[LMB] words for voices

Ursula uleubner at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 6 13:15:56 BST 2017

From: "Gordon Jackson" <gordon at gordonj.net>
Subject: Re: [LMB] words for voices
To: "'Discussion of the works of Lois McMaster Bujold.'"
    <lois-bujold at lists.herald.co.uk>
Message-ID: <01b101d326e1$1a4fc990$4eef5cb0$@gordonj.net>
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A quick google reveals the below 8 ranges:

Voice Type: Soprano, Range: B3 ? G6.
Voice Type: Mezzo-Soprano, Range: G3 ? A5.
Voice Type: Contralto, Range: E3 ? F5.
Voice Type: Countertenor, Range: G3 ? C6.
Voice Type: Tenor, Range: C3 ? B4.
Voice Type: Baritone, Range: G2 ? G4.
Voice Type: Bass, Range: D2 ? E4.

Recalling from my days of being married to a singing teacher the 8 ranges are correct in their relative positions although authorities can differ in the actual notes each voice is expected to sing. Humans are so variable, after all. 

I agree with this list, mostly.  Although I see "alto" used more often than "contralto" and sometimes the two are distinguished between, with alto slightly higher than contralto.
It is also a gendered list.  Soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto and contralto are women's voices, countertenor, tenor, baritone and bass are men's.
If all the parts are not used, you'll see choirs divided in parts in relation to each other, not based strictly on range.  So the first split in women's parts will generally be labeled soprano/alto, the first split in men's would be tenor/bass, and the other names used to fill in as needed as parts continue to divide.
So a mixed choir would be in unison, men's/women's, soprano/alto/tenor/bass, soprano (or soprano 1)/mezzo-soprano (soprano 2)/alto/tenor (tenor 1)/ baritone (tenor 2)/bass.
For five part harmony, (as often mentioned in the five gods books) I'd probably expect the women's voices to divide before the men's - most choirs in our world tend to have more women than men.  So it would be a soprano 1, soprano 2, alto, tenor, bass. 
Although, since the Bastard tends to be androgynous, perhaps they'd do soprano, alto, a mixed contralto/countertenor section, tenor, and bass? 
All of this is based on experience with choral singing, in the US.  
- Ursula

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