Alto (voice)

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(Redirected from Contralto)

Template:Vocal range In music, an alto is a singer with a vocal range somewhere between a tenor and a mezzo-soprano. A typical alto will have a range from around the F below middle C to the D a ninth above middle C. In four part choral harmony, the alto is the second highest voice. Altos originally sang from music written in the alto clef, but now use the treble clef.

Although both men and women may have voices in the alto range, the word is usually used to mean a female singer. However, choirs singing early music frequently include male altos, also called countertenors. In English church usage, the term alto is sometimes exclusively used to mean a boy with this range, while contralto is used for a female singer. However, this is not done consistently, and for most practical purposes, alto and contralto can be thought of as synonyms (the phrase "boy alto" can be used if there is a chance of misunderstanding). A few popular music enthusisasts define the contralto and alto separately, as the contralto having an especially dark range, from the D above low C to Tenor C, which is essentially a female of tenor range, while alto is a voice with a range from F below middle C to the F an eleventh above middle C, and is closer to the mezzo-soprano. The majority however define contralto and alto as synonyms, and assign the adjectives light and dark, with a dark alto being a female of tenor range, while a light alto, commonly referred to as simply alto, to include mezzo-sopranos as well.

Contraltos are fairly rare in opera, since there is very little work that was written specifically for them. Most of the time, contralto roles are limited to maids, mothers and grandmothers... but they do occasionally get notable roles, with witches being the most common outside of the three former roles.

The word alto is often applied to instruments to indicate their range in relation to other instruments of the same group. In common usage, particularly among jazz musicians, the word has become synonymous with the alto saxophone. In US usage the alto horn is an Eb saxhorn, a brass instrument.

Some well known contraltos include:

In contemporary music, other altos include:


In medieval polyphony the principal voice was the tenor. When additional voices were added, they were called contratenor, "against the tenor." When two such voices were added they were called contratenor alto and contratenor bassus, indicating high and low respectively. So alto essentially means high voice.

de:Alt (Stimmlage) gd:Neach-seinn gun irde ja:アルト sl:Alt sv:Alt pl:alt


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