It’s a wonder people aren’t more informed about the qualities of the male voice. Today, we’re going to change that — after all, an estimated 50.4% of humans alive today share this instrument, and several have made a name for themselves in the voice-over scene!
Sure, people have spent endless heaps of paper writing about it already; books, op-eds, articles — every other day there seems to be a new discovery or idea. I’m going to provide you with a small resource so you can spot these essential characteristics of the male voice.
- What is it? What’s it used for?
- What sets it apart from its counterpart, the female voice?
- What are its characteristics and subtypes?
All of this information is not just for your scientific and academic enrichment, of course. Knowledge is also time, power, and money; mostly, the power to choose wisely when thinking about hiring a male voice-over artist for your project.
Even if that’s not the case and you’re a new voice pro, this will be useful information to have. It’ll provide you with tools to learn how to classify and distinguish your vocal characteristics. It’ll also let you know if you’re the right voice type for a project. Vocal terminology can seem slightly opaque at first, but consider that a worthy investment.
As hard as it is to learn new definitions and ideas, it benefits both clients and pros. Knowing how to accurately represent vocal classifications and project needs is vital if you’re looking for voiceover talent. It’s also an integral part of the information contained in your vocal CV or portfolio.
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People both want and need to know about these qualities beforehand for more accurate projects. You don’t want super-high-pitched auditioners coming in for a baritone part! Let’s jump right into it!
This post was updated on March 2021
What is the male voice?
All human voices are produced by the vocal tract; As air passes through the larynx, the vocal cords vibrate and the resulting disturbance creates the voice. Vocal qualities are defined by the general anatomical differences in the vocal apparatus of both sexes. These are:
It’s true, though, that these variations often overlap. The division of voices between males and females is based on a mix of anatomical differences and cultural stereotyping. It could be said that it represents a variable range more than a strict category. Still, we have to start somewhere in order to create a taxonomy or a subdivision of things into groups.
It’s also important to note that while these classifications generally reflect biological differences between the sexes, they also reflect gendered conceptions. While the relationship between sex and gender continues to be hotly debated in science and academia, we are nonetheless changing our perceptions. The University of Iowa touches on this concept slightly:
“First, just listen to many voices — both male and female. There probably is more overlap between female and male voice pitches than you thought: males often speak at 65 to 260 Hertz, while females speak in the 100 to 525 Hz range. Thus, a voice of 100 to 260 Hz is just as ‘masculine’ as it is ‘feminine.'”
As you can see, things can sometimes get confusing.
As we’ve seen, the male voice is classified at a cycle range between 65 to 260 Hertz. But men can sometimes adopt patterns that are not considered “male” outright. These behavioral differences can sometimes be accounted for by either upbringing or personal choice. In some cases, a female-centric environment can lead a man to elevate their pitch over what would come naturally. This is absolutely not a bad thing unless it causes the person to hurt their voice.
In some cases, men have naturally smaller laryngeal sizes. These can also be the cause of naturally high-pitched voices. While this could be the cause of confusion, it’s by no means a negative thing. While progress is slow, social stigmas and stereotypes when it comes to voices will usher in a time where people will feel safe and confident with their natural instruments.
The only thing that needs to be taken into account when it comes to pitch is whether it’s sustainable and healthy for the person who’s speaking. If the answer is yes, then there’s nothing to worry about whatsoever. If the answer’s no, vocal coaching may be in order. In some cases, the aid of a vocologist can be enlisted in order to get a person speaking in a healthy manner.
Remember: if you’re using your voice, it’s important that you can explore your full range safely. But, especially when speaking, you will have a certain vocal collocation that lends itself to prolonged sessions. This is your natural pitch. Know it, and you’ll achieve vocal success. Go against it and it’s very likely you’ll reap negative consequences.
The male voice and range
Now, here’s another spot where there’s an intersection between vocal training styles. In case you haven’t noticed, vocal terminology is universal among any disciplines that use the voice. That’s why if you’re familiar with singing at all, you will already have encountered a few of the terms in use here. Vocal range is yet another voice quality of the male voice that we’re going to be getting into. These systems of classifications are a part of vocal pedagogy. While several systems of vocal classification exist, there are seven broadly defined vocal ranges (between men and women). The four that are applicable to men are:
The highest male voice. They’re able to sing/speak in roles that were formerly reserved for castrati (yikes!). In modern, more civilized times, most of the men singing in these roles use their falsetto voice, save for a few notable exceptions. Countertenor ranges span from E3 to E5.
This is the highest male voice between the modal register (without ascending into falsetto). A common tenor voice will span between C3 and C5. This is also the type of voice most immediately recognizable by non-opera buffs. Even Bud Lite drinking sports bros know about the might of Luciano Pavarotti and Enrico Caruso. This is also a vocal type very widely used in popular singing.
Now we’re getting into the deep end. This one hits close to home, as it’s the vocal type I belong to. It’s considered the mid-range of the male voice. It lies between the tenor (high) and bass (low) ranges. Many baritone voices overlap with these, though, and this is true for all vocal ranges. Baritones generally span from F2 up to C5. What vocal ranges are meant to convey is the easy or natural range of these voices. This is called the tessitura. Some baritones can sing very high, some tenors can go extremely low, to complicate things further. Not everything’s 1+1= 2 in the realm of voices!
If you like rock music, then a very popular baritone is Eddie Vedder, of Pearl Jam fame.
The lowest male voice out there. Think about those sweet, silky, dulcet tones of your favorite golden-throated narrator. Heard about that dude Morgan Freeman? I think he’s been in a thing or ten-thousand. Basses typically can sing from C2 to G4. There are also several subtypes of bass, which we won’t get into here for clarity’s sake.
This is going to be the most descriptive territory yet. Vocal qualities describe the way a voice sounds or is perceived. These qualities are partly due to anatomy, learned behavior, and individual choice. An individual may have a pharynx or larynx of a particular size but may decide to use it in a unique, personal way. The combination of all of these factors is what lends voices to their personal characteristics. Nature, nurture, and personal choice, folks!
The National Center for Voice and Speech pitches in (heh):
“The learned components of the equation are referred to as vocal habits. These would be items such as rhythm and rate of speech and vowel pronunciation. Rhythm, obviously, includes mannerisms such as periodic pauses to search for the right word, while rate refers to the speed of an individual’s syllables and speech. (The average rate of speech for English speakers in the United States is about 150 words per minute, by the way.) A speaker’s habits also influence how much air pressure is used to produce sound and how s/he uses laryngeal muscles to open and close the vocal folds.”
Things get even more complicated when trying to describe voices, by the way. Dr. Ingo Titze proposed some categories in 1994. These are by no means accepted universally, but they’re the best we’ve got insofar vocal qualities are concerned.
- Hoarse (raspy)
- Jitter pitch
- Nasal (see honky)
- Pulsed (fry)
- Resonant (ringing)
And, of course, you’re bound to find many other vocal qualities out there, both for your enlightenment and confusion.
Conclusion about the male voice as a professional asset
At some point, you’re bound to need the services of a voice acting pro for a project. If not, maybe you’re thinking about embarking on a vocal journey yourself. No matter your reasons, knowing about these essential vocal pedagogy classifications is going to be a huge net benefit. Whether you’re looking for a project or applying for one, accurate portrayals only save time and provide peace of mind. Just imagine an unknowing natural bass trying to apply for a project that necessitates a high tenor voice with young, shimmering qualities.
Another essential thing is remembering the power of the male voice with your chosen demographic. Remember, a previous study of your demographic’s reactions to its qualities may save you a ton of grief later on. It’s not the same to have an unwavering, 50-something sounding voice for a political campaign about fracking than for a bikini brand trying to reach out for 20-something wallets.
As always, you can count on Bunny Studio to knock it outta the park whenever you need an outstanding male voice for your project. We deliver quick, mind-blowingly great results, and have an unmatched pool of over 100,000 talented voice Pros ready to help you out at a moment’s notice. We’ll be happy to make your day!