Vocal Range: Eb3 – C6 – F#6 (C#7)
Longest Note: 11 Seconds
Vocal Type: Light-Lyric Soprano (3 Octaves, 2 notes)
Analysis: The inaugural American Idol is a talented vocalist with top-notch musical phrasing making her an incredible singer. Though she openly speaks about valuing emotion over technical perfection, Clarkson was classically trained at a young age, as well as taught in high school choir and in Baptist churches. Because of this, she demonstrates good control of her instrument, from her solid breath support to her good tongue placement and mouth shaping.Clarkson knows to keep her tongue flat with the back placed against her molars when in her upper modal voice, as well as to pull up the corners of her mouth. She also consistently stylizes by manipulating her vocal tone, which lends itself to her performance versatility. Though this reputation of versatility is strong, she is also known for having a dynamic upper register, where she demonstrates impressive natural ease.
Although her voice is truly ‘at home’ in rock and pop stylings, her voice can also transcend through multiple genres, including Rock, Country, Pop, Jazz, R&B, Classical, and Gospel. With this ability to cover multiple genres, she has covered an expansive list of artists on American Idol and on her latest tours. Some of the artists she has tackled include Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Lady Gaga, Radiohead, Vince Gill, Tony Bennett, and Heart. While anyone can simply sing these covers, Clarkson adapts her vocal style to each genre by altering her approach to vowels and the tone of her voice.Compare the standard and Country recordings of “Mr. Know It All,” as well as her cover of Tony Bennett’s “Because Of You” and “All I Ask Of You” with Josh … Continue reading This is thanks to her natural knowledge of phrasing, along with her talent for tone manipulation.
As a light-lyric soprano, Clarkson’s voice starts small and generally weak in her lower register – from G#3 and below – before blossoming in the fifth octave. On good days live, she can reach down to F3 with solid tonal quality, but her lower register is inconsistent and not where Clarkson feels truly comfortable or confident. Despite this, however, she has developed a nicely colored lower register in her studio recordings.
Above G#3, however, her voice is naturally warm, bright, and inviting, and she has preserved this quality over her near two-decade-long career (see “Breakaway”). With her voice relaxed in her midrange, her natural fluttering vibrato shines (“Honestly”), as she lets air seep into her sound to create intimacy. That rolling vibrato is a great indicator of when she is singing with a (more) open and relaxed throat (“Honestly” and “Mr. Know it All [Country Version]”), as she tends to straight-tone notes when tense. She can apply her stunning vibrato to the vast majority of her voice (as demonstrated from F3-C6-F#6).
Her tessitura is quite high for a soprano, blossoming between D5 – F#5 as she picks up treble. Her belts draw heavily from lung power, although she will occasionally approach these notes with a throat-heavy sound. She can carry support up to the F5/F#5 region,”Support” here meaning that she is relying primarily on the muscles in her stomach and back to generate her sound and not her throat or other muscle groups. and can reach Soprano C (C6) with a chest dominant sound. Her voice can cut through orchestral and band arrangements (“My Country Tis of Thee”) with amplification.
It should be noted, however, that Clarkson tends to push her voice in the upper chest register, creating distortion. This is partly due to heavy touring, the demanding nature of her songs, and inconsistent technique, but mostly because of her desire to emulate larger voices. This weakness has caused her voice to decline at some points in career, towards the end of American Idol as well as through the Breakaway and My December eras (2004-08). However, a few years of experience and work with vocal coaches lessened this effect starting in late 2010. After experiencing vocal issues like glottal tension and decreased vocal range following her pregnancies in 2013 and 2016 – which resulted in a tour cancellation – her voice has largely recovered.
Her falsetto is light and gentle, adding soulful nature to her ballads as well as emotional leverage. Though rarely utilized until 2015, her head voice is bright and well supported up to A5 (see “Tightrope”). She can reach up to D6 with her head voice, but her pitch accuracy is often inconsistent, and she drops her breath support in favor of a throaty sound. Her whistle register is underutilized, but she has demonstrated the ability to sustain it (and perform glissando in it).
Vocal drives can be executed in all parts of the range and can be taken out when desired (Compare the F5’s in “Honestly” and “Let Me Down”). She is also able to flip through all her registers without the use of melisma, though she is more than capable of using the technique (See “Why Don’t You Try”). These runs are generally limited to around five notes, however, and runs longer than this often lose precision both in rhythm and intonation. This is a part of a larger issue, as she tends to lose accuracy in both of these areas when nervous or tired as her throat closes and nerves take over.
In general, Clarkson’s voice is occasionally inconsistent, and she generally takes pride in putting emotional delivery over technical perfection and that should be taken into consideration when evaluating her as a vocalist and singer. Despite these inconsistencies, she is by and large a good vocalist and a great singer.
Kelly Clarkson’s vocal range is approximately three octaves and a minor third, spanning Eb3 – C6 – F#6. It is possible that she hit a G6 in the studio recording of “Honestly,” but it is disputed. The C3 in octave unison of “What’s Up Lonely” also seems questionable given her lack of comfort and support in her lower register during that time.
Kelly Clarkson is a Light-Lyric Soprano. She will often push her voice to the point of distortion in order to get the larger, rougher sound that she desires, which demonstrates her voice’s relatively small weight.
|↑1||Clarkson knows to keep her tongue flat with the back placed against her molars when in her upper modal voice, as well as to pull up the corners of her mouth.|
|↑2||Compare the standard and Country recordings of “Mr. Know It All,” as well as her cover of Tony Bennett’s “Because Of You” and “All I Ask Of You” with Josh Groban.|
|↑3||”Support” here meaning that she is relying primarily on the muscles in her stomach and back to generate her sound and not her throat or other muscle groups.|