      Without testing my upper range at this late hour, I'd say I'm probably a Lyric Baritone who can sometimes hit the Dramatic/Heroic Tenor notes without falsetto.

      Maybe I'll include that in my description; yep, I'm sure the Metropolitan Opera will be calling in no time.

      Posted by:

        Hi Stephanie,

        I used to sing 1st tenor, though I feel my upper range has diminished in the last year or so, especially because I haven't been singing.

        I occasionally think about engaging a voice coach and getting back into singing... it would be interesting to see where my voice is now.

        My guess would be:

        • Charaktertenor
        • Dramatic/Heroic Tenor

        Vince

        Posted by:

          This is fascinating. Choir directors never seem to know whether to put me with the altos or the tenors. Maybe I'm a Deep Contralto! (I like how that one sounds!) Beautiful site design, btw.

          Posted by:

            I sang with a choir for several years and I currently sing with a Salsa band in NJ and I am a virtuoso shower singer as well. After carefully perusing the lists, I've concluded that I am a Tenori Grande Double Chocolate Latte with Spumo. I may not sound so great, but I'm delicious!

            Posted by:
            • Joe
            • October 9, 2007 1:46 PM

              Hi Stephanie:

              I'm a dramatic mezzo soprano. I have a four octave voice.

              I like your comment about how women's voices change. Before I turned 38 I could sing from G below low C to A above soprano High C but at 38 my voice turned really thick and dark. While I have more power I've lost tones off both top and bottom. It's all good though since I love singing hard rock and old school r&b. I usually sing 1st soprano in choral music - mainly because I don't usually hear second soprano parts well and I hate singing alto choral parts -- the melody is much easier to sight-read.

              Vicki

              Posted by:
              • Vicki
              • October 10, 2007 12:27 PM

                I'm so confused. I don't know what I am...

                I've been in high school choir for four years and I have always sang alto. My freshmen year I could sing from an f below middle c to two octave above that, and my director told me that I'm "definitely an alto."

                Well, now that I'm a senior I can't sing that f any more (my lowest note is now "a" below middle c), but I can sing all the way to the c that is two octaves above middle c. I've always been a loud singer and I usually have a really hard time blending in choir.

                I would guess that I'm a dramatic mezzo-soprano, but I really don't know. What do you think?

                And another question: why is my voice higher now than is was when I was a freshman? Did my voice type change with my range? And if it did, what was my voice type before the change? Was I really "definitely and alto?"

                Posted by:
                • Lauren
                • December 23, 2007 7:49 PM

                  Hi Stephanie,

                  I'm a little confused about my fach too. I've always sang first soprano in my high school choir but the teacher always wants me to be a second because I have a very loud voice that is really rare and won't blend with practically anybody. It really sucks because it prevents me from being in our concert chorale. My range is the g below middle C (if I really push it) to the G sharp above the C two octaves above middle C. I can do all the agile stuff a coloratura can do and can go as high, but everyone says my voice is way to big to be a coloratura. I didn't know there was any such thing as a dramatic coloratura until now, but from what I've read it sounds like that's what I am.

                  Posted by:
                  • Kaylynn
                  • January 20, 2008 2:07 PM

                    Hi Stephanie,

                    I am with my choir for about 12 years now. I started at 7 and now i am 19. I was a boy treble then because i could reach up to f7. Though i could still reach the seventh octave (c7)to date, our voice coach wanted me to push it to a higher range. Could i still do this? and would it really be possible? I am a sopranista countertenor singing the sopranino range classified as lyric coloratura (i sing piccolo), and i sing 2nd soprano and descant. please tell me if that would do me damage.

                    Posted by:
                    • VOX Daily Reader
                    • February 24, 2008 5:52 AM

                      Hi everyone,

                      Thank you for sharing your voice types!

                      Lauren and Kaylynn:

                      You're right, you don't want to push your limits, particularly if it is on either extremes of your range (high or low).

                      When I was in high school, I was floating all over the place singing soprano, alto, and the odd tenor notes in the higher passages to help beef up the sound (we didn't have many tenors).

                      If your music teacher at school asks you to help spread your voice over parts that you feel are out of your comfort zone in efforts to carry the other parts for weaker sections, it is almost too easy to say "Sure, I'll do it!" because it makes you feel very important and is telling of your vocal versatility... but you what you don't want is to be the hero in the "lend me a tenor" section during the most formative years of your vocal development only to find that you have damaged your voice later on or have used it in ways that create discomfort for you.

                      While it's a splendid feather in your cap to say you can do it all and a great way to inflate your vocal ego, I suggest that you opt to seek professional instruction from a trained and certified voice teacher and ask them about how you should and should not be using your voice - note that this is very important particularly in high school music programs.

                      To locate a teacher or someone who can help, check out the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS):

                      http://www.nats.org


                      On the topic of blending... when you are in a choir, blending is stressed quite a bit - I know because I too was the one soprano who had a hard time of it ;) When you have a "big" voice, it is difficult to blend with people, especially if you have clashing voice types and colors. A skilled conductor or director knows how to blend voices and through their efforts can ensure that "blending" occurs without having to make each chorister "blend" by decreasing or eliminating their natural vibrato.

                      If you don't let your vibrato out because you are blending in with other voices, you're doing your voice a disservice as well as potentially hurting your vocal folds.

                      VOX Daily Reader: It sounds like you have some questions that need to be addressed by a voice teacher, too. They are very specific and I encourage you to contact someone at the university or conservatory level to consult you on what to do.

                      Here's a link on the NATS site to find a teacher:

                      http://nats.org/find_teacher.php

                      Best,

                      Stephanie

                      Posted by:

                        The whole idea of fach is not to nitpick at what notes you can or can't sing - that job is done well enough by the classic 4 or 6 (mezzo soprano and baritone) classification. Fech is all about HOW you sing. A dramatic tenor has the full range of a tenor, but his voice becomes more full as he goes down, as opposed to up. A "lyric baritone" is distinguished from a tenor or a Charaktertenor not by range, since they are essentially identical. But because the lyric baritone can sing high, sounds more full in the bass register, but can't muster contrabass range. It's important to keep in mind that what you can hit is less important than where you sound good in terms of fech.

                        Posted by:
                        • scheater5
                        • May 7, 2008 4:04 AM

                          I'm a bit confused. I know that in high school I can't classify my voice for another 15 years or so but I'm not sure even remotely where I fall. My voice is really deep and I have a very large range (D#2-G4 (chest and head voice), G4-Ab5 (super head voice), C5-C6 (falsetto)) I'm really loud and extremely dark with a natural vibrato. My most comfortable range is about F2-F4 and I most like singing higher bass pieces which leads me to believe I'm about basso cantante (high bass) or bass-baritone. I can hit really high but I'm definitely NOT a tenor or lyric baritone. When I was younger I was a lyric coloratura soprano but unfortunately I can't hit those notes anymore.

                          Posted by:
                          • Benny
                          • June 23, 2008 4:43 AM

                            I decided to visit an ex-opera singer now a certified teacher for advice on what range I should sing within, which songs I should be practising, since I still sometimes find myself slightly hoarse after practising with my regular teacher of a few months. She told me to go and learn golf instead! What do you think of her reaction? P.S. I sang Se tu m'ami at twice my normal speed to her piano accompaniment with no warm-up.

                            Posted by:
                            • Pauline Sandwith
                            • October 30, 2008 10:17 AM

                              Hi Pauline,

                              Se tu m'ami (If You Love Me) is one of favourite rep pieces. Your teacher's reaction is a bit harsh, but if you are tiring that easily after singing or are in any physical pain, you might want to investigate why that is.

                              My suggestions? First, if you are singing without a warmup, especially something as vocally challenging as Se tu m'ami, you're asking for a vocal injury. You have to warm up. If you are on your way to a class and are strapped for time, warm up as you're driving, hum in an elevator, do lip trills as you dash from point A to point B, but never forget or neglect to warm up your voice, especially when entering a rep session.

                              Also, make sure that you are fully hydrated before you get to your lesson. Drinking water at the studio will only result in minor improvements to your performance.

                              If you need something like a throat spray to help give you some instant moisture which could help you out in instances such as if you aren't as hydrated as you'd like or are hoarse, you may want to consider Entertainer's Secret Throat Relief or Thayer's.

                              I've been a fan of Entertainer's Secret for a while and I know other voice actors love the stuff and go through it like it's going out of style. Many also love Thayer's.

                              I hope my suggestions have helped. If you find that there is vocal tension and that is the root of your exhaustion or hoarseness, correct any physical tensions (you'll need to unlearn these) and find ways to relax your body.

                              1. Drink loads of water throughout the day to prepare for your lesson
                              2. Warm up, possibly even an hour beforehand for best results if you can
                              3. On days you have lessons, use your voice minimally until you have finished with your teacher
                              4. Identify and isolate physical tension, unlearn and correct with new posture / methods
                              5. Always enter a class with a positive attitude and prepare physically and mentally for success.

                              Cheers,

                              Stephanie

                              Posted by:

                                Thank you for taking the time to respond to my post, your thoughtful advice is much appreciated.

                                Posted by:
                                • Pauline Sandwith
                                • November 26, 2008 5:57 PM

                                  Hello Stephanie,

                                  I really would like to know what kind of voice I have... I am not sure myself, since I am only an amateur, but i can sing down to the second A below middle C to the second A above middle C. The latter is obtained with much struggle though, since I find much easier to sing the range below middle C. I am a woman and been bullied ever since childhood because of my deep voice. I know I am a contralto, but what kind of contralto am I?

                                  Posted by:
                                  • Silvana
                                  • April 14, 2009 10:45 PM

                                    Hi Silvana,

                                    Thank you for sharing your story and for your question.

                                    I am not sure which type of contralto you may be and recommend connecting with a teacher through the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS). You can browse their directory to find someone in your area who could help:

                                    http://www.nats.org

                                    Best wishes,

                                    Stephanie

                                    Posted by:

                                      Well I don't know, I'm not quite sure. Some people claim I'm a baritone and there are those who claim I'm a tenor. I was classified by a vocal coach as a spinto/lyric tenor, but I don't know...if anyone could listen to my videos on: www.youtube.com/user/Vengean where I happen to sing a Demo song of CARUSO.
                                      The problem is why the coaches don't know about me is that I have a bit deeper voice than a lyric tenor (which is very light), but still, I can sing High C, High D, High E and sustain them...I even tried to sustain a High F (but couldn't hold it for more than 3 sec).
                                      I'm just a newbie and unexperienced singer, but I'm eager to know what vocal fach do I belong to....

                                      Posted by:

                                        I'm 17 years old so my voice has quite a bit of changing left to do, but my voice teacher thinks I will mature into a dramatic/heroic soprano. My range is from an A3 or G3 to a D#6. I have a fuller more womanly voice for my age and the sound of my voice is on the darker side. As I've gotten better technique I've been able to achieve a vibrato up to a C#6 without strain. Also, as I've gotten older I have gone to a higher voice type.

                                        ~Val

                                        Posted by:

                                          I'm very confused about my voice type. When I was in the choir in 8th grade, I sang soprano. When I was 16 and started taking vocal lessons I was told that I was a soprano (I thought I might have been a mezzo), and a "true soprano". Over time, my range had developed to the G below middle C extending to the F above the C two octaves above middle C. Here comes the strange part, I can do coloratura runs with ease, but it's very hard for me to keep at a high tessitura if I'm not doing a run. Meanwhile, singing songs from operatic mezzo roles (such as Nicklausse from "Les Contes d'Hoffmann" or Carmen from "Carmen") is very comfortable for me, but at the same time I can sing the Queen of the Night aria (but it sounds like a falsetto unless I'm doing one of the runs, and is hard for me unless it's a run). I have no idea where my voice lies. Do you have any ideas? I know that my voice is developing still (I'm 18 now), but I'm wondering what your opinion is.

                                          Alea

                                          Posted by:
                                          • Alea
                                          • April 2, 2011 9:57 PM

                                            My voice is in the Dramatic Baritone range D2 to G4. Can't hit low C or A4 at all (funny how it just stops) but everything in-between is no problem.

                                            Posted by:

                                              I am a lyric coloratura soprano

                                              Posted by:
                                              • Carole Pledger
                                              • February 21, 2012 5:29 PM

                                                Some categories omitted here - high mezzo, high baritone. These 2 voice types in particular struggle in typical SATB choral work as They sit right between the tessituras, and are usually best suited to moving about. You find a lot of these voices happy in baroque and non choral music.

                                                Posted by:
                                                • Anonymous
                                                • April 23, 2012 8:50 PM

                                                  I am a Bass-Baritone... Lower than the true Baritone, and higher than the true bass..

                                                  Posted by:
                                                  • Thomas White
                                                  • November 28, 2012 3:50 AM

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