Vocal Range: F2 – G#5 – B7 (5 octaves, 4 notes)
Vocal Fach: Light Lyric Coloratura Soprano
Longest Note: 20 Seconds (“Lead the Way”)
Vocal Rating: Virtuoso
Vocal Positives: An incredibly rare voice that is the result of both raw, natural talent and incredible discipline and athleticism.
Mariah Carey demonstrates extreme skill in virtually every imaginable facet of her voice, from the use of dynamics, melismas, and phrasing, to the quality and placement of her lower, middle, and higher registers. While she is infamous for her five-octave vocal range due in large part to her whistle register, Carey’s skill set vastly exceeds this reputation alone.
With “Vision of Love” being credited with the resurgence of melisma in popular music, her agility is matched by very few of her contemporaries. Carey is capable of singing ascending and descending vocal lines with pearl-like clarity on each note, with incredible speed and fluidity. She will also utilize not just extended melismas, but lighting fast trills as well. In combination with her natural sense of rhythm, Carey can create complex musical phrases effortlessly. These qualities make her not simply a Light Lyric Soprano, but also a coloratura.
Carey’s dynamic control is also impossible to overstate. While she can of course create excellent crescendos and diminuendos, changing the volume evenly over the course of a phrase, her capacity to jump from one volume setting to another – from fortissimo to pianissimo and vice versa – with clean precision between and within words is virtually unparalleled in popular music. This is the product of incredible breath support, which also allows her to sing long phrases, upwards of 20 seconds long, in a single breath.
While she is undoubtedly a soprano, as her tessitura lies squarely within that range, she possesses an extensive lower register as well. While she will generally carry support down “only” to around Eb3, she can phonate all the way into the second octave and maintains agility throughout this extension past that point. Her beautiful, natural rolling vibrato can be heard throughout the entirety of her supported range as well as her extensive whistle register.The whistle register isn’t an area of the voice that can truly be supported (like vocal fry).
As Carey enters the fifth octave, she maintains an open throat and neutral larynx, which in combination with her breath support, makes her belts resonant and gives the impression of her voice being larger than it is. She rarely drops support in this region, carrying it all the way up to G5 with a bright sound. This support also allows her to belt in the fifth octave for extended periods without noticeable fatigue.
As she passes the fifth octave into the stratosphere, she often uses an airy half voice instead of her head voice. However, when she chooses to do so, the sound is clean and bright.
In the whistle register, Carey does not merely hit the notes but controls them. Just as in her modal voice, she can sing using a variety of techniques here, constructing legato and staccato phrases as well as demonstrating perhaps even greater agility than that of her chest voice. She has also shown that she can transition seamlessly from her chest voice to the whistle register, an exceptionally difficult technique given that these two registers are not connected like the chest and head voice are. Carey can also create distinct words in this register, displaying her ease and relaxation as well.
Vocal Negatives: Low notes, in early recordings Eb3 but most often around a C3, are hit by dropping the larynx, an unhealthy technique. This results in some notes being missed in live performances. At the earliest point in her career, her lows were very breathy and foggy, but she solidified them by the time the 2000s rolled around. As she has aged, the voice is often coarse due to her vocal nodes, and she also seems to be less comfortable belting above B4/C5. When her nodes are inflamed, she may be unable to reach the same notes that she would be able to otherwise. As Carey is open about her stage fright, she will often lose the sense of intonation that she had earlier in her career. Finally, it’s possible that her voice has degraded over time due to drinking, which causes blood vessels to expand and can harm the vocal cords.
Mariah Carey has a five-octave vocal range, spanning approximately F2 – G#5 – B7.
Mariah Carey is a Light-Lyric Coloratura Soprano. This means that she has a smaller voice size and weight but exceptional agility and fluidity to her voice. While Carey herself has asserted that she is an “alto,” her tessitura and weight are squarely that of a soprano, even though she could likely take an alto part in a high school choir, for instance, due to her unusual lower extension.
|↑1||The whistle register isn’t an area of the voice that can truly be supported (like vocal fry).|