contralto



Voice Type (ranges)
Female voices
Soprano
Mezzo-soprano
Alto or Contralto
Male voices
Sopranist
Countertenor (Alto or Mezzo)
Tenor
Baritone
Bass-baritone
Bass
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In music, an alto or contralto is a singer with a vocal range somewhere between a tenor and a mezzo-soprano. The term is used to refer to the lowest female singing voice, or to a kind of male singing voice utilizing falsetto called a countertenor. Alto pieces normally span between G below middle C to the E a tenth above middle C (i.e. G3-E5). At the bottom of their range, male altos sound almost like tenors. Some altos have even larger ranges; from the C below middle C to the C two octaves above (C3-C6 if middle C is C4), but like all singers, their vocal type is defined mostly by their "vocal center" and not by their range (a soprano for instance could technically possess the lower range of an alto, but would not be comfortable singing it). In four part choral harmony, the alto is the second highest voice. Alto pieces were originally written in the alto clef, but now use the treble clef.

Although both men and women may have voices in the alto range, the word is usually used to mean a female singer. The word "contralto" can be used to refer specifically to a female alto singer, versus alto male singers or instruments or clefs. However, choirs singing early music frequently include adult male altos, also called countertenors. If a singer is a man and a natural tenor, if they choose to sing using falsetto they are referred to as a countertenor, whereas a male alto's true vocal weight usually is that of a baritone or bass.

In English church usage, the term alto is sometimes exclusively used to mean a countertenor, while contralto is used for a female singer: this is particularly the case in the Anglican cathedral tradition which is historically all-male. However, this is not done consistently, and for most practical purposes, alto and contralto can be thought of as synonyms. Boys may also sing alto, in which case the term boy alto may be used to avoid confusion.

A few popular music enthusiasts define the contralto and alto separately, as the contralto having an especially dark range, from the D above low C to Tenor C, which is essentially a female of tenor range, while alto is a voice with a range from G below middle C to the F an eleventh above middle C, and is closer to the mezzo-soprano. The majority however define contralto and alto as synonyms, and assign the adjectives light and dark, with a dark alto being a female of tenor range, while a light alto, commonly referred to as simply alto, to include mezzo-sopranos as well.

In medieval polyphony, the principal voice was the tenor. When additional voices were added, they were called contratenor (meaning "against the tenor"). When two such voices were added, they were called contratenor alto and contratenor bassus, indicating high and low respectively.

Contraltos are fairly rare in opera, since there is very little work that was written specifically for them. Most of the time, contralto roles are limited to maids, mothers and grandmothers, but they do occasionally get notable roles, with witches being the most common outside of the three former roles (a common saying among contraltos is that they are only allowed to play "witches, bitches, or britches"). Baroque opera features a large number of alto roles.

The word, "alto", is often applied to instruments to indicate their range in relation to other instruments of the same group. In common usage, particularly among jazz musicians, the word has become synonymous with the alto saxophone. In US usage the alto horn is an Eb saxhorn, a brass instrument.

Contralto roles in operas

The following is a list of contralto roles in the standard operatic repertoire. Technically, "alto" is only a separate category in choral music where it refers simply to the vocal range. In current operatic practice, female singers with very low tessituras are included among mezzo-sopranos, because singers in both ranges are able to cover the other, and true operatic contraltos are very rare.

Alto roles in operettas and musicals

Many operettas and musicals have important contralto roles. Every Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera has at least one contralto role for a mature female character who is usually a forceful person or a member of the nobility.

Contralto roles lie lower in the voice than mezzo-soprano, soubrette or most "belt" roles. Some other notable contralto roles include the following:

Notable Altos

Classical and Operatic Contraltos

Classical and operatic singers are singers who have regularly performed unamplified classical or operatic music in concert halls and/or opera houses.

Contemporary and Crossover Altos



See also

External links

References

1. ^ [1]
2. ^ [2]
3. ^ [3]
4. ^ Martin, Bill (2002). Pro Secrets Of Heavy Rock Singing. Sanctuary Publishing, Page 9. ISBN 1-86074-437-0. 
5. ^ [4]
6. ^ [5]
7. ^ Brun-Lambert. Nina Simone, het tragische lot van een uitzonderlijke zangeres, pp. 56. 
8. ^ [6]

Sources

  • The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, by John Warrack and Ewan West (1992), 782 pages, ISBN 0-19-869164-5
Alto (meaning "high" or "tall" in Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, and "stop" in Portuguese and Spanish) may refer to:
  • Alto, a singing voice below soprano.
  • a high-register musical instrument, such as the alto viola, alto saxophone (both often shortened to alt), alto

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Voice type (equivalent to the German Fach and similar Italian and French categorizations) is a system for categorizing classical and operatic solo singers, and the roles they sing, by the tessitura, weight and timbre of their unamplified voices in an opera house or
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Human voices may be classified according to their vocal range — the highest and lowest pitches that they can produce.

Vocal range defined

The broadest definition of vocal range, given above, is simply the span from the highest to the lowest note a particular voice
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soprano is a singer with a voice range from approximately middle C (C4) to "high A" (A5) in choral music, or to "soprano C" (C6, two octaves above middle C) or higher in operatic music.
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A mezzo-soprano (meaning "medium" or "middle" "soprano" in Italian) is a female singer whose range lies between the soprano and the contralto, usually extending from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above (i.e.
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alto or contralto is a singer with a vocal range somewhere between a tenor and a mezzo-soprano. The term is used to refer to the lowest female singing voice, or to a kind of male singing voice utilizing falsetto called a countertenor.
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A sopranist (or sopranista) is a male classical singer with a voice-type and register equivalent to that of a female soprano.

The Sopranist Voice

A sopranist
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A countertenor is an adult male who sings in an alto, mezzo or soprano range, often through use of falsetto, or sometimes natural head voice. This term is used almost exclusively in the context of the classical vocal tradition, although numerous popular artists have
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Mezzo is:
  • mezzo , the Italian word for "half", "middle" or "medium".
  • The beginning of various Italian musical terms, e.g. Mezzo-soprano.
  • The Mezzo TV cable channel in France.

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tenor is a singer with a voice range from approximately C3 (one octave below middle C) to A4 (above middle C) in choral music, or up to "tenor C" (C5, one octave above middle C) or higher in operatic music (see voice type).
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Baritone (French: baryton; German: Bariton; Italian: baritono) is most commonly the type of male voice that lies between bass and tenor.
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A bass-baritone is a singing voice that shares certain qualities of both the baritone and the bass. The term arose in the late 19th century to describe the particular type of voice required to sing three Wagnerian roles: Dutchman (in Der fliegende Holländer), Wotan (in the Ring
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A bass (or basso in Italian) is a male singer who sings in the deepest vocal range of the human voice. According to Grove Music Online, a bass has a range extending from around the F below low C to the E above middle C (i.e., F2–E4).
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A singer is a musician who uses their voice to produce music. Often the singer is accompanied by musicians and instruments. While many people sing for pleasure, vocal skill is usually a combination of innate talent and professional training.
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Human voices may be classified according to their vocal range — the highest and lowest pitches that they can produce.

Vocal range defined

The broadest definition of vocal range, given above, is simply the span from the highest to the lowest note a particular voice
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tenor is a singer with a voice range from approximately C3 (one octave below middle C) to A4 (above middle C) in choral music, or up to "tenor C" (C5, one octave above middle C) or higher in operatic music (see voice type).
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A mezzo-soprano (meaning "medium" or "middle" "soprano" in Italian) is a female singer whose range lies between the soprano and the contralto, usually extending from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above (i.e.
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A countertenor is an adult male who sings in an alto, mezzo or soprano range, often through use of falsetto, or sometimes natural head voice. This term is used almost exclusively in the context of the classical vocal tradition, although numerous popular artists have
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Do or C is the first note of the fixed-Do solfege.

In Western music, the expression "middle C" refers to the note "C" (or "Do" in fixed-Do solfege) located exactly between the two staves of the grand staff, quoted as C4 in scientific pitch
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tenor is a singer with a voice range from approximately C3 (one octave below middle C) to A4 (above middle C) in choral music, or up to "tenor C" (C5, one octave above middle C) or higher in operatic music (see voice type).
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A choir, chorale, or chorus is a musical ensemble of singers.

A body of singers who perform together is called a choir or chorus. The former term is very often applied to groups affiliated with a church (whether or not they actually occupy the quire) and the
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clef (from the French for "key") is a musical symbol used to indicate the pitch of written notes.* Placed on one of the lines at the beginning of the staff, it indicates the name and pitch of the notes on that line.
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History of European art music
Early
Medieval (476 – 1400)
Renaissance (1400 – 1600)
Common practice
Baroque (1600 – 1760)
Classical (1730 – 1820)
Romantic (1815 – 1910)
Modern and contemporary
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A countertenor is an adult male who sings in an alto, mezzo or soprano range, often through use of falsetto, or sometimes natural head voice. This term is used almost exclusively in the context of the classical vocal tradition, although numerous popular artists have
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Vocal weight refers to the perceived "lightness" or "heaviness" of a singing voice. Voices can either be lyric (light) or dramatic (heavy). Vocal weight can also effect overall vocal agility; heavier voices often have more difficulty maneuvering through florid coloratura passages
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Baritone (French: baryton; German: Bariton; Italian: baritono) is most commonly the type of male voice that lies between bass and tenor.
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A bass (or basso in Italian) is a male singer who sings in the deepest vocal range of the human voice. According to Grove Music Online, a bass has a range extending from around the F below low C to the E above middle C (i.e., F2–E4).
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Anglicanism most commonly refers to the beliefs and practices of the Anglican Communion, a world-wide affiliation of Christian Churches. There is no single "Anglican Church" with universal juridical authority, since each national or regional church has full autonomy.
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Low C is the note C that is one octave below Middle C, and is also named C3. It is named because it is considered the low note of the voice (only the baritones and basses go much lower). It is the low note of the tenor in classical music.
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