Bass (vocal range)
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<music> \meterOff \cadenzaOn \clef bass f,,4 \glissando s c </music>
The bass range
A bass will generally be most comfortable singing from about A2 to A3, though this is a very conservative range - most choral scores expect a range from the E above middle C to E2 below. A choral bass section will consist of voices that may be technically classified as basses, bass-baritones, baritones, and, occasionally. baritone-tenor splits. This ensures that most members of the section will be able to sing notes at the extremities of range.
The bass is the lowest voice in the standard four-part chorus or choir, and in the male voice choir. In the common-practice tradition it usually provides the root of the harmony.
Splitting basses into higher and lower divisi is a fairly common practice, especially in modern times, due to an ability to access a much broader range safely by grouping low basses on one note and high basses (baritones) on another. Lower basses can sing as low as C#2, depending on the choir, and there are some traditions, notably the Russian Orthodox church, which emphasise cultivating extremely low bass voices. Low voices may have trouble, especially at quieter dynamics, with notes around and above middle C. A Bass 1, sometimes called the "baritone" section, should be able to manage these ledger line notes more easily, up to about an E4/F4. While baritones can reach G2 fairly consistently, the ability to actually project this note diminishes, and higher basses should, advisably, be kept below E3, as the tenor part can fill this register more reliably. The split bass section may sing at a wide interval according to harmonic principles or close together for a thicker and muddier tessatura in the low register.
Loud dynamics at the lower extremes of the bass range become more and more difficult; below an A2 (approx.), a true "forte" dynamic will be next to impossible. However, the lower extremes - especially in strong intervals, like fifths or octaves - tend to ring out and be heard even above a loud, high soprano section. Also to note, even though bass 2's "specialize" in low notes, the vocalist may become exhausted if stuck singing in an extreme range for too long, so the bulk of a bass 2 part should be on the staff, to be safe.
As mentioned previously, basses that can sing lower than two octaves below middle C (C2), or even lower, are known as "Basso Profundos" or colloquially as "Russian Basses," due to the extreme low part writing for basses from Russian composers in the Orthodox tradition. This has led to the unique sound of the all-male Russian church choir which includes conventional basses and tenors. Many contemporary composers have attempted to imitate this music with a conventional mixed choir.
In opera, the bass is traditionally assigned the role of the villain, or at least it is rare for a bass rather than a tenor to sing the main character. This is most likely due to the deeper range: it suggests an older and less agile character and is less capable of virtuoso displays than the higher voice. However, leading roles for bass do exist in the opera repertoire.
|Instruments and Voices|
|Woodwinds||Flute (Piccolo/Alto/Bass) • Recorder • Oboe (Cor Anglais/Oboe D'amore/Heckelphone) • Clarinet (E♭/Bass/Contrabass) •|
|Brass||Horn • Cornet • Trumpet • Trombone • Euphonium • Tuba • Saxhorns|
|Keyboards||Piano • Organ • Harmonium • Harpsichord • Clavichord • Celesta • Accordion|
|Percussion||Tuned: Timpani • Glockenspiel • Chimes • Vibraphone • Xylophone • Marimba • Crotales • Musical saw • Hammered Dulcimer
Untuned: Snare drum • Bass drum • Triangle • Cymbals • Gongs • Tom-toms • Shakers • Drumset
|Electronic||Theremin • Ondes Martenot • Synthesizer • Electronic Wind Instrument|
|Stringed||Bowed: Violin • Viola • Violoncello • Contrabass|
|Voices||Female: Soprano • Mezzo-soprano (often mistaken with Alto) • Contralto (often mistaken with Alto)
Male: Treble • Countertenor • Tenor • Baritone • Bass-baritone • Bass