Who's that powerful and bright male vocal part that is piercing through the entire choir? It's probably a lovely tenor's voice.
I like to rag on tenors for always being loud and sometimes being obnoxious, but the truth is that a true tenor's voice amazingly shines like no other vocal part. The tenor vocal range has so much magic that other voice parts often envy.
The name tenor doesn't have an obvious connection to the voice part like the name alto or the name soprano. A "tenor" voice is derived from the Latin word "tenere", which is translated to mean "to hold".
Somewhere around the years 1250 and 1500, the tenor part was named to be the part that was actually held the longest.
Over time, this part became heavily associated with a male's vocal part. Even in modern times, a tenor voice is known to be the cantor and holds long notes in the Catholic mass.
Most men have voices that fall in the baritone range, which is the range between tenor and bass. Some baritones try to force some tenor notes, which can cause them to belt pretty harshly and risk falling flat on higher notes.
When you find a true tenor with control over his high notes, it is surely a treat to hear! It also might be hard to get him ever to stop singing, especially to woo someone in a crowd.
Tenors and baritones alike are known for having killer falsetto notes in their range that are separate from their full vocal range.
The gift of falsetto is what also allows many baritones to get away with some sweet tenor notes without overworking their voice. Guys that happen to be able to sing very high are often referred to as countertenors in classical music styles.
A common vocal range for tenors in music is C3 to C5. Some people lower the top-end range to a B4 instead of C5 because it's such a challenge for guys to hit a high C in their chest voice.
Either way, the tenor range is pretty small compared to other ranges. This doesn't mean that tenors are limited to notes in this range only. They often have lower notes than these (especially if it's secretly a baritone posing as a tenor).
This is where my jealousy comes in for the tenors the most. They often have sweet high and low notes with a resonance that I can't duplicate!
Either way, altos are known for having to sing tenor in choir from time to time since their voice parts are pretty close. Also, as I said before, tenors are a rare breed.
Related Post: Understanding All Vocal Ranges For Singers
Here are some true tenor examples for you to get an idea of the range for this voice type. I added tenor names from several different genres, including classical, country, R&B, and pop singers!
Prepare yourself to work hard for the high notes you'll find in their songs, and don't be afraid to challenge yourself as long as you don't overwork yourself and your voice box.
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