Vocal Range: E2 – D6 – E6
Vocal Fach: Falcon Soprano (4 octaves)
Vocal Rating: Virtuoso
Positives: A rich, heavy and dark voice. Legendary interpretive wit, thanks to incredible knowledge of musical phrasing and vocal pedagogy. Franklin crafted incredible phrases by utilizing rhythmic variations and motifs, dynamics, articulation, vocal colors and drives to create original and brilliant phrases.
Her melismatic prowess brought the melisma into popular music, with her incredible pearl-like clarity, fluidity and agility. Great articulation and diction that allowed for scatting and color experimentation. A flawlessly balanced voice within every part of the scale.
An incredible lower register that was rich and warm, hit with a neutral larynx, and was reached with incredible ease and accuracy, shown by Franklin’s ability to sing melisma in this area with startling intonation accuracy. Projecting down to G2 and robust down to C#3, this explosive lower register contributes to Franklin’s fach as a Falcon soprano.
As she ascends, Franklin’s vocal colors continue to blossom, showing off a slightly nasal but thunderous middle register. The belting register displays incredible freedom, resonance, elasticity and fluidity, soaring into a perfect mixed voice. This register is full and projected throughout, relying fully on breath support. Franklin’s technique can attest to her ability to sustain each note in this area up to D6. This area also gains a slight, airy rasp before becoming grittier around G5, and a wide rolling vibrato.
Though her tessitura lies in the mezzo-belting range, her belting range and weight soars into that of a Spinto Soprano (also making her a Falcon).
Her head voice is seamlessly connected to the rest of her range, showing incredible control of her passagio. It’s bright and full, with the rich rolling vibrato seen in the chest voice.
Negatives: As she has aged, her voice has lost its power and rich color, though she kept those qualities well into her career due to exceptional care for her instrument. Her belting can also become overbearing to some. The rasp of the chest voice somewhat hinders the clarity of the belts.
Aretha Franklin had a vocal range spanning exactly four octaves, E2 – D6 – E6.
Aretha Franklin was a falcon soprano, a rare fach. A falcon soprano is a dramatic voice with a vocal range and timbre similar to a mezzo-soprano, but with the tessitura and weight of a soprano, named after French opera singer Cornélie Falcon (1814-1897). Franklin may also be considered a coloratura soprano due to her exceptional fluidity and agility.