Originally, most singers fell comfortably within one of the four basic voice types:
SOPRANO - CONTRALTO - TENOR - BASS
Since the middle of the 19th century, however,
the four categories have been expanded and subdivided to indicate not only the singer’s approximate range, but also the relative weight of his voice and in many cases, the type of music for which he is particularly
This has led to additional categories:
BARITONE - MEZZO-SOPRANO - BASS-BARITONE
A further subcategorization is the ‘German Fach System’.
It is a system which categorizes singers by certain voice types, or ‘Fächer’ (pl. of ‘Fach’), in order to help the singers in the preparation of roles that are well suited for them. It tries to categorize voices by vocal weight and color. A certain subcategorization appears to have some artistic justification, since vocal music frequently requires specific tonal weights, textures and coloration.
The ‘German Fach System’ seems to be rather structured, but many roles can be sung by more than one ‘Fach.’
It depends on the vocal and personal ability of the singer, on conscientious vocal coaches, advisers, conductors and producers!
The ‘German Fach System’ is a subjective framework!
Beyond all categorization and subcategorization, a singer has to learn to
choose roles that are well within his physical capabilities, that means, the singer has to find out by himself what is good for him and what is not!
“Singing is not about timbres or category labels, singing is about fascinating acoustical properties like the colors of the human voice which derive from
thought and emotion.” (Thomas Hampson)