The countertenor voice has seen a great revival in recent years. This is a highly developed head voice, with its own means of production. The voice was used a great deal during the 18th Century, but fell from favour until its recent revival. The range is from approximately G3 - F#5 or above. The sound is pure and quite powerful.
The Russian Bass is a specialist voice with an extreme low register, descending as far as G1. The voice most often appears in Russian Orthodox church music, but occasionally very low basses appear in other contexts.
Space does not permit us to explore all the many thousands of distinctive kinds of folk singing. Such voices are relatively rarely combined with orchestras. However, the many different kinds of 'popular' singer often use orchestral backing, and it is probably true to say that these are the most familiar voices of all. The word 'popular' is used here purely for convenience, and should be understood to encompass all forms of popular and commercial music, including jazz, rock, pop etc. 'Pop' music is, of course, a fairly narrow genre within this field.
The important characteristic of a popular singer's voice is an instantly recognisable, distinctive quality. This often means that any vocal training is designed to enhance these characteristics, rather than to develop the voice in general towards one of the categories described on the other pages in this section. For this reason, it is normal for popular singers to use amplification, and often some form of signal processing when they sing, since balance (especially with an orchestra) is often an issue. To give but two examples, compare the falsetto voice of Barry Gibb, lead singer with the Bee Gees, with the low growl of Tom Waits. Both artists frequently use orchestral backing.
Finally, mention should be made of the castrati, who were castrated as children so that the 'purity' of their voices would be preserved as adults. This bizarre practice was highly prized in its day, but now all that remains are a few recordings, of which the most celebrated are those by Alessandro Moreschi (1858-1922). Castration was banned in the 19th century.
The Orchestra: A User's Manual is a free resource and will remain so. It still receives between 8,000 and 16,000 unique visits per month from all over the world. See the testimonials. Thanks to all the donations, I have been able to create this responsive re-design. But the movies and sound clips recorded in 2004 do show their age. I would really like to re-record everything and add many more techniques, especially for solo and ensemble writing. I estimate this will cost around £50,000. If you know a source of such funds, please contact me: a.hugill [at] bathspa.ac.uk