How to Sing with a Countertenor Registration: 11 Steps

Table of contents:

How to Sing with a Countertenor Registration: 11 Steps
How to Sing with a Countertenor Registration: 11 Steps

The countertenor range, also called the "light tenor," is the highest male register in existence. You can get to sing to the register of a countertenor by expanding your vocal range and perfecting both your chest voice and your falsetto technique. With practice and proper technique, you can sing as a countertenor, whether you're in a choir, participating in a musical, or just want to do it for fun.


Part 1 of 3: Finding the Natural Range of Your Voice

Sing High Tenor Step 1
Sing High Tenor Step 1

Step 1. Know the different vocal ranges

The vocal range is the set of notes that a voice can cover, from the lowest to the highest. There are four main vocal ranges with various subranges that a person can achieve.

  • Each person has a different vocal range, and although the male voice usually corresponds to the lowest ranges and the female voice the highest, some people have the ability to cover several ranges.
  • The four main vocal ranges, from highest to lowest, are: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass.
  • Here are some sub-ranges: mezzo-soprano, alto, countertenor, tenor 1 or tenor 2, and baritone. The countertenor is also known as the "light tenor."
Sing High Tenor Step 2
Sing High Tenor Step 2

Step 2. Find the middle C

The middle C is also known as C4 in Latin music notation within the scale. Middle C will help you find your vocal range, as it is the center key of any piano or keyboard and a great opening tone that most people can sing.

To locate middle C, look for the piano maker's name in the center of the piano. You will see a grouping of five black keys separated in the center by two white keys. The white key to the left of the two black keys in the center of the piano is the middle C

Sing High Tenor Step 3
Sing High Tenor Step 3

Step 3. Locate your vocal range

You can find your vocal range with a piano, keyboard, or computer program by singing while playing the notes up and down the scale. To get an accurate result when searching for your vocal range, it is best to warm up your voice before starting to sing your chords.

  • Begin to warm up your voice by humming, allowing your pitch to drift up and down freely. Make lip vibrations by puckering your lips and letting the air out between them, as if you were blowing bubbles under water. Tone the scales.
  • Start with middle C and find the corresponding tone with the voice. Then, go down with the piano keys and looking for the corresponding tone of voice.
  • Once you have lowered as much as possible, making sound with your voice, go back up and continue searching for the corresponding pitch until you reach the highest possible note that you can reach with your voice.
  • As you go up in pitch, there will come a time when you will have to use your head voice and falsetto. The head voice is the one you use when you feel the vibration in the head producing the sound from the upper body. Think of Mickey Mouse when you try to sing with your head voice. The head voice determines the limit of your vocal range, the point at which you are not able to softly deliver a higher note. Falsetto is the voice used when you feel that nasal pinch in the back of your throat.
  • Once you've reached the lowest and highest possible notes, count how many octaves your voice covers. Each octave has eight notes. Start with middle C and count down to the next C, remembering the lowest key you've ever been able to hit. Repeat the process with the higher keys. Most people cover a range of 1.5 octaves.
  • The countertenor can sing in the range (sol♯2-) do♯3-si4 (-mi5)
Sing High Tenor Step 4
Sing High Tenor Step 4

Step 4. Practice your tenor vocal range

If you sing in the tenor range naturally, you are well on your way to singing as a countertenor. Find the middle C again and find the corresponding pitch by making an "ahh" sound.

  • Now locate the C that is one octave below the middle C, followed by the C that is one octave above it. Find the pitch corresponding to each note by singing "ahh."
  • Slowly move from note to note if you are having trouble matching the pitch. Be aware of where your throat tightens or where you need to send more air to get to a note. Go as far as you can without straining your voice, and then go back to where you started.
  • Usually the highest note in a countertenor is around the E5 key.

Part 2 of 3: Expand Your Vocal Range

Sing High Tenor Step 5
Sing High Tenor Step 5

Step 1. Develop your head voice

The head voice is like a bell. To perfect the head voice, you will need to be able to access the nasal cavity resonance and use the pharynx. The pharynx is the pathway that connects the nasal cavity to the larynx.

  • Start in the middle of your range and make the "ng" sound. As you open your mouth to make an "ahh" sound and move up the scale, you should connect with the vibration you feel at the back of your neck.
  • The head voice is a connected sound, as it also involves part of the chest. This means that you may not feel the transition point when going from chest voice to head voice.
  • To strengthen your head voice, sing the "ahh" sound starting at the upper midpoint of your range and working your way up until you can't sing at a higher pitch, without going to falsetto.
Sing High Tenor Step 6
Sing High Tenor Step 6

Step 2. Soften the transition note in your register

The transition note is the note that gives way from the chest voice to a higher register, such as the head voice or falsetto. Transition notes also appear when the pitch is lowered again, and can be smoothed out with practice and using proper technique.

  • You can learn to smooth the transition by opening your throat enough through manipulating the vowels. This implies not pronouncing the vowels as you would when speaking. Instead of pronouncing them normally, project them out to keep the larynx stable.
  • Many professionals learn to sing within the transition in their voice, so don't feel like it's something you have to fix, even if you think it sounds strange.
Sing High Tenor Step 7
Sing High Tenor Step 7

Step 3. Practice falsetto

Countertenors have the ability to pronounce full sounds in falsetto, sometimes allowing the voice to reach lower notes within that register. The falsetto does not come from the chest, but from the nose and throat.

  • If you've ever imitated the female voice, it helps to know that falsetto consists of something similar.
  • To produce a good falsetto sound, keep your larynx stable and imagine yourself moving closer to the notes, without forcing or straining your voice outward.
  • Start with the lowest note you can produce in falsetto and practice the scales up and down until you are able to produce a consistent sound.

Part 3 of 3: Singing as a Countertenor

Sing High Tenor Step 8
Sing High Tenor Step 8

Step 1. Relax your body, especially your mouth and shoulder area

These areas tend to tense up as the highest notes are reached.

  • You may be tempted to lift your chin as if trying to reach the note, but this gesture will strain your voice and limit the movement of your vocal cords. Keep your head up naturally.
  • Bring your shoulders back and align your spine vertically, extending it to the crown of your head.
  • To practice correct posture, lie on your back on the floor or stand against a wall.
Sing High Tenor Step 9
Sing High Tenor Step 9

Step 2. Start singing with your head voice

This practice will help you reach the highest notes, achieving a sound that should be very light. Projects the voice from the nasal cavities.

  • When emitting high notes, the vocal cords tighten and narrow, like the strings of a guitar.
  • Don't think about looking up to hit the highest notes. This head tilt will strain your voice. Instead of doing this, imagine that you are trying to reach the notes by projecting your voice away and forward.

Step 3. Use proper voice placement (also known as "setting")

To sing high notes without applying tension to the vocal cords, try to use forward collocation so that the sound reaches the roof of the mouth first. To practice, hum and locate the slight buzzing behind your nose. Increase the hum to make the sound louder and louder. Open your mouth and imitate a mermaid, making sure to feel the sound in the same place in your head.

As you sing higher notes, the sound will shift towards the soft palate, but try to keep it pointed towards your nose

Sing High Tenor Step 10
Sing High Tenor Step 10

Step 4. Open the back of your throat

Start by making the sound "ahh" in a chest voice and work your way up the scale. Notice the sensation felt in the pharynx and the back of the throat when using your chest voice.

  • As you move up the scale, keep your throat open and try to prevent the pharynx from moving up.
  • You should continue to breathe from the diaphragm, but without involving the nasal passages as much as you do to sing with a chest voice.
  • Cover your nose and sing. Although the highest notes require the use of the nasal cavities, you should not sing with your nose. Cover your nose and start singing with your head voice and falsetto. Work on until you can produce a consistent sound with a stuffy nose.
Sing High Tenor Step 11
Sing High Tenor Step 11

Step 5. Practice songs with countertenor voices

The best way to learn to sing countertenor is to practice consistently. You can start training your voice and expanding your vocal range by singing songs that force you to hit very high notes. Consult with a vocal instructor to help you achieve this. Here are several examples of songs with a countertenor voice:

  • "Alone in the Universe" from Seussical the Musical
  • "Bring him home" from Les Miserables "
  • "The dentist" from The Store of Horrors "
  • "Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You" from the movie Jersey Boys (original song by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons)


  • If you sing naturally in bass or baritone, don't try to force yourself to sing in a higher vocal range. Find songs that fit your natural range and value the uniqueness of your own voice.
  • Practice daily to expand your vocal range.
  • Use your head voice and your falsetto.
  • Always warm up vocals before singing.
  • Consider getting a vocal instructor who can help you understand and practice proper countertenor singing techniques.
  • Don't be discouraged if it takes time to perfect your countertenor technique. It may take a lot of time and practice to become comfortable within this voice range.
  • Be careful during practice. If you start to notice discomfort or a sore throat, take a break and drink water.
  • Remember that the countertenor is not the same as the light tenor. The latter sings mainly from the chest voice, while the former does so exclusively in falseto, and can also sing in a high range and occasionally soprano.

Popular by topic