How to Sing Tenor Professionally

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Tenor is singing classical song on stage.
A Tenor singer is singing on the stage.

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Tenor is the highest male singing voice within the vocal register. There are three types of singing tenor voice for both female and male singers. However, there are some differences on singing tenor for male singers. Singers comfortable in high register, singers comfortable in the low register and singers comfortable in the mid register. This is not to say that they don’t sing the other registers, it is just their comfortable range and hence songs are chosen to suit the voice.

What Is Tenor Voice?

The “tenor” terminology is derived from the word “tenere” from Latin, which refers to “holding.”  During the Medieval and Renaissance times, the art singing in tenor was considered a holding or fundamental voice and a vocal or instrumental music in the so-called polyphony, which existed sometime between 1250 and 1500.

During that time, any other voices were considered in relation to tenor, which was usually performed in values of longer notes, and possessed a kind of “Cantus firmus” melody which was borrowed.  Up to the 15th century when contratenot bassus was introduced, tenor was regarded as the lower voice in singing.  It assumed the role of giving a harmonic foundation to singing.

Moreover, it is also known that the tenor aimed to represent the male voice singing those songs during the 15th century.  There are many famous tenor singers. So, in the earlier repertoire, if you’re learning how to sing tenor and you see a line that has a marking of tenor, it usually referred to the part’s role; not the type of voice that was required.

Therefore, even during the later part of the 18th century, there were partbooks that contained the tenor label, also having parts of various types of voices.

What Make A Good Tenor Singer?

The tenor is known to be the 2nd lowest voice in 4-parts choral music which was below the alto and soprano, but higher than the bass.  In the case of some choral music, they require that 1st tenors should rise to the full range of tenor.  Most of the choral groups place the tenors within the range of about B2 up to A4.

In choral music, the requirement for the voice of tenor is actually tied up with the music style which is performed most often by a particular choir. You should be aware that choruses in an orchestra need tenors possessing full resonant voices.

There are various ways on how to sing tenor, which is the top most male voice within the modal register. In the choral music, it generally ranges between C3, the C a single octave beneath middle C, to A above A4 (middle C) and in certain circumstances it goes to C5 or high C when singing solo. The lower tenor registers is two B, s under middle C or B, 2. At the uppermost register, a number of tenors are able to sing up to two F’s higher than middle C (F5).

In choirs and musical groups, singers are divided into four groups. The high registers are sung by tenor while the low registers are sung by bass singers. The tenors are at times split into two categories with one category singing the moderately low range while the other sings the higher range.

Tenor Singing Techniques and Skills You Must Master

Learn to Read Music Sheet

Know how to read notes on a set piece as this will assist you to identify notes in the music sheet enabling you to sing without breaking the flow of music. The notes vary from A to G with flats and sharps in between, which are assigned in a definite order in the Treble Clef.

There are some tricks that can simplify reading music to enable you to learn how to sing tenor easily. A music sheet is comprised of 4 spaces and 5 lines. The notes in the spaces spell the word FACE with F being in the first space and A, C and E being in the second, third and fourth spaces respectively. The lines can be memorized using the phrase “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge.” The letter of every word in the phrase corresponds to each line on the music sheet starting from the bottom, meaning that the first line is E the second is G and so forth.

Smoothen Your Passagio Transitions & Register Breaks

The Passaggio the passage that a singer has to go through when singing into the head voice from the chest voice. Most of the times, tenors always sing in the chest voice and then transited into the head voice as the notes get higher. Establishing Passaggio transition skill can be considered as the most challenging technique to learn for beginner tenors. You will encounter end up with a broken voice if you don’t transit your voice through the scale properly. 

The breaks usually occurred whenever you pushed your voice too high out of the scale. Breaks can even happen when you transit the head voice back to the chest voice incorrectly. The proper transition must be done gradually. In this part, the vowel manipulation also plays a vital role in a more stable and smoother Passaggio transition for tenor.

Head Voice Singing

Head voice will help you to hit the higher notes easily without straining your voice. Some classical vocal coaches say, “just think low notes from the chest and high notes from the head.” 

However, in my point of view, it depends on the tenor singer himself. Some were capable of tackle the high notes with the chest voices, and some tenors were progressing into the head voice once singing in the slightly higher notes. Just a matter of fact, as a tenor, you should have higher tessitura that made your voice more dominant on the head voice.

Additional Tips & Practice Guidelines

  • Ensure that there is a keyboard that you can easily access and get assistance from an instructor or a singer and try to locate the range of tenor voice on the keyboard. It may range from “C” beneath “Middle C” to “C” higher than “Middle C”.
  • The second tip on how to sing tenor requires that after locating the notes on the keyboard, you should attempt to match your voice to the notes to establish which notes fit with your voice. For you to know if you can sing tenor, you will have to sing majority of the notes if not all. However, it is impractical to hit the highest notes while trying for the first time.
  • Get practice by joining a choir or musical group. Through practicing regularly you develop into a good singer since the more a person sings the better they become. In music groups, you will be able to learn from other singers and at first, other singers in your voice group will cover any small mistakes you make. It is important for you to learn how to listen to yourself sing by covering one ear. This will assist you to rectify any pitching errors. If listening to yourself proves to be hard, you can ask for help from friends who will sing in your ear in order for you to begin on tune. All the above are sure ways in finding out how to sing tenor that have been proven to work.
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5 thoughts on “How to Sing Tenor Professionally”

  1. I can see this things as a most crucial things to know .
    Thank you for enlighten me. I will now practicing it, because I am a beginner…..

  2. Same as above, I am singing with a tenor voice but I am not using the tenor key, I end up singing with a tenor voice and with either alto or treble key. I need help with the tenor key. Thank you.

  3. Thanks a lots for your help.

    Friends do told me that I am a tenor singer but my problem is that I don’t even know the keys, I don’t even know how to differentiate my part (tenor) from others; some times I will sing other part with my tenor voice without knowing.

    Pls is there any advice for me or help?

    I will be grateful if i received any.



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