Vocal Range: D3 – A5 – E6 (3 octaves and a major second)
Vocal Type: Light-Lyric Soprano
Vocal Rating: Singer
Analysis: One of the best-selling pop acts of the millennium, Katy Perry is perhaps the quintessential pop star. As such, she has a relatively mixed perception as a vocalist: her voice is often admired by fans and critics for its clean sound, hefty weight, and power, but she is equally notorious for intonation issues and polarizes listeners with her nasal tone. A diplomatic assessment of her vocals would lead one to believe that while Perry may have a voice with above-average potential, it has yet to be harnessed to the fullest.
Though Perry is marketed and known more as a singer than a singer-songwriter today, her technique is more akin to the latter. Perry began her career as a Christian singer-songwriter, and this still seems to inform her vocal choices today. Her voice is airy and slightly nasal, only finding clarity in her tessitura. She has created an idiosyncratic sound and makes deliberate stylistic choices to achieve it, but also shows some technical gaps that wouldn’t be true of other professional vocalists.
While Perry has been labeled for years as a contralto by most mainstream journalists and a mezzo-soprano by others, Perry is a lyric soprano. The decidedly feminine quality of her voice swiftly dismisses the contralto notion, while her lack of strength in the lower register dispels both contralto and mezzo-soprano classification. Perry picks up bass and air in her lower register almost as soon as she descends below middle C, a truly soprano quality. Perry may fool some into believing that she is a different fach because she sings with excess vocal weight for power and a lower tessitura, obscuring her soprano timbre.
Perry has an instantly recognizable voice given a number of her vocal qualities: one of her call-signs as a vocalist is her persistent flipping between her chest and head voice; often doing so at the end of a phrase, it’s virtually imperceptible at times.Songs From A Suitcase: Vocal Coach Reacts to Katy Perry – Firework | WOW! She was… Another stylistic trademark of Perry is her use of falsetto: while many pop women opt for a fuller head voice sound, Perry almost universally uses her falsetto. It’s a thin but also slightly metallic sound that contrasts her larger, chest dominant sound, and she has no issues utilizing it for extended periods of time. Navigating consistent register transitions like in the intro of “Teenage Dream,” however, seems to require a focus that detracts from her pitch.
Perry tends to sing in her lower register with a breathy sound and throaty placement, even though she has demonstrated that she can solidify her sound down to Eb3.Compare the live E3s to her Eb3 in a vocal warm-up. This is likely a stylistic choice to make the tone of her voice consistently bright, or she is simply not making the necessary technical adjustments to best reach these notes when descending from above. As she ascends, she removes air from her voice and creates a clearer sound.
The highlight of her voice is her mixed voice, where she finds a bright, clear, and powerful sound in her tessitura. Here, she demonstrates some good vocal technique: a flat tongue pressed against her molars, a wide, open mouth, and her lower jaw below the upper. As she ascends, however, she notably doesn’t narrow her vowels, a technique that would help prevent her from pulling her chest voice too high and could also help with her intonation. It seems that while she finds an open sound and feeling in her lower belting range, she tries to carry that feeling throughout her range rather than adjust, causing higher notes around D5 and above to be uncentered. Her vibrato here and across her range oscillates unevenly, again suggesting some form of tension.
Overall, Perry is a vocalist with mixed proficiency. While she has some admirable vocal traits, she also seems content with having a unique voice at the cost of some technical perfection.
What do you think of Katy Perry’s voice? Would you add anything to our analysis? Let us know by commenting below!
Katy Perry’s vocal range is approximately three octaves, spanning D3 – A5 – E6.
Katy Perry is a light lyric soprano.
Katy Perry’s highest note is an E6, the E above soprano C (C6).
|↑1||Songs From A Suitcase: Vocal Coach Reacts to Katy Perry – Firework | WOW! She was…|
|↑2||Compare the live E3s to her Eb3 in a vocal warm-up.|