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View Full Version : Singers with really small ranges?


EmilyG
12-10-2012, 06:54 PM
We all know that singers like Bobby McFerrin and Mariah Carey are known for their large vocal ranges, but are there any famous singers out there who have really small ranges?

(Not sure if this belongs in GQ or Cafe Society.)

Ethilrist
12-10-2012, 06:57 PM
Well, Julie Andrews is limited to less than octave these days...

Rollo Tomasi
12-10-2012, 07:04 PM
She wasn't a professional singer, but Audrey Hepburn. For Breakfast at Tiffany's, "Moon River" was written specifically to fit her very limited range.

gaffa
12-10-2012, 07:30 PM
Two words: Lou Reed. As far as I can tell, Lou has a range of two notes. It's like he's speaking and shifting pitch on some words.

These days, Bob Dylan may be just as limited.

Scarlett67
12-10-2012, 07:33 PM
ISTR hearing that Ringo Starr has a very limited singing range.

RealityChuck
12-10-2012, 08:42 PM
Sam Levine originated the role of Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls. He had a very poor singing voice; the only song he sang a solo part in the show was "Sue Me." Levine had such trouble getting on key that Frank Loesser wrote the song with a lead up to the chorus (several notes before the words "Sue Me," which is where the song originally began). By singing up to those notes, Levine was able to sing the melody.

When the time came to made a movie, Frank Sinatra -- who clearly had a fine singing voice -- was given the role (and a few more songs). It seemed odd casting to put him in a role made for an actor who couldn't sing and he wanted to change places with Marlon Brando as Sky Masterson.


Rex Harrison also had a limited vocal range; he developed the sing/speaking for My Fair Lady to get around it.

zombywoof
12-10-2012, 08:48 PM
You might be interested to know there's an entire forum (http://therangeplace.forummotions.com/f1-range-stuff) dedicated to discussing vocal ranges of popular singers.

don't ask
12-10-2012, 09:05 PM
Just about any blues singer would qualify. Singers like Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith only had about an octave range in their prime.

Brian Johnston of AC/DC sings in a tiny range at the extreme limits of his voice. He used to exhibit a wider range with his previous band so it may be that he can't manage it any more.

garygnu
12-10-2012, 09:07 PM
Uncle Kracker seems to stay within a single octave or so.

WordMan
12-10-2012, 09:10 PM
Tracy Chapman and Natalie Merchant come to mind - pleasant voices that never get much beyond...pleasant.

pravnik
12-10-2012, 09:40 PM
Joey Ramone.

Jonathan Chance
12-10-2012, 10:21 PM
Joan Jett, baby. Two notes: high...low.

Yet it all works.

PlainJain
12-11-2012, 12:59 AM
John Davidson.

the_diego
12-11-2012, 01:46 AM
John Davidson.
Really? During one televised concert he was kinda rangey; from "Last Dance" in baritone to "Cat's Cradle" semi-vocalized.

Jamicat
12-11-2012, 02:07 AM
Lemmy? :cool:

Satellite^Guy
12-11-2012, 05:33 AM
Neil Young.

JKellyMap
12-11-2012, 05:44 AM
Neil Young.

Not from what I can tell (unless his range has severely diminished recently, and you're referring to his current state). Average range, that just happens to be centered at a higher-pitched place than most male voices.

Eliahna
12-11-2012, 06:41 AM
Norah Jones?

panache45
12-11-2012, 07:32 AM
Lauren Bacall in Woman of the Year. Even within her tiny range, she's never in tune. At least she has admitted that she's not a singer . . . as if there were any doubt.

Alessan
12-11-2012, 08:30 AM
Johnny Cash.

Leaffan
12-11-2012, 08:53 AM
Johnny Cash.

That's a good answer.

I always thought Jim Morrison sang within a very narrow spectrum too.

lost4life
12-11-2012, 09:08 AM
Kid Rock seems to have a one note range. Then there's me, but I never let a lack of talent stop me.

Chefguy
12-11-2012, 09:14 AM
I always thought Stevie Nicks had a narrow range.

Exapno Mapcase
12-11-2012, 09:39 AM
Huge numbers of actors playing teenagers on TV in the 1950s were ordered to make records to cash in on the rock 'n' roll craze. But Ricky Nelson was an exception in that he could sing. Shelly Fabares and Dwyane Hickman were so bad that the producers had to cut together the finished songs out of dozens of pieces to get something in tune. Worked for her, not him. "Johnny Angel" is a great song. But it has "Glen Campbell and Carol Kaye on guitar, Hal Blaine on drums, and Darlene Love and the Blossoms on backup vocals." I'm not sure how you'd work out any range for any of those fake singers.

Labdad
12-11-2012, 10:59 AM
Two words: Lou Reed. As far as I can tell, Lou has a range of two notes. It's like he's speaking and shifting pitch on some words.

Lou Reed was the first person who came to mind when I read the thread title as well.

Seanette
12-11-2012, 11:11 AM
I don't get the impression of very many different vocal notes by Neil Diamond, just changes of volume.

jasg
12-11-2012, 11:20 AM
William Shatner ;)

dataguy
12-11-2012, 01:55 PM
Frank Sinatra

I didn't realize this until I was singing along with a CD of his greatest hits. His range is just about one octave.

cjepson
12-11-2012, 03:37 PM
Grace Slick has said that she had a range of about four notes, but in that range, she was fabulous.

astorian
12-11-2012, 03:43 PM
I don't get the impression of very many different vocal notes by Neil Diamond, just changes of volume.

He never had enormous range, but today? It's even worse. Unlike many aging singers who can no longer hit high notes, Neil can no longer hit low notes. Hence, he either shouts many of his songs or leads the fans in a sing-along.

cher3
12-11-2012, 03:48 PM
I've only heard the few songs they repeat endlessly on the radio, but it seems like Adele has a really small range. She gets into the squeaky zone a lot.

GrandWino
12-11-2012, 04:46 PM
Not what the OP is asking for, but I think it fits in the general discussion...

Miles Davis invented the "Cool" style of jazz mostly because of his limited chops at trumpet. He started playing in big bands when he was pretty young and destroyed his embouchure in the process (it didn't develop properly, which is why most horn players do not start seriously playing until at least 13 or so). Because of his limited chops, he developed his own style of jazz that fit his limited speed and range on the horn.. and thus, Cool Jazz was born.

GrandWino
12-11-2012, 04:48 PM
I've only heard the few songs they repeat endlessly on the radio, but it seems like Adele has a really small range. She gets into the squeaky zone a lot.

According to the forum linked to above, here's what they have on Adele (http://therangeplace.forummotions.com/t78-adele?highlight=adele). Someone else will have to say how this range compares to other singers.


Voice type: Alto
Sung range: C3-B5
Total range: C3-E6

Significant high notes:

E6 ("First Love")
B5 ("Melt My Heart to Stone")
E5 ("Someone Like You")
D5 ("Daydreamer", "Set Fire to the Rain", "I'll Be Waiting", "Someone Like You")
C♯5 ("Hometown Glory", )
C5 ("Skyfall", "Set Fire to the Rain", "Rolling in the Deep", "One and Only", "Take It All")

Significant low notes:

C3 ("He Won't Go")
C♯3 ("Rumour Has It")
D3 ("Right as Rain", "First Love", "Rumour Has It", "I'll Be Waiting", "Melt My Heart to Stone")

Starving Artist
12-11-2012, 04:49 PM
Elvis Presley? Undeniable star power but he never seemed that great of a singer to me, nor does his voice seem that rangey. But then I have a tin ear so what do I know?

GrandWino
12-11-2012, 04:50 PM
Frank Sinatra

I didn't realize this until I was singing along with a CD of his greatest hits. His range is just about one octave.

Sinatra: (http://therangeplace.forummotions.com/t666-frank-sinatra?highlight=sinatra)

Voice type: Baritone
Vocal range: D2-G♯4


So that's what, about 2 1/2 octaves?

Kamino Neko
12-11-2012, 05:20 PM
ISTR hearing that Ringo Starr has a very limited singing range.

Yup. With a Little Help From My Friends is famously written around his limited range.

I assume the other originals he did were, as well, but that's the one I've seen cited repeatedly.

(As to the covers...Act Naturally, I think Ringo actually demonstrates a broader range than Buck Owens, who recorded it first...)

dataguy
12-11-2012, 05:27 PM
Sinatra: (http://therangeplace.forummotions.com/t666-frank-sinatra?highlight=sinatra)

So that's what, about 2 1/2 octaves?

Thanks for that link. I'm not arguing with the range cited, but I noticed that the only song that appears in both the list of significant high notes and the list significant low notes is Old Man River. I'm not familiar with his rendition, but now I will give it a listen.

Anyway, I think my impression of his limited range stems from the fact that in most of his songs he does tend to remain in the same general register throughout. Try singing along with him sometime.

GreenElf
12-11-2012, 05:32 PM
I read somewhere on the internet that Johnny Mathis' smooth vocals are limited to one range, and quickly thinking about it, yeah, that seems about right. Mark Knopfler has a speaking style of singing similar to Dylan, and doesn't seem to have a wide vocal range or use it much if he does have it. Along similar lines, maybe Tom Waits.

GrandWino
12-11-2012, 05:33 PM
Anyway, I think my impression of his limited range stems from the fact that in most of his songs he does tend to remain in the same general register throughout. Try singing along with him sometime.

Yeah, I doubt he challenged himself a lot. I'm sure he liked to just stick to his comfort range.

I love singing along w/ Sinatra because of how he keeps it in that comfort zone, it's right in my ballpark.

Cat Whisperer
12-11-2012, 05:36 PM
We all know that singers like Bobby McFerrin and Mariah Carey are known for their large vocal ranges, but are there any famous singers out there who have really small ranges?

(Not sure if this belongs in GQ or Cafe Society.)Just a mostly on-topic aside; for all the things Prince is known for, it surprises me that his vocal range isn't one of them - B1 to C#7 for his total range. (http://therangeplace.forummotions.com/t425-prince)

EmilyG
12-11-2012, 05:39 PM
I've been wondering what Billie Joe Armstrong's range is. I find it easy for me to sing along with most Green Day songs, and I was wondering if he and I have really similar ranges, or if perhaps he just has a relatively small range.

My singing range isn't too big - the E below middle C to about the D above the C above middle C.

Evil Captor
12-11-2012, 06:08 PM
Leonard Cohen.

gaffa
12-11-2012, 06:54 PM
I've been wondering what Billie Joe Armstrong's range is. I find it easy for me to sing along with most Green Day songs, and I was wondering if he and I have really similar ranges, or if perhaps he just has a relatively small range.
All the Beatles had fairly limited ranges, and I believe that helped make them so successful as pop songwriters - pretty much anyone can sing any Beatles song.

the_diego
12-11-2012, 07:07 PM
Frank Sinatra

I didn't realize this until I was singing along with a CD of his greatest hits. His range is just about one octave.
Try singing "The Lady is a Tramp" in just one octave. It's his songs, not his voice range.

sco3tt
12-11-2012, 07:20 PM
MC Hawking (https://youtube.com/watch?v=0YlTvOPQSlM)

Chefguy
12-11-2012, 08:05 PM
Freddy Mercury was a piker at four octaves.

C. Montgomery Burns
12-11-2012, 08:14 PM
Elvis Presley? Undeniable star power but he never seemed that great of a singer to me, nor does his voice seem that rangey. But then I have a tin ear so what do I know?

Elvis actually had a pretty decent range. You can hear it on his gospel records. Listen to "Milky White Way" and then "I John".

The Second Stone
12-11-2012, 08:22 PM
Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead could manage one note. See "Box of Rain"

Leaffan
12-11-2012, 08:26 PM
All the Beatles had fairly limited ranges, and I believe that helped make them so successful as pop songwriters - pretty much anyone can sing any Beatles song.

Completely and utterly disagree. George and Ringo, as part time singers perhaps, but John and Paul were all over the map.

Compare John in "Twist and Shout" to "I Want You (She's so Heavy)." In the former he rips his vocal chords out and gives it everything he's got, and in the latter he's laid back, more baritone and bluesy, and he's got everything in between. On "Just Like Starting Over" he goes from Elvis impersonator to his usual familiar nasal tone and back throughout the song.

Paul is a wonderful singer who took inspiration from Little Richard for his high-pitched "OOOOOOOOs" and shows a wide range on "Oh Darling" and "You Never Give Me Your Money."

These guys are almost the antithesis of limited range, IMHO.

Starving Artist
12-11-2012, 08:36 PM
Elvis actually had a pretty decent range. You can hear it on his gospel records. Listen to "Milky White Way" and then "I John". I just did, and what a nice surprise! I hadn't listened to any of Elvis' gospel stuff before and those were good tunes. I think I might have to change my mind.

I'll be going back to listen to more of his gospel stuff, that's for sure. I wasn't mature enough to appreciate it back in the day. Thanks for the horizon-broadening. :)

the_diego
12-11-2012, 08:51 PM
Thinking of the Bee Gees: does falsetto consist of only one octave?

Leaffan
12-11-2012, 08:53 PM
Thinking of the Bee Gees: does falsetto consist of only one octave?
Are you familiar with the Bee Gees work prior to the disco era? They had some fantastic pop songs in the day, of all octaves!

the_diego
12-11-2012, 09:34 PM
Where are the Girls? Yeah, those were the days.

GreenElf
12-11-2012, 11:10 PM
Paul is a wonderful singer who took inspiration from Little Richard for his high-pitched "OOOOOOOOs" and shows a wide range on "Oh Darling" and "You Never Give Me Your Money."

These guys are almost the antithesis of limited range, IMHO.

Agreed. I can sing most popular songs without too much problem, maybe some adjustments here and there. A lot of Paul McCartney songs have a wide vocal range with high tones for a guy to hit. His stuff is typically more difficult than average to sing for limited range folks such as myself. I usually have to lower either the chorus or verse an octave to get through it without straining too much. Lennon could hit some higher notes too in songs such as In My Life.

Richard Pearse
12-11-2012, 11:41 PM
Roger Waters has a limited range, unfortunately he seems quite fond of going outside it.

Doug K.
12-12-2012, 09:54 AM
Fred Schneider seems to have a range of nearly a minor second.

GargoyleWB
12-13-2012, 08:03 AM
Roger Waters has a limited range, unfortunately he seems quite fond of going outside it.

Waters is an interesting case. I'd agree that, for the bulk of his performance career, he had very limited range either due to young inexperience, or older vocal age/damage.

He had a very short sweet spot though, peaking right at The Final Cut, book-ended by The Wall and Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking, where he showed an incredible range. I'd compare his range to Billy Joel or Ian Anderson in their prime. Prior to these, he was simply outdone in comparison to Gilmour's superior range. Afterward to these, he still had the emotional expression, but his vocal chords were shredded into near-monotone.

Kamino Neko
12-13-2012, 08:34 AM
Are you familiar with the Bee Gees work prior to the disco era? They had some fantastic pop songs in the day, of all octaves!

Or the stuff post-disco (specifically the stuff from just before Maurice died).

Hell, even the disco stuff isn't all the heavy falsetto of Stayin' Alive. How Deep Is Your Love is generally on the high side, but within a natural vocal range for the most part.

Sicks Ate
12-13-2012, 08:53 AM
I was singing along with Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" in the car yesterday. It struck me that I wasn't having problems hitting any notes, and I have a very small range.

So: Eddie Vedder.

Dkg2u
06-26-2017, 10:33 PM
I love the discussion. I'd just say that it's not so much how many octaves you can sing, but more what you can do with the music to thrill your audience, then that's the ticket. Elvis could sing 2.25 octaves but could make love with his low baritone and get you dancing with his higher baritone to low tenor. Frank Sinatra had more vocal dexterity than range. Jazz singers have an agility that keeps us engaged. Johnny Cash was a bass-baritone but the resonance of the voice made his ballads immensely enjoyable. I thing Tom Waits is more about texture than range. Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen smoked and drank their way to change their voice to what we have heard in their later years.

Dale Sams
06-27-2017, 12:56 AM
Not from what I can tell (unless his range has severely diminished recently, and you're referring to his current state). Average range, that just happens to be centered at a higher-pitched place than most male voices.

Yeah i'm not seeing it. He goes near falsetto on A Man Needs A Maid (https://youtube.com/watch?v=JOuQywiRUJo)

And still holds the notes. Granted barely.

aceplace57
06-27-2017, 01:48 AM
I love Jim Croce. He created wonderful characters in his songs. I have two songbooks of his music. It stays within an octave. It's more of a speaking style.

Alan Jackson is a baritone. He stays within an octave. But he's far more versitile than Croce. I like singing Alan's material. It's in my comfort song of singing.

As others point out. You don't need a large vocal range to make music that people love.

A large range does give more flexibility in the songs an artist sings.

TYphoonSignal8
06-27-2017, 01:56 AM
Drake. Two notes. Flat and slightly flatter.

jaycat
06-27-2017, 10:11 PM
Considering that he was one of the best popular singers ever, Nat King Cole had a pretty limited range.

AHunter3
06-27-2017, 10:17 PM
Judging from "Strong Enough", Cher has a range of 3 notes.

Acsenray
06-27-2017, 10:39 PM
Drake. Two notes. Flat and slightly flatter.



O god yes. I can't stand him. Every track sounds the same with those one-and-a-half notes.

John DiFool
06-28-2017, 09:34 AM
Judging from "Strong Enough", Cher has a range of 3 notes.

Her vocoder tho has a 6 octave range.

astorian
06-29-2017, 09:57 AM
I don't get the impression of very many different vocal notes by Neil Diamond, just changes of volume.

He used to have more range, but he's now at a point where he shouts a lot of the words instead of singing them, because he can't hit high notes OR (more importantly) the low notes that used to define him.

Weisshund
06-29-2017, 05:12 PM
ISTR hearing that Ringo Starr has a very limited singing range.

What?

Are you daft? or deaf
Just listen to the wonderful vocal ranges presented in WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS or YELLOW SUBMARINE, he must be spanning...

....ummm


....yea nevermind, i got nuthin:D

TreacherousCretin
06-29-2017, 06:04 PM
Yoko.

Silver lining
06-29-2017, 07:51 PM
Madonna.

Her voice is pretty average with limited range. F3-C5 which is about 1.5 octaves

Debillw3
06-29-2017, 10:49 PM
Both of the ones I was thinking were already covered: William Shatner & Neil Diamond (today, anyway).

In fact, both "sing" in pretty much the same style...

Enuma Elish
06-30-2017, 06:31 AM
I'm not sure what the intent of the original OP was, but if it was that vocal range equated to 'good singing', then Yma Sumac must be the best singer of all time...........................

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