Adele has a rich mezzo-soprano voice that many will also refer to as an alto vocal powerhouse. The difference between altos and mezzos can be confusing because different genres refer to vocal ranges as different terms. In classical terms, singers would classify her as a mezzo since they say that alto range isn't really a thing, but in the pop world, we'd say she's a powerhouse alto! Adele has so much power in her voice that she could fill a room like an opera singer with no mic required.
Adele's vocal range spans three full octaves, from a low C3 to a high C6. She really shines in her lower range and mid-range belts and head voice, delivering a lot of emotional intensity to her performances. She doesn't use her falsetto that often, which could stretch her high notes a bit more, but it's not necessary for her blues singing style.
Some confuse her for a contralto because of the richness of her low notes, but they aren't really that low when you think of it, similar to Whitney Houston's tone. When we take into account all of her song releases (without studying each and every live performance), her lowest note sang is a C3 in the performance for "Million Years Ago" as heard in the first verse. It's a surprise to hear her lowest note in a live performance vs. a studio performance, which is a testament to her singing skill.
Adele's high range has gotten some criticism from music professionals due to her approach to her higher belts and her head voice, but she can pretty much get away with it for most ears because of her beautiful tone and the intensity of her emotions and lyrics. Her powerful belts go up to a D5, as heard in the clip above in "Why Do You Love Me", then she starts doing a mixed and head voice for her higher notes.
Her highest notes are often a topic of debate, so I wanted to do a deep dive and hear how far she goes in her head voice when it comes to her studio and popular live performances. Adele gives little samples of her head voice here and there, but she rarely does it and often hides high notes in her backing vocals. The song "Water Under The Bridge" features a gospel choir in the background, where high notes from a lone voice, including a C6, are clearly heard toward the end. I'm not 100% sure if that's Adele singing or a singer from the choir on those notes, but I imagine Adele has it in her, and the timbre matches her full tone.
In 2011, Adele suffered vocal damage from a live performance on a radio show, which caused her to get vocal cord surgery. This was before many of her successful releases, which may contribute to why she doesn't push her upper range much at all. She also has a very demanding tour schedule that has likely damaged her voice over time, especially since her technique is more of something she developed on her own and not with formal training. Her newer song releases, including "Easy On Me" and "Oh My God" seem to take it easy on her vocal cords without taking away from her talent.
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