Monday , 22 September 2014
Home > Blog > 25 Voice Types and the Fach System. What’s Your Vocal Category?

25 Voice Types and the Fach System. What’s Your Vocal Category?

This is my second post on voice types. If you haven’t yet read the first installment, start by reading What’s My Voice Type? The Different Voice Types and How to Distinguish Them to learn whether you’re really a soprano, mezzo-soprano, contralto, tenor, baritone, or bass. Once you read that post, come back to this one and learn more about the different voice types according to the Fach System and its 25 categories.

The Fach System

First of, Fach is a German word and is pronounced like the composer Bach, only with an f. For the proper pronunciation, check out Google Translate and click on the Listen button.

The Fach System was developed by German opera houses towards the end of the 19th century and the reasoning behind it was to create distinct categories for all the roles in an opera, as well as, for singing voices, in order to aid auditions and casting.

Fach means classification, specialty, category. Singers were placed in a Fach according to their voice types and they would only study the characters that belonged in that category. Opera houses would keep records of singers according to Fach and they would call them in for auditions according to which roles were available.

All together singers and roles were placed in a Fach according to the following vocal characteristics:

  • range – the notes your body can produce
  • weight – light voices, bright and agile; heavy voices, powerful, rich, and darker
  • size – the amount of sound you can produce and your voice’s dramatic effect
  • tessitura – part of the range which is most comfortable to sing
  • timbre or color – unique voice quality and texture
  • transition points – points where you change from chest, to middle, to head register
  • vocal registers – how extended each register is
  • speech level – speaking range
  • physical characteristics – height and build
  • age and experience

The Fach System is still used today, mostly in Europe, and although it might seem as a very rigid way of classifying singers, knowing your specific voice type can help you make better decisions when auditioning.

Most composers had particular voice types in mind, some times even specific singers, when they were working on their operas. Nowadays, directors and conductors try to recreate the feeling of particular characters by choosing singers whose voice power, size, timber, color, and range match the composer’s intentions.

Think about it: would a soprano with a heavy and powerful voice be a good fit for the role of a young girl like Gilda in Rigoletto? And how about a bright and airy tenor for the role of a dramatic character like Canio in Pagliacci?

If you speak German, you’d, also, like to pick up a copy of Rudolf Kloiber’s Handbuch der OperRudolf Kloiber's Handbuch der Oper on voice types, the absolute and complete manual on voice types, auditioning, and roles. Unfortunately no publishing house has come up with a translation yet, so I’m going to be summarizing the details of each one of the voice types listed in the Handbuch der Opera in a series of 25 posts. Keep up with these posts by subscribing to my free newsletter.

This is a collective table of the main 25 voice types in the Fach system.

The 25 Voice Types

Type English German Characteristics
Soprano Voice Types Soubrette Spielsopran Young, light, bright
Lyric Coloratura Soprano Lyrischer Koloratursopran High, bright, flexible
Dramatic Coloratura Soprano Dramatischer Koloratursopran High, dark, flexible
Lyric Soprano Lyrischer Sopran Warm, legatto, full
Character Soprano Charaktersopran Bright, metallic, theatrical
Spinto /Young Dramatic Soprano Jugendlich-dramatischer Sopran Powerful, young, full
Dramatic Soprano Dramatischer Sopran Powerful, dark, rich
Mezzo-Soprano Voice Types Coloratura Mezzo-Soprano Coloratura Mezzo-Soprano Agile, rich, bright
Lyric Mezzo-Soprano Lyrischer Mezzosopran Strong, flexible, lachrymose
Dramatic Mezzo-Soprano Dramatischer Mezzosopran Rich, powerful, imposing
Contralto Voice Types Dramatic Alto Dramatischer Alt Powerful, full, metallic
Low Contralto Tiefer Alt Low, full, warm
Tenor Voice Types Countertenor Contratenor High, agile, powerful
Lyric Tenor Lyrischer Tenor Soft, warm, flexible
Acting Tenor Spieltenor Flexible, theatrical, light
Dramatic Tenor Heldentenor Full, low, stamina
Character Tenor Charaktertenor Bright, powerful, theatrical
Baritone Voice Types Lyric Baritone Lyrischer Bariton Smooth, flexible, sweet
Cavalier Baritone Kavalierbariton Brilliant, warm, agile
Character Baritone Charakterbariton Flexible, powerful, theatrical
Dramatic Baritone Heldenbariton Powerful, full, imposing
Bass Voice Types Character Bass Charakterbass Full, rich, stamina
Acting Bass Spielbass Flexible, agile, rich
Heavy Acting Bass Schwerer Spielbass Full, rich, imposing
Serious Bass Seriöser Bass Mature, rich, powerful

I’m sure that at this point you’re thinking that you’d like to learn more about telling the different voice types apart so that you can figure out in which one you belong. Worry not! I’m working on a series of 25 more articles that will analyze each of the 25 voice types in the Fach and offer audiovisual examples.

Keep up with these posts by subscribing to my free newsletter. Learn more about your singing voice and choose the right music for auditioning!

26 comments

  1. I’m almost a teenage and my range goes E3(sometimes Eb3) to B5 and my highest belt is C#5,what’s my voice type? or what voice type I will have on future?

    • You cannot be typed yet. Male voices aren’t settled until after age 25, which is around the time you will understand what type of voice you have. Sometimes a voice can be lyric at 18 and dramatic by 26, so you can’t know until then. Just enjoy singing, and take care of you voice! :)

  2. Hiiiiiiii lol I’m 15(16 in a couple of months) I’m a boy, my voice is deep and it has been like that since middle school. I am also a sophomore in high school. I have been singing for a while now and my range is from G2-D6. I can go from G2-E5 in full voice without straining, and I also can hit a F#5 if I push hard with some strain, which I avoid most often. My falsetto is very high because I can go to a D6 and I also have a whistle register but I can only hit the notes from Mariah carey song Someday when she hits the whistle. I can also hit the notes at the end of Mariah’s Emotion song. Is that weird that I can only hit those whistle notes? And voice type am I? My voice is heavy at the bottom of my chest range and when I extend it up with mix it carries some weight. Like I said, I can hit all the way to a F#5 in full voice is that weird? And I know I’m young, but will my voice change dramatically as I get older? Will I keep my range? P.S I LOVE SINGING SO PLEASE REPLEY :)

    • Your a Baritone a bass like myself would need to hit a E2 without any problems, baritones usually stop at that G2 range but power house basses can floor a Bb1 which I’ve only done once XD

      • I’m a bass voice myself and I usually bottom out at C2, but I’ve hit a B1 a few times before. I top out at E4 without going falsetto. I have hit F4 and G4 without falsetto, but it sounds very strained, so I only sing those in falsetto. I can interchange head voice and falsetto from C3-E4 and my falsetto can go up to a G6, which it changes to whistle until D7. My falsetto is sort of weak from F4-C5, but gets quite strong from C5-D6. At the moment, I’m trying to strengthen my falsetto in F4-C5, as well as perfecting my whistle from G6-D7.

  3. Hello! My name is Razvan, I am 27 years old and I don t know what is my voice type :)
    My vocal clean range is F3-G5 and sometimes, when my voice is well heated I can sing the note A5 with chest voice! Usually I speak on the note C4-D4, and part of the range which is most comfortable to sing for me is A3-F5! I forgot to mention that my voice is powerful between A3-F5 and has a timbre generally brighter! I am waiting for a response and thank you in advance! With admiration and respect for all that you do for music! Greetings from Romania!

    • It’s been like 9 months since you commented, so you may have already found your voice part. But I’m reading your comment and it looks like we have similar voices! I can sing from F3 to G5, (on good days an Ab5). But my voice is also most comfortable/powerful between A3-F5! After reading this article as well as the writer’s previous article, I’ve discovered that I am a mezzo- soprano (specifically the coloratura.) In choirs I sing Soprano 2 because like you, I have a brighter tone, and I prefer not to belt as typical altos do.
      So I think you are also a mezzo-soprano from what you said! Hope this helps xx

  4. I’m a musician and I love to sing by myself, but I hate singing in choirs and I’ll tell you why. Please bear with me. I’m a man in my 30s and my singing range is that of a baritone. Ok, I can growl out a C2 and squeak out a Bb4 without going into falsetto, but F2 to F4 are about as low and high as I would ever choose to sing. My speaking range is usually about Bb2 to G3. If you asked me to sing a random note, I’d probably sing an Eb3 and I love the way my voice sounds on G3 because it’s so light and comfortable. The trouble is that I’ve always been told by choir directors that I’m definitely a tenor because my speaking voice is fairly light, though none of them have ever checked my range. I’m an instrumentalist primarily and don’t have a well-trained voice, so being put on tenor parts all the time just kills my throat. I’m ok withTenor II or Bass I parts. I wish I could tell these directors what my voice type really is so that I can find parts that don’t hurt. Do you have any advice?

  5. Hello. Any idea what my vocal range is. I can just about hit D3 at the bass end and at the treble I can hit F5 belting and A5 in head voice.

  6. Hi, I’m a freshman in highschool and I’ve always been considered an alto. But in this past year my fellow altos have been complaining that I’m singing higher than the rest of them, and I have considered transferring into the sopranos, because I do prefer to sing melodies (it’s hard for me to sing the harmonies, because our choir arrangements often have the altos singing the same note repeatedly, monotonous, and I just can’t help but song along with the sopranos).My choir director says I’m a mezzo soprano and I can sing from a D3 to a C5, and I was wondering where I’d fit? With proper warm ups I can sing higher or lower, but it takes a while to build up to that. I would also like to know if it would be appropriate to change my place in choir.

    • Rebecca,

      Your vocal color/weight and your expressed inability to sing harmony are two separate issues. If your choir director is confident, after hearing you extensively, that you are a mezzo-soprano- then that’s where you should be, in the alto section. One of the aspects of determining voice type is tessitura- where on the staff the music is written and where your voice is most at ease. While all singing takes energy, there are some voices that really do function well at the higher stuff for a more sustained period of time. Being able to hit some notes up top doesn’t make you a soprano. It’s HOW LONG you can successfully sing them without sagging in pitch, etc is what helps determine voice type. I am personally a mezzo soprano and have a C6 (what we consider “high C” for sopranos) but because I have more weight and color in my voice, and have a strong middle, I am a mezzo. I generally sing alto in choir. Depending upon what we are singing, I occasionally am asked to sing soprano 2.

      Your desire to only sing melody is not a reason to move to soprano. Sometimes the alto part is more “functional” to the harmony than melodic, and I do feel you there. But that’s where a GREAT musician can really show their stuff. It’s not easy to stay in tune while singing repeated notes, and if you are just honking out notes, thinking that it’s “boring” then clearly you aren’t looking at the text and digging into it. Look, I get it- melody is fun! But alto is fun, as well, and in my experience, altos end up being great sight readers and singers because they have to figure out more complicated inner parts. You can do it if you concentrate. But yeah- your fellow altos are probably frustrated with you because you won’t sing what’s written. That’s on you. Maybe if you change your mindset, you won’t be so frustrated.

      Now, it is possible that if you were to get some one on one training with a good voice teacher that you might find you may possibly be a soprano. Women’s voices do undergo changes, albeit more subtle ones than men do. However, do not go with the assumption that singing higher implies more skill- it doesn’t! It’s about the size of your vocal chords, etc. You can’t change that! If you want to hear how amazing mezzos can be, go to youtube and listen to Joyce DiDonato- lookup her singing “Una voce poco fa” and then tell me that she doesn’t have serious skills and beauty in her voice ;) She is an American mezzo, and she is AMAZING!!! She has a channel on youtube where she has “talks” about singing etc that you might also find interesting.

      Hang in there. Choir is a collective effort. Try to focus on the overall outcome of the pieces you sing. If you spend your time wishing you were a soprano when you most likely aren’t, you won’t allow yourself to become the singer you could be!

  7. Hi, I’m almost a freshman in HS, and I can sing G3-C5 easily. But it’s hard for me to use vabratto and it feels forced. Also, I can’t decide if I’m an alto or mezzo surprano! I don’t have a strong belting voice at the moment, but I can hit some really pretty notes that sound great. Just wonding how to find my voice and what songs are within my range? Preferably songs from 1999+? Any answer is appreciated!

  8. I’m a freshman in HS and I have B1 to B5 what am I?

  9. There would also be lyric contralto and coluratura contralto as well, right?

  10. I’m a 12 year old girl. I sing about C3-C7. I can’t figure out my vocal range. I’ve been in soprano, mezzo, alto, contralto, countertenor, tenor, baritone, and baritone/bass. My choir teacher moves me around so much. I would really like to know my true vocal category. Many people hear my low notes and call me a boy, but hear my high notes and call me a soprano! What am I?

  11. Hi there I’m a sophomore in high school I’ve been in chior since the 5th grade and I have all most all ways sung 1st soprano, but I’ve sung both alto and 2nd soprano. I have a voice that’s loud enough to be heard over about 80 kids. I’ve been told I have a melodic, bell like voice(that reminds some people of snow white.) My range is g3 to e6. I would absolutely appreciate it if someone could provide some information on the classification of my voice. Thank you! :)

  12. I’m a college sophomore and have been singing for about 5 years but have never taken any sort of vocal lessons or participated in choir. I sing and teach tenors in Greek shows for my fraternity, but my modal range of approximately C2-G#4 and falsetto up to G5 makes me wonder exactly what my vocal range is. My tessitura lies in a more baritone range, but after good warmups I can project as far down Bb1 before hitting vocal fry and as high as Bb4 before my falsetto takes over. Am I truly a tenor or just a baritone with lighter color and a strangely wide range?

  13. I am a 17 year old soprano, but I don’t know what kind. My range extends from D#3-A6 (yes, A6, not a typo) I have sing repertoire for both soubrette roles and coloratura. My voice is very light and judges usually call it “sparkling” or “shimmery” — what voice type am I?

  14. I’m a 27 year old woman and I’m not really sure what voice type I am. I can hit A2 quite comfortably and I think C5 is as high as I can go. I have to switch to my head voice around F4. I would say that my lower range is perhaps warm, and much stronger than my head voice, which I feel can be breathy and weaker in comparison. I often lament that my voice range isn’t that big :(
    I think my speaking voice is usually higher than my singing voice, but it depends on who I’m talking to and how comfortable I am with that person (I’m very, very shy). The more shy I feel, the higher and softer my speaking voice is. If I’m feeling more comfortable, my voice transitions a lot from speaking softer and higher to a bit lower and deeper. It’s not something I can really control :/

  15. Hi! I’m a 13 year old male and my range goes from D3 to B6! My voice has ‘broken’ and I’m aware it doesnt stop changing until I’m 25. Before it ‘broke’, my range was B3 to F5(I didn’t have whistle register)
    My speaking voice was A4 or B4.
    My voice is smooth yet gritty in my chest voice(D3 to E4) to and my falsetto is very weak and airy(Bb3 to D5).
    My head voice has two sounds. One goes from D4 to E5. This one sounds full and smooth. The other happens once it hit a F5 to C6. This one sounds light and smooth.
    My whistle tones go from D6 to B6 and it has a smooth yet sqeaky sound to it. I have no trouble using it.
    My tessitura is SUPRISINGLY my ENTIRE RANGE. I’ve been singing for 6 years and I’ve become familiar with my entire range and voice.
    Overall I’d say my voice is a warm and high one.
    I speak in A#3/B3 always.
    I class myself as a countertenor as I don’t sing classical.
    Although, if I were to sing classical, what voice would I be? (NO I AM NOT A BARITONE)

    • Also I’m 5.6 tall and my build is in betwen skinny and muscular(I do ballet)
      EDIT: I can speak from a D3 to F4 when I speak hehe

  16. Hi. I took voice under Michael Rhodes, back in the early ’70s.(see Jonas Kaufmann) The Intendant of the Mainz house said that I was Charakterbaritone. Unfortunately, it all ended in ’75 with a return to the U.S. I made the mistake of hearing a performance on tape, & I sounded nasal & just horrible. Now I just sing along on YouTube presentations like, say with Erwin Schrott (expl. “Se vuol ballare”). My voice still has power & most of the old range, & some folks have remarked at odd occasions of “beautiful voice.” I just can’t appreciate it. I just can’t hear & believe what they say. Any words for a bruised operatic wanna-be/never-was? Any words of wisdom for those younger up&coming singers?

  17. A bit sad not to see Jugendlich-dramatischer Tenor on the list… some of the worlds best loved tenors have been of the Spinto fach, including Pavarotti…. The actual German system counts 31 different voice types for operatic casting. As a Spinto, I might “steal” a role here and there from the Charaktertenor or Lyrischer Tenor roles, but they likely don’t fit as well as a role written for the Spinto… the metal “edge” in the voice doesn’t really work as well for the lighter roles…

    • Stephen,

      I agree with you- spinto tenor is an exciting voice type to listen to because of that “edge” you talk about. Younger spintos are able to handle some lyric stuff early on, but eventually they have to stop as their voices “fill out”. A good friend of mine is a terrific “baby spinto tenor”, lol, and is 25. He is exciting to listen to, but I’m really looking forward to hearing him in a few years when his voice truly develops!

  18. My range is usually E below middle C to second E above middle C, but can change to Db below middle C to second D above middle C, so I think I’m a contralto. I struggle with high notes, and find it easier to sing in the lower part of my vocal range and my voice can sound quite dark sometimes and deep [for a girl, anyway]. I sometimes sing along to Adele, but usually to my favourite band, The Cure [and I know the singer is male].

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