- This article is related to a series of articles under the main article Voice type.
A bass is a male singer who sings in the lowest vocal range.
According to Grove Music Online, a bass is typically classified as having a range extending from around the F below small C to the E above middle C (i.e., F2–E4), with a tessitura, or comfortable range, normally ranging between the outermost lines of the bass clef.
Variations in bass range
However, cultural influence and individual variation create a wide variation in range and quality of bass singers. Parts for basses have included notes as low as the B-flat two octaves and a tone below middle C, for example in the Rachmaninov Vespers
, and the G below that (e.g. Measure 76 of Ne otverzhi mene
by Pavel Chesnokov
). Many basses have trouble reaching those notes, and the use of them in works by Slavic composers has led to the colloquial term "Russian bass" for an exceptionally deep-ranged basso profondo who can easily sing these notes. Some traditional Russian religious music calls for A2 (110 Hz) drone singing, which is doubled by A1
(55 Hz) in the rare occasion that a choir includes exceptionally gifted singers who can produce this very lowest of human voice pitches.
Basses also have trouble reaching the notes above middle C, according to Grove Music Online; however, many British composers such as Benjamin Britten have written parts for bass that center far higher than the bass tessitura (such as the first movement of his choral work Rejoice in the Lamb). The Harvard Dictionary of Music defines the range as being from the E below low C to middle C (i.e. E2–C4).
In choral music, voices are subdivided into first bass and second bass, no distinction being made between bass and baritone voices, in contrast to the three-fold (tenor-baritone-bass) categorization of solo voices. The exception is in arrangements for male choir (TTBB) and barbershop quartets (TLBB), which sometimes label the lowest two parts baritone and bass.
It is also common for men who are classified as "basses" (and have a full bass choral range) to have a speaking voice which may sound much higher than would be expected.
Bass roles in opera
In classical music
, and particularly in opera
, the following distinctions are often made among different kinds of bass voices:
Basso Cantante/Lyric High Bass/Lyric Bass-baritone
- Basso Cantante means 'singing bass'. Basso cantante is a higher, more lyrical voice. It is produced by a more Italianate vocal production with a faster vibrato. A lyric bass-baritone. for listings of baritone as well as bass roles.
- Duke Bluebeard Bluebeard's Castle by Bela Bartok
- Don Pizarro, Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven
- Count Rodolfo, La Sonnambula by Bellini
- Blitch, Susannah by Carlisle Floyd
- Méphistophélès, Faust by Charles Gounod
- Don Alfonso, Cosi fan tutte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Don Giovanni, Don Giovanni by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Figaro, The Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Boris, Boris Godunov by Modest Mussorgsky
- Silva, Ernani by Giuseppe Verdi
- Philip II, Don Carlos by Giuseppe Verdi
- Count Walter, Luisa Miller by Giuseppe Verdi
- Banquo, Macbeth by Giuseppe Verdi
- Zaccaria, Nabucco by Giuseppe Verdi
- Fiesco, Simon Boccanegra by Giuseppe Verdi
- Ferrando, Il trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi
- Daland, Der fliegende Holländer by Richard Wagner
Hoherbass/Dramatic High Bass/Dramatic Bass-baritone
- Hoherbass or "high bass" is a dramatic bass-baritone. for listings of baritone as well as bass roles.
- Jugendlicher Bass a young man (regardless of the age of the singer).
Basso Buffo/Bel Canto/Lyric Buffo
- Buffo, literally "funny," basses are lyrical roles but demand a solid coloratura technique. They are usually the antagonist or the comic relief in Bel Canto operas.
Schwerer Spielbass/Dramatic Buffo
- English equivalent: Dramatic comic bass
Lyric Basso Profondo
- English equivalent: lyric low bass
- Basso profondo, is the lowest bass voice type. According to J. B. Steane in "Voices, Singers & Critics", the basso profondo voice «derives from a method of tone-production that eliminates the more Italian quick vibrato. In its place is a kind of tonal solidity, a wall-like front, which may nevertheless prove susceptible to the other kind of vibrato, the slow beat or dreaded wobble».
Dramatic Basso Profondo
- English equivalent: Dramatic low bass. Dramatic Basso Profondo is a powerful basso profondo voice.
Bass roles in Gilbert and Sullivan operettas
Some prominent operatic basses on disc