Vocal Range: A2 – G#5 – C#6 (A6)
Longest Note: 16 Seconds
Vocal Fach: Mezzo-Soprano (3 Octaves, 2 notes)
Vocal Rating: Virtuoso
Analysis: A defining, classic voice. Incredible breath support, showing no signs of fatigue, and carrying extensive legato passages with ease. Incredible utilization of dynamics, using all volumes from fortissimo to pianissimo and everything in between to craft incredible phrases. Though she didn’t lean heavily on her melismatic prowess, she was more than capable of using the technique and used it carefully. Because of her natural sense of rhythm, she would also play with rhythmic figures to create cadences and other musical effects with her voice. Houston also had great control of her passagio; all of these qualities made her’s an incredibly balanced instrument.
Thanks to (gospel) vocal training at a young age, Houston captured and developed her vocal potential at a young age, beginning solo performances at just 14. That gospel training helped develop her breath support, coordination, and agility, as well as dynamic range. Although largely underutilized largely due to her Gospel training which emphasizes the middle and upper registers, her lower register, like the rest of her voice, was well supported, dark, and full. She maintained fluidity and ease all the way down below C3. However, it was when she ascended that her voice began to display its most impressive qualities.
Her middle voice was massive and consistently resonant, with no need to look beyond her iconic B4 belt in “I Will Always Love You” for evidence of this. The size of her voice in this area – approximately A4 to D5 – is one of the reasons she should be regarded as a Mezzo-Soprano, alongside her general lack of comfort above soprano C. Her grunts and growls here were deployed with a healthy technique, as she not only replicated this distortion repeatedly but also achieved a clear sound on the same notes. This is because she twanged her throat above the vocal cords to distort the sound rather than using the cords themselves.https://completevocal.institute/ Because her timbre was warm and velvety, her midrange was able to draw her listeners in with ease.
Her music relied heavily on her belts, which not only allowed her to display her prowess but practice and harness it further. As she aged from her debut in the 80s to the early 90s, her voice became larger, fuller, and darker. Her powerful, resonant belts were mixed seamlessly with her head voice which allowed her to sing complex phrases and melismas all the while projecting resonance with ease. As a master of breath support, Houston rarely ventured outside of her embodied range, although when she did the upper belts (F5 and above) could only be sustained for so long, and her voice would become shrill approaching F#5. At this point, she would rely more on the muscles in her neck to support her voice, although the concurrent strength of her breath support often kept this from impacting the sound as was only an occasional issue.
The head voice was resonant and full in virtually every instance, and was a highlight of her voice, alongside her heavy use of vibrato. Her vibrato was well developed and rolling, virtually flawless with even oscillations, and was consistently and evenly applied, although she would notably use her jaw to achieve it rather than relying on a combination of breath support and relaxing the throat. Her incredible musical ear kept her pitch-perfect in the vast majority of her performances and even in acapella settings.
While the vast majority of the decline in her voice was due to drug and alcohol abuse, Houston’s rigorous touring schedule also worsened her sound as well. She developed a vocal cord injury just before her “I’m Your Baby Tonight” tour, which was not allowed to fully heal, which coincided with significant life changes like her pregnancy and marriage.
Overall Houston was a legendary vocalist whose impact on Pop singers was beyond that of any of her contemporaries. Her synthesis of gospel and pop deliveries altered the Pop landscape, and deservedly so. Her knowledge of vocal pedagogy and passion for her craft is difficult to overstate.
Whitney Houston had a vocal range of approximately three octaves and two whole steps, spanning A2 – G#5 – C#6 (A6). Some have incorrectly labeled her range as being at five octaves; they are likely confusing Houston with her contemporary, Mariah Carey.
As confirmed by her vocal coach, Whitney was a mezzo-soprano, although there is a case to be made for her being classified as a Spinto Soprano. Given the large size of her voice, its timbre, and weight, she could be classified as either, however, her upper register did not extend high enough – to E6 – as expected of one, but more importantly, her tessitura was not high enough to fully support this classification.