* * DREAMING * *

A 'Best of' Love-Hounds Collection


E2 - Her Work in General


Her Vocal Range


Back to Dreaming E. MisK


Date: Mon, 05 Jan 87 15:46 PST
Subject: Vocal Range

Regarding Bob and Bill's remarks about vocal range: Yes, Kate has, technically speaking, a pretty wide range, but only if you include her falsetto range as part of her "normal" range. The range of an opera singer, by contrast, certainly does not include falsetto notes -- if it did, a soprano's range, for example, could extend as much as an octave higher than any music that has yet been written for a soprano voice.

Also, Kate's lowest recorded notes were attained by artificial means. Probably her two lowest sung passages are on "Houdini" and "Running Up That Hill". (In the latter, her bottom harmony of the "C'mon, c'mon baby" section is very low indeed, and is especially audible in the twelve-inch mix.) But for "Houdini", anyway, Kate has explained that she recorded parts of the vocals at a higher pitch and at a faster speed, and then slowed down the tape during playback. And she's also said that she consumed a ton of milk and chocolate before singing the low notes, in order to build up the mucus in her throat, thereby temporarily enlarging her vocal range.


Date: Tue, 6 Jan 87 15:38:26 PST
From: seismo!hplabs!weitek!sci!daver (Dave Rickel)
Subject: Vocal ranges

I'm not too sure that i understand all this stuff about vocal ranges. When you state that <x> has a range of 8 octaves, are you saying that <x> has a range larger than that of a piano? That he can sing lower than a piano and higher than a piano? This seems a bit unreasonable to me. My max range seems to span about three octaves, going from growl to screech (it might be greater than that, but i'm at work and don't want to embarass myself too awfully much). My useful range might be about an octave, for what it's worth.

Anyway, i listened a bit last night to The Whole Story, trying to get an idea of Kate Bush's vocal range. As far as i can tell, she seems pretty suited to the soprano cleft. The ranges i have marked are from a G3 (the G below middle C) on The Dreaming to an A5 flat (the A flat above the A flat above middle C) on Wuthering Heights (that's a bit debatable--she scooped up to somewhere around there, or maybe a bit past). She gets up to a G5 on some other songs (Breathing, Wow, Sat in Your Lap).

The comparisons of Kate's voice to a Stradivarious are interesting. Her low seems to be about the same as a violin, although the violin can get perhaps an octave higher (actually, it can get quite a bit higher, but stops being musical at about that point).

Anyway, her vocal range seems to be a bit more than two octaves.

david rickel


Date: Fri, 9 Jan 87 10:07:12 EST
From: Laura Frank Clifford <lcliffor@ccm.bbn.com>
Subject: vocal ranges

I've always been under the impression that a 5 octave range was the highest ever achieved. Minnie Ripperton had a 5 octave range. I have read or heard (I forget from where, but believed it was a very reliable source at the time) that Kate has a 4 octave range, which is considered quite incredible.

Laura Clifford


Date: Sat, 10 Jan 87 15:45 PST
Subject: Re: Vocal range

Dave Rickel may have a vocal range of two octaves. Kate Bush definitely has a much wider range than that. How on earth did you come up with a range of only two octaves for Kate? Hell, even I can span three octaves and a note or two beyond, and I is DEFINITELY no singer.

As far as I knows, Kate's highest note is heard on "Don't Put Your Foot on the Heart Brake", from Lionheart. The passage in question is a background vocal in which she sings "She's losing, she's losing, she's losing, she's losing..." As posted earlier, her lowest note may be heard on the lowest vocal harmony track of the twelve-inch version of "Running Up That Hill", during the extended "C'mon, c'mon baby" passage. The difference between these notes is definitely more than two octaves, but the ease and clarity with which Kate sings the high notes on "Heart Brake" indicate that she is capable of singing a good deal higher, albeit perhaps not so beautifully or with sufficient control.

-- Andrew Marvick


Date: Tue, 13 Jan 87 11:35 PST
Subject: Vocal Range

With the hope of ending the vocal range issue, the following facts are posted:

Kate's lowest recorded vocal note, heard on the twelve-inch mix of "Running Up That Hill", is (in the treble clef) the E-sharp below middle C.

Her highest recorded vocal note, heard on the Lionheart track "Don't Put Your Foot on the Heartbrake", is (in the treble clef) the C-sharp THREE octaves ABOVE middle C.

Kate's recorded vocal range to date, therefore, is less than two whole tones shy of FOUR octaves; and she is obviously capable of reaching beyond this range.

-- Andrew Marvick


Date: Wed, 03 Aug 88 18:51 PDT
Subject: four octave range

> According to many sources, our beloved Kate has a four octave range. I believe IED once said she exhibits over four octaves on her first four albums, and over three octaves on "Hounds of Love." I'd be very interested in her lowest and highest notes on each of her albums (i.e., where does she sing her highest notes, where does she sing her lowest notes, what notes are they, and what is the range?). I'm told this is getting into esoteric trivia, but...

-- Paul M Carpentier

If IED did in fact claim a "four-octave" range for Kate, let him apologize here. Actually, this matter was investigated with some care by IED and other Love-Hounds about a year or so ago, and it was found that Kate's range extends -- at least in her publicly released recordings -- about three half-tones shy of three octaves. IED decided (without, however, making a systematic search of Kate's entire recorded work) that Kate's highest note to date can be heard on the track Don't Push Your Foot on the Heart Brake, specifically in the brief preamble to the second set of verses which begin with the line "She's losing that inner flame." At that point the words "She's losing, she's losing, she's losing, she's losing..." can be heard, and they are sung in extremely high two-part harmony by Kate's overdubbed voice. The higher of the two overdubs repeatedly hits high C --that's " the " high C of operatic soprano fame -- the note which, by the end of the nineteenth century, had become a sort of sine qua non for the great divas. Probably the most famous example of the magical effect of a high C in opera comes at the very end of the first act of La Boheme. Mimi's last note of that act is a long, sustained, pianissimo high C. She really hits that note and lets it float.

IED isn't really sure that this is the highest Kate goes, however. Other possible tracks to check out are The Big Sky, Burning Bridge and Not This Time, all of which contain some raw, shrieking choruses which may contain some very high notes. (Half a dozen other songs come to mind already as this is being written.)

As for Kate's lowest note, IED thinks it might be an E-flat below middle C (on the piano), which she might be singing in the extended mix of Running Up That Hill, during a long section in the last third of the recording when Kate repeatedly sings (again in two-part harmony, though this time at the very bottom of her voice) the words "Come on, come on, baby/Come on, come on, darling," etc., with minimal instrumental obligato. (This is not just a remixed section from the LP recording, but an additional vocal section which appears only in the 12" a-side.)

However, after prolonged listening, IED still can't be sure that Kate really reaches that note. In the track The Dreaming, though, she definitely comes down to at least an E-natural below middle C, toward the end of the LP track with the last utterance of the words "in the road."

All of this may sound like an anti-climax, since the term "four-octave range" has been bandied about quite a lot in Love-Hounds over the months (as well as in the media: Take Laurie Brown's spoken introduction to her Canadian TV interview with Kate). In fact, though, from what preliminary research IED has done over the past day or two, there is no confirmation of anyone having consistently sung a full four octaves. It's virtually a fiction in operatic singing. Three octaves, or three octaves and a half at the outside, seem to be about the limit of the soprano voice. (This includes the castrato soprani of olden times, who were famous more for the timbre of their voices, than for any miraculous range.) Perhaps the misunderstanding comes from the fact that a full three-octave range actually includes four octaves of its lowest tone, even though the number of complete octaves could only be three.

IED thinks Jamie Andrews was really getting at the crux of this problem in talking about how Kate exploits her instrument. The trick is not in the range, but in how that range is used. Obviously, an E-natural below middle C doesn't sound particularly "deep" when sung by a male baritone voice. In Kate's 12" mix of RUTH, however, it sounds really deep. In other words, it's all in the timbre: Kate makes the note sound deep because she sings with evident effort, loosening the throat muscles as much as possible to meet the challenge of the pitch, and at the same time attaining that pitch with authority and consistency. By the same token, the solidity with which she hits high C in Don't Push Your Foot, coupled with the audible strain to her voice which the effort causes, combine to create that indefinable effect of "singing very high" -- even though high C for the human voice is no longer even close to the official record, and in fact is nearly two full octaves short of the piano's highest limit.


Date: Fri, 05 Aug 88 21:52 PDT
Subject: Kate's vocal range (update)

The initial search having stirred his interest, IED decided to undertake a more thorough survey of Kate's vocal athletics, and his efforts thus far have already necessitated significant emendations to his original posting on the subject.

Although he expressed doubt recently about the possibility of anyone having a true "four-octave range", and claimed that anyway Kate's own range appeared to extend fewer than three full octaves, IED now admits that the second of these assertions was false, and possibly the first, as well. In listening to Kate's first three albums and her 1979 live recordings he discovered two songs in which Kate topped the high C which she sang on the track Don't Push Your Foot on the Heart Brake.

In the Tour of Life performances of Violin Kate capped her vocal with a huge and wonderfully authoritative leap to the E above high C, when she sang the final "Violin!" of the song. Although this pyrotechnical feat is noticeably absent from the later studio recording of Violin, Kate also reached the high E in an earlier studio recording: James and the Cold Gun.

IED has also found that Kate's voice reaches below the low E-flat which he had earlier claimed was Kate's lowest sung note (found on the extended mix of RUTH ). On the Lionheart track Coffee Homeground Kate in fact sings (albeit with some uncertainty and only on a rather minor bass harmony backing-vocal) a low D-flat. This can be heard during the brief bridge leading out of the first chorus of the song into the second set of verses. Kate accompanies the instruments with a series of "la-la-la"s, and these extend, in the lower of Kate's two overdubs, to a definite low D-flat.

The sum total of all this is that, while he earlier stated that Kate's range was two full tones shy of three octaves, he can now announce, after only an incomplete search of her recordings, that her voice extends at least one-and-a-half tones beyond three full octaves. Even though this still leaves Kate's range well short of the legendary four octaves so often ascribed to her, IED would not be surprised to discover, in the course of his continuing research, that Kate has "pushed the envelope" even further.

-- Andrew Marvick


Date: Fri, 10 Nov 89 12:22 PST
From: IED0DXM%OAC.UCLA.EDU@mitvma.mit.edu
Subject: four octave range

For the record, Kate does not, nor has she ever, had a true "four-octave range". Perhaps with difficulty she could span three octaves and go half way up a fourth--and this is actually about as far as most voices go, even the most agile and athletic. The reason for this kind of hyperbole no doubt stems from Kate's unusually high "working" vocal range, and the fact that she is able to reach a great many of her higher notes either with or without relying on her falsetto.

A perfect example of the difference in timbre between Kate's falsetto high range and her non-falsetto high range can be heard in the new recording, Never Be Mine. Throughout the recording Kate sings the line "This is all I need" in her amazingly expressive, full, rich and intimate falsetto voice. However, toward the end, in the climactic, intricate final choral section, Kate adds another, non -falsetto version of that same line, with the same melody (more or less) and in the same high range. It's placed pretty far back in the mix, but it's not "secret" or anything, so everyone should be able to hear the difference in timbre immediately. There are very few singers working today who have extended their non falsetto ranges to such a degree, or who have been as systematic as Kate in refining the respective shades of expression for both their falsetto and non-falsetto ranges.

Also, of course, Kate can reach surprisingly low notes when she needs to, although seldom with the same kind of power or control.

Aside from these physical distinctions, there is another equally important explanation for Kate's exaggerated reputation in regard to vocal range, and this has to do with the music she composes. Kate's melodies, unlike those of any other writer of "popular" vocal music today, span an enormous range of notes of the scale. Most--nay, all --other people writing songs for the popular genres--are, in comparison, able to conceive only the most timid kinds of melodic structures, within only the most limited scalar ranges. Kate Bush's melodies have--and this was true right from the beginning--very often ventured along completely uncharted paths--at least within the context of the popular vocal genres. One result of the unfamiliarly broad range of notes in Kate's melodies, and the consequent use they make of her vocal range, has been, in IED's opinion, the frequent reference to a "four-octave" singing range.


Date: Mon, 20 Aug 90 08:18:30 EDT
From: JONES%RPIECS.BITNET@mitvma.mit.edu
Subject: High places

Hello there fellow Love-Hounds--

Several folks have submitted their ideas as to Kate's highest notes; here are mine! :)

When the subject was first raised, the note that came almost immediately to mind was that at the end of The Big Sky. However, since I'm not sure if screeching counts, I figured I'd better think of something else, such as...

The note at the end of Waking the Witch. This is the one note that Kate hits and holds at the end of the line in the chorus ".....help this blackbird...", right before the helicopter comes over. I've always admired folks that can hit and hold a note like that, and brother, this makes my hait stand on end. So there you have it. Until next time.....

All the best,

Deb Wentorf

On to Her Work - General Thoughts Pt. 1

written by Love-Hounds
compiled and edited
Wieland Willker
Sept 1995 June 1996