Have you started singing recently and concerned about the range of notes you can hit? What’s the average and how many notes should you be capable of singing? In this quick overview, we’ll discuss the averages for vocal ranges and what you should expect from your own voice.
How Many Octaves Should A Normal Singer Have?
The average singer will have about 2 octaves in their vocal range, meaning they can sing approximately 24 notes. A new and/or untrained singer may have less notes in their range.
Experienced and professional singers, on the other hand, may be capable of 4 or 5 octaves; vocalists with ranges this grandiose include the likes of Mariah Carey and Rob Halford.
In reality, a large vocal range may sound like an enviable asset, but it’s certainly not necessary. A singer really only needs an octave or two in order to successfully perform a song. Most individual songs will not require multiple octaves to perform them.
What is a Good Vocal Range for an Untrained Singer?
Untrained singers will usually start out with just one (and maybe a half) octave of range. If you only consider a person’s tessitura (that is, the notes they feel most comfortable singing), that number gets a bit smaller.
Keep in mind that telling you an exact note-to-note range is not really applicable for answering this question. There are many different voice types like tenor, alto, baritone, etc. Likewise, the structure of your body will dictate what octaves and notes you can physically vocalize.
So don’t wed your skill level or singing progress to hitting a specific range of notes like B2-C5, etc. It’s better to measure the number of notes you can hit rather than where those notes fall in an octave.
People who sing infrequently (or never) will feel more comfortable in the same register as their speaking voice. As such, the lower and higher parts of their range can cause extra tension on their singing muscles.
So, if you are new to singing, expect that the strongest part of your voice will be around your normal speaking range.
What is the Average Singer’s Vocal Range?
The average singer (with some training and practice) can sing between 1.75 and 2 octaves, with a median of 22 notes in his/her range. This number is not including falsetto.
These numbers are gleaned from average vocal ranges per voice type. In the following chart, you can see the averages and medians of each voice type, plus the combined totals.
|Voice Type||Notes in Average Range||Octaves in Average Range|
If you aren’t able to reach this many notes, don’t be discouraged. Your style of music may not require a range that big. And, if you write your own songs, then you can stick to whatever keys fall within your comfort zone.
Tips for Songwriters Learning to Sing
There are hundreds of vocal teachers online who offer tips, tricks, and specific exercises for increasing vocal range. Like here and here. So I’m not going to offer you exercises, but rather some advice. Here are some tips I learned from teaching myself how to sing:
- Practice every day
- Don’t slack on breathing exercises first
- Tone matters more than range
- Change keys if you’re struggling
Practice Every Day
You will never build a new habit if you don’t keep a consistent schedule at the start. So pick a specific time during the day when you can work on your voice.
Just 10-15 minutes is enough to start. Stick to that practice time every single day when possible (obviously, don’t sing if you have a sore through, the flu, etc).
Breath support is way more important than you may realize. Your ability to project, hold a steady pitch, and belt long notes all depend on you first having control over your breathing.
I start off my singing practice every day with a breathing warm-up called the 4-4-8 exercise. You simply inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, then exhale for 8 seconds. When this is done with proper diaphragmatic breathing, it will build the muscles you need for sustain.
After approximately 2 years of doing this, I can now exhale for about 15 seconds on a 4-second inhale. It does help.
Unless you’re aiming to sing opera, the size of your range is not the most important aspect of your singing voice. Tone is.
Let me drive this point home: good tone is more important than a wide vocal range. And by tone, I mean that the timbre of your voice sounds nice (you’re not too nasally, woody, mumbly, etc).
So spend extra time experimenting with your voice: sing with your mouth in various positions, try moving your soft palate, trying smiling when you sing, and practice enunciation.
What I found helpful for improving my tone was to sing through a scale using each vowel sound. I run through a simple 5-note major scale, singing the notes as “ahs” all the way through, then “ee”, “eh”, “oh”, and “oo”.
If you can’t hit a certain note in a song, then stop forcing your voice to fit into that key. Instead, transpose the song down a key (or two) until you’re no longer straining to reach each note.
This can work for songs you are trying to cover or songs you are writing. It’s happened on more than one occasion where I tried to record a song and the vocals sound awful until I changed the key and gave my voice some more room to thrive.
You don’t need a killer 4-octave range to sing most styles of music. 1½ to 2 octaves should be enough in many cases. If you’re just starting out with singing and you want to be a songwriter, then I suggest you focus more on pitch control and tone of voice. Did you find this content helpful? If so, then here are a few more articles to consider: