The timbre of the human voice is divided into two major categories: female voices and male voices. Within each of these categories there are additional voice classifications.
Women’s voices are classified as either soprano or alto (also called mezzo-soprano). Soprano is the highest sounding voice and alto is the lower sounding voice. Male voices are classified as tenor (highest), baritone (medium high), and bass (lowest).
Voice classification is a tool for singers, composers, venues, and listeners to categorize vocal properties and to associate roles with voices. In choral music arrangements each of these voices is represented by a letter—S for soprano, A for alto, T for tenor, and B for bass. Most choral music is arranged SATB, using a voice part from each of the four major classifications.
1. Play a variety of songs demonstrating the various voice classifications.
2. Introduce opera and play some performances. Ask students to identify the voices and discuss how the voices relate to the songs and the mood or impact conveyed.
3. Have students choose a familiar song. Ask the chorus teacher to come in and guide students in singing the song together (or lead them yourself). Have the teacher also show students an arrangement of music showing the voice parts indicated.