Mariah Carey: Voice Profile and Vocal Range (2022)

Vocal Range: F2 – G#5 – G#7 (5 octaves, and a minor third)

Vocal Fach: Light Lyric Coloratura Soprano

Longest Note: 20 Seconds (“Lead the Way”)

Vocal Rating: Virtuoso

Analysis: A member of the 90s vocal trinity alongside contemporaries Céline Dion and Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey‘s voice is an incredibly rare product of both raw, natural talent and adroit discipline and athleticism. Her five-octave vocal range is unparalleled in popular music both past and present, thanks in large part to her deft control of the famed whistle register. Her skill set is wide and varied: an extensive lower register descending into a baritone’s territory, complex, dexterous melisma, and a booming belt have all drawn the admiration of pop’s most talented vocalists.

Carey demonstrates extreme skill in almost every facet of her voice, from her use of dynamics, melismas, and phrasing, to the quality and placement of her lower, middle, and higher registers.[1]Although her lower register is typically reached by lowering the larynx below Eb3, she demonstrates strength beyond that of a typical soprano or pop musician. While she is infamous for her five-octave vocal range due in large part to her whistle register, Carey’s talents vastly exceed 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, and 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.[2]As these are operatic terms and Carey is not an opera singer, this classification is applied somewhat liberally.

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 without comparison 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 claims to be an alto, Carey is undoubtedly a soprano, as her tessitura lies squarely within that range but 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. As she has aged, this lower register has expectedly grown stronger and more reliable. Her beautiful, natural rolling vibrato can be heard throughout the entirety of her supported range as well as her extensive whistle register.[3]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. While she sometimes drops support in this region to create a rougher texture, she has carried it all the way up to G5.[4]Sam Johnson, Voice Teacher Reacts to Mariah Carey – Vanishing (SNL Rehearsal 1990) Her support also allows her to belt in the fifth octave for extended periods without noticeable fatigue, although in this part of her voice she is at the mercy of her vocal nodules.

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 voices are. Carey can also create distinct words in this register, displaying her ease and relaxation as well.

In the 2010s, a few unfortunate performances have led to a less favorable view of Carey’s voice and legacy. Carey is open about her stage fright; she will often lose the sense of intonation that she had earlier in her career. Still, Carey preserved her voice for nearly two decades despite a rigorous promotional and performance regimen and demanding repertoire and has delivered strong performances past her vocal prime. 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 – but it’s difficult to assess this, especially in tandem with her vocal nodes.

Overall, Carey is inarguably one of the strongest vocalists the pop music industry has ever seen. Although she like any musician or vocalist has her shortcomings, Carey’s skills are so wide-ranging that she has and always will have talents to fall back on. Having altered the world’s musical landscape as a singer and songwriter, she’s a vocalist to take seriously, and a virtuoso within the pop field.

What do you think of Mariah Carey’s voice? Would you add anything to our analysis? Let us know by commenting below!

 
 
 
 
 

What is Mariah Carey’s vocal range?

Mariah Carey has a five-octave vocal range, spanning approximately F2 – G#5 – G#7.

How many octaves can Mariah Carey sing?

Mariah Carey has a five-octave vocal range, spanning approximately F2 – G#5 – G#7.

What is Mariah Carey’s voice type or vocal fach?

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.

What is the highest note Mariah Carey can hit?

Mariah Carey can sing at least up to G#7, the second G# above “soprano C” (C6), and nearly 4 octaves above “Middle C” (C4).

Can Mariah Carey sing seven octaves?

No, Mariah Carey’s vocal range is five octaves, but she can sing in the seventh octave, i.e. the fourth octave above “Middle C” (C4).

Can Mariah Carey still sing?

Yes, although her voice has deteriorated over time due to a myriad of factors including aging and vocal nodes, she is still capable of singing live – even in the whistle register.

References

References
1 Although her lower register is typically reached by lowering the larynx below Eb3, she demonstrates strength beyond that of a typical soprano or pop musician.
2 As these are operatic terms and Carey is not an opera singer, this classification is applied somewhat liberally.
3 The whistle register isn’t an area of the voice that can truly be supported (like vocal fry).
4 Sam Johnson, Voice Teacher Reacts to Mariah Carey – Vanishing (SNL Rehearsal 1990)

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