Thursday, August 11, 2022

Contralto thoughts

Tons of singers are emerging in home or at least virtual studios all over the world. Long gone are the days of the best person in your hometown who offers lessons or sings at a church or school being the "model voice"-- a person who studied with a famous professional vocal coach. Btw: most pro voice coaches are mezzo-sopranos and probably won't teach contralto.

Who is or isn't a contralto in the 21st century? Why is this such a head spinning psychological issue? For the non professional singer-- here it goes.
1. The singing range range of a singer needs to be secure. Secure meaning solid and the singer can always sing those notes at the edges of their range.
2. In opera terms it means the contralto can carry over the orchestra in that low range, and unmic'd in that range- for the entire show. What I think they mean is;-that Contraltos are more like the Grandmaster black belt of female voices singing both  low and high opera parts.
3. For cis-female singers who can sing contralto lows and below yet can't hit mezzo- soprano A5, or high tessitura soprano F6 in Mozart's Queen of the Night aria-- high notes- it leaves her without a vocal classification and only a range of accessible notes. Alto is a choral part , that doesn't exist outside of the Choir-- and they haven't changed that.* 
4. Some of us, pro musicians yet not pro singers, who sing other styles (for fun) down lo below are "offensive" to the opera chords by declaring ourselves contraltos by range class alone, and without operatic coach.

1. Range - voice classification E3-Bflat 5
After church and high school choir, many adults (yes adults) who were altos have to reclassify their voice. Some of us, yes I'm an example- sang alto because we could hold down the harmony easily against a bigger ratio of mezzo sopranos and sopranos.
Ie., Madrigals, select women's choir, varsity singers. 

 Ie. I sang as Alto 1 or Alto 2 with a few others who comprised less than 10% of the 150-180 person choir. We could belt alto and switch up to lower mezzo notes in an award winning H.S. choir. But, most of us couldn't get the highest notes of the mezzo range- at least, not without training.

Well, the 21st century still needs a range classification for women who sing lower than mezzo-soprano and are comfortable there- without formal training. We all know, lumping everyone who isn't a soprano into the mezzo soprano category is simply ludicrous. And  as the patient and quiet voiced pianist. 

The bulk of contralto singing has to be in the lower end of the range with plenty of focused breath support-- despite the possibility of bringing head voice or falsetto down into the lower range. That means sound that's mixed alot more than a handful of sexy, breathy soprano notes being sung in the low range. 

A contralto then works to mix the voice from bottom to top, top to bottom. All of this takes T-I-M-E !!! So if you want to have your best mix or timber through 3 solid octaves starting at or below E3 (it also helps to have a few more lower notes to ease into the Contralto range- thus B2, even if some sounds are made down to A2 or lower). It seems impromptu to go out and sing as a mezzo before working out the issues of having an extra half-octave or octave to mix. 

Okay. So still not convincing enough for hardcore opera buffs? We will need a new name for the range itself- Contralto range.