Today’s topic is the all-important Alto. Instruments can be Altos as well (such as a saxophone), but in my book, I referenced Toni Braxton. I’ve loved her since I was a kid and if you don’t know her work, please check her out if you love amazing R&B! Toni Braxton actually has an incredible range (I know because I own all of her albums) but I used her as an Alto example because I think most people know her by her lower range. I included this in the book because I’ve been contacted by clients asking me to sing an “alto” song, but it was actually for sopranos. It was fine and most people can handle two parts, but I wanted to include it just so we all end up on the same page!
Anyway, let’s discuss the term Alto and why it’s important when hiring a session singer.
First: What is an Alto?
Alto actually means “high” in Italian, but if you’re in a choir and you’re an alto, you sing the lower female parts. Most choirs follow the SATB format (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) with females on the top two and males on the bottom. There are other terms I didn’t put in the book, such as Contralto (the lowest of female voices) and Countertenor (which would actually fall into the Alto range at times). I didn’t include these because if you’re into the voice types so much that you need to know them (such as a choir teacher or a classical performer), then you already know about those terms anyway so we don’t need to get into it.
I need an alto for my song. Where can I find one?
Let’s stop here for a sec. Are you SURE you need an alto? I consider myself an alto, but I’ve had clients contact me looking for an “alto” and the song is actually more of a soprano (or even a tenor if the original writer is male). I find it much easier to just ask the singer for their range. You could also send them a rough copy of the song and have them see if it fits. The label here is not very important, as long as the singer is right for your project.
The internet has made it pretty easy to find session singers. You can check YouTube, SoundCloud, or Reverbnation for starters. Find someone with a sound you like and see if they’re within your budget. You can also try posting an ad if you can’t find any there!
How do I become a session singer?
Start with the three sources I posted above! Those are great to show your range and style. Perform live when you can. Develop a reel. Create business cards. You’ll want to treat it like a business in order to become one! Start there and learn about entrepreneurship as you go along.
How do I know if I’m an Alto?
There are tests to tell which part you sing, but you can kind of tell without them. Are you more comfortable in the higher notes or lower? Is your voice richer and fuller on the lower notes? If you’re curious to really find out your type, this website is a great reference. When you find your voice, let me know!I just found out my singing range! Click To Tweet
If you’re curious, I’ve made posts about other session singing voices and types as well. You can check them out here:
Bass Session Singers (this is also about instruments but still).
Here is a great article about all of the voice types and goes into a lot of detail about each one!
Really the rules are the same regardless of your voice type. Just know your range and style and you’ll be fine. Best of luck, whether you’re looking to hire a session singer or become one!