Vocal Terms

A soprano is the highest voice category. Instruments having a high range (like a soprano singer's range) are sometimes called soprano as well, like soprano saxophones or soprano recorders.
Sometimes, the word "soprano" means the highest line in the music.
Italian for "middle soprano." About 80% of women are mezzo-sopranos. These voices tend to be a bit darker in quality than soprano voices, and the range of a mezzo-soprano is not quite as high as that of a soprano.
No instruments are called "mezzo-soprano."
Short for "contralto." This is the lowest category of female voices. The alto voice is lower still than that of the mezzo-soprano, and is generally dark and warm.
Some instruments share the range of the alto singer, like the alto saxophone or the alto flute.
Tenors are the highest male voice type. Back in the way old days, tenors sang long, sustained notes, and the line was called "tenor," which is from the Latin word tenere, meaning "to hold."
Baritones' ranges are roughly equivalent to mezzo-sopranos (but about an octave lower). About 80% of men are baritones. Baritone voices are typically darker than tenor voices are, and are also lower.
The bass voice is the lowest male voice type. Often, the lowest line in a piece of music is called the bass line, whether or not it's being sung by a bass.
The lowest-pitched instruments are also called "bass," like the bass clarinet and the string bass.
Your diaphragm is a muscle in your respiratory system. It is under your lungs and is kind of like an upside-down bowl. Your diaphragm moves down when you inhale, which causes your lungs to fill with air. When you exhale, your diaphragm moves up, pushing air out of your lungs.
Vocal Folds
Also known as vocal "cords." These muscles vibrate when air from your lungs passes over them. A complex set of other muscles and cartilage inside your larnyx, or voicebox, move your vocal folds to adjust the pitch their vibration produces. Check the Links page for a video of vocal folds in action.
Your larynx, also known as your voicebox, houses your vocal folds. It is made of cartilage. The linked image shows a larynx viewed from the front. The hyoid bone is hidden away underneath your tongue, and it is the only bone in your body that is not connected to any other bones.

Theory Terms -- Dynamics -- Tone -- Musicianship
Back to Glossary