There are several types of solo soprano voice, including 'coloratura', 'lyric' and 'dramatic'. Child singers should also be mentioned, and all will have a soprano voice (usually called 'treble').

The approximate ranges of the various voices are as follows: Coloratura: C4 - Eb6 Lyric: Bb3 - C6 Dramatic: Ab3 - C6 (Children's voices range from C4-D5 (for untrained voices) and possibly up as high as C6 for trained singers.) The coloratura has a high-pitched, clear voice, and is generally expected to take virtuosic lines.

The lyric soprano has a full voice that works best in the middle register, and the dramatic soprano has a big, strong voice that works well across all the registers.

The mezzo-soprano is a separate voice, and includes 'coloratura', 'lyric' and 'dramatic', as with sopranos. However, the ranges are lower and, most importantly, the vocal quality is different. In general, the mezzo has a fuller sound in the low to mid-register, and is more comfortable singing in that area. The mezzo-soprano range is from G3 - Bb5.

The dramatic mezzo has a very strong low register, whereas the coloratura is strongest and most versatile in the high register. A choir will generally contain a mixture of the above voices and will probably include some mezzo-sopranos.

The soprano section could be divided into two, in which case the ranges will be: Sopranos 1: D4 - G5 (with A5 as an extra high note) Sopranos 2: Bb3 - F5 (These ranges, and the best way to write for the choir, will of course depend upon the voices available).

More correctly called the 'contralto', the alto voice is generally darker in quality than the sopranos. The range is lower too: soloists have a range from about F3 - Gb5. The alto voice is predominantly a chest voice, and consequently is less agile than a soprano. A typical choir will contain a roughly equal number of sopranos and altos, and the range of the choral alto will be from about G3 - C5.

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]