• Tim Braithwaite

Michael Praetorius on the Requirements of a Singer and Expected Vocal Ranges

Updated: Feb 19

‘Firstly, a singer must have a voice by nature, in which three requirements and three flaws are to be noted. The requirements are these:


1. First, that a singer must have a beautiful, lovely, trembling, and

wavering voice (not, however, like those in schools are accustomed to, but with special moderation) and a smooth round throat for making diminutions.

2. Secondly, to be able to hold a steady long breath [note] without taking too many breaths.

3. Thirdly, he must also choose a voice, such as soprano [cantus,] alto, or tenor, etc. which he can hold with a full and clear sound without falsetto [ohne Falsetten,] (that is a half and forced voice.)’

‘Erstlich muß ein Sänger von Natur eine Stimme haben: In welcher drey Requisita, und drey vitia zu mercken. Die Requisita sind diese:


1. daß ein Sänger erstlich eine schöne liebliche zittern und bebende Stimme (doch nicht also/ wie etliche in Schulen gewohnet seyn/ sondern mit besonderer moderation) und einen glatten runden Hals zu diminuiren habe:

2. Zum Andern/ einen stetten langen Athem/ ohn viel respiriren, halten können:

3. Zum dritten, auch eine Stimm, als Cantum, Altum oder Tenor, &c. erwehlen/ welche er mit vollem und hellem laut/ ohne Falsetten/ (das ist halbe und erzwungene Stimme) halten könne.’


*Notes*


The text is taken from Michael Praetorius, The Syntagma Musicum III (Wolfenbüttel, 1619). My translation.


The image below is Praetorius’ representation of vocal ranges as shown in Michael Praetorius, Syntagma Musicum II (Wolfenbüttel, 1618). Each voice has a core range notated as well as its extremes. Since the table is slightly difficult to read, my transcription can be found below.



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