Determining Your Singing Level: Range, Leaps, and High Notes
Three factors to consider when determining your singing level are your range, your ability to take leaps and your high note range. Assessing yourself honestly in these factors will help you pick appropriate singing material.
Considering your range
If your range is about eight notes, a beginner song works for you. An intermediate song has a range less than two octaves, and an advanced song may have a range wider than two octaves.
An octave is eight white notes on the piano, and two octaves are 16 white notes apart. To go up an octave from a black key, find the next black key in the same pair of two or three black notes.
How comfortable are you singing big leaps in a melody? Many beginner songs move in stepwise motion, which means that the notes in the melody are right next to each other. An example you may know is “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Yes, it’s a nursery rhyme, but try singing it — you’ll notice that most of the notes are right next to each other, and that’s stepwise motion.
Intermediate songs have bigger leaps of skipping five or six notes, and advanced songs can have leaps up to eight notes, or an octave. Wider intervals (the distance between two notes) challenge your ear. Spend some time working the larger intervals in a song to make sure that your throat stays open, your breath is flowing consistently, and your larynx stays steady.
Singing wider intervals also makes you listen more. If you figure out the wider intervals, you’re more likely to repeat that sound when you see the same interval in your next song.
What’s the highest note you can sing successfully? Suppose that your highest note is F5, or the top line on the treble clef staff. Then consider these strategies:
If you’re a beginner, you want to choose a song that has most notes below D5 or E5 and maybe only one F5.
If you’re an intermediate singer with the same range, you want to choose a song that has one or two opportunities to sing that F5.
If you’re an advanced singer, you know your voice well enough to determine how many times you can sing that F5 with ease. A soprano may sing her highest note four to five times in an advanced song, but a mezzo may want only one or two repetitions of her highest note.
The same is true for a tenor and a baritone or bass; the tenor can handle more repetitions of those high notes than a baritone or bass.