The 4 Contemporary Singing Voice Types

The 4 Contemporary Singing Voice Types


Four contemporary singing voice types are revolutionizing the music industry! The world’s first Elemental Voice Classification System™ (E-VCS™) has been developed to offer contemporary voices a deeper sense of insight regarding the nature of their vocal strengths and weaknesses. These revolutionary singing voice types for contemporary singers are Earth Dominant Singers™, Air Dominant Singers™, Fire Dominant Singers™, and Water Dominant Singers™. Here are the descriptions of Vocodojo™ contemporary singing voice types.

Earth Dominant Singers™

EDS™ are the voice types who harness the power of their unique vocal distortions, who frequently experiment with vocal textures, who often showcase their low vocal register, and who channel their vocal intensity to super charge the lyrics they sing. Janis Joplin, Louis Armstrong, James Hetfield of Metallica, and Pink are fantastic examples of Earth Dominant Singers™.

Air Dominant Singers™

ADS™ are the voice types who cultivate the gentleness of their breath flow, who sing in an ethereal manner, who prefer to vocalize softly, and who captivate their listeners with their melancholy melodies. Aaliyah, Sufjan Stevens, Norah Jones, and Billie Eilish are perfect examples of Air Dominant Singers™.

Fire Dominant Singers™

FDS™ are the singing voice types who don’t hold back on the high notes, whose voices skyrocket out of their mouths, who wield their voices with forward-focused placement and twang, and who exude self-empowerment with their unbridled sound. Aretha Franklin, Chris Cornell, Kelly Clarkson, and Adam Lambert are great examples of Fire Dominant Singers™.

Water Dominant Singers™

WDS™ are the voice types who effortlessly demonstrate their purity of tone, who navigate fluidly through their vocal registers, who are the rulers of melodic lines, riffs, and runs, and who find themselves telling light-hearted and playful stories through song. Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Buble, Jane Monheit, and Sara Bareilles are excellent examples of Water Dominant Singers™.

Classical Voice Types

Some of you might be asking yourselves, “Isn’t there already a voice classification system for singers”? And you’d be right! Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass are the primary voice types in classical and choral music. The voice geeks and vocal scholars out there might even be familiar with a few of the more specific classical singing voice types such as mezzo-soprano, heldentenor, cavalier baritone, contralto, countertenor, and soprano di coloratura. These singing voice types are all very valid, but they were created for classical music and were adopted by choral music. When I was a kid, I was classified as a boy soprano and as my voice changed my singing voice type changed with it. I had voice teachers and choir directors tell me that I was a tenor, then I was told that I was a baritone, then a countertenor/male alto, and then lyric tenor. Being on the receiving end of all these labels made me feel like I was experiencing a cyclical vocal identity crisis. I don’t wish that feeling on anyone. All of my teachers were well intended, but I knew that their labels were confusing me a bit, and their system didn’t quite work when it came to classifying non-classical voice types who “broke the classical system rules”.
“An alternative voice classification system needed to be developed.”
Despite my intermittent confusion with the classical voice classification system, there was an undeniable sense of duty to live up to the standards of the voice types that I was labeled with. Maybe some of you can relate. It was as if my voice type was something so fragile and unstable, that like water, it could just flow out of my grasp at any moment. For example, I felt a ton of pressure to maintain a certain vocal range, a certain kind of loudness, a certain gentleness to my vocal approach, or a certain kind of coordination through my vocal registers. Ironically, whenever I felt like I was settling in to any particular voice type, or even identifying with it, another voice teacher or director would come along and label me with a different voice type. I began to ask myself what was at the root of my vocal identify shifts? Then I discovered a pattern. The labels that others were bestowed upon me were consistently inconsistent and in a way, restricted my freedom of expression. I felt that something needed to change. An alternative voice classification system needed to be developed.

The Nature of My Inspiration

The awesomeness of the natural world was my inspiration for the Elemental Voice Classification System™ (E-VCS™). And just as all the elements are found on our planet, I have come to realize that all of the elements are found in each singer’s voice. But some singers are more dominant in a particular element and some singers might demonstrate a balance between all of the vocal elements. Neither scenario is better than the other just as no element is superior than another. They are simply differences that I respect in all singers. My goal is to positively impact the music industry, by helping people understand the uniqueness of their singing voice and by creating a community of singers who embrace the differences of all the singing voice types.
Here is a description of how all the elements are exhibited, to some degree, in every voice type. Earth represents the spectrum of vocal textures, vocal distortions, and the lower vocal register of a singer. Air represents the breathiness, softness, and quietness of a singer’s approach to vocalizing. Fire represents a singer’s vocal power, how they resonate their singing voice, and the upper vocal register. Water represents a singers vocal agility, their coordination through their vocal registers, the purity of vocal tone, and the middle/conversational register of the singing voice.

As you may have already realized, the art of singing is an effect of dynamic systems like those on our planet. The Earth provides the structure for the air in our atmosphere, the air is fuel for fire, and water carves paths throughout the Earth. Comparatively, the physical body (symbolized by Earth) supports the structure for the other vocal elements! The breath (symbolized by Air) fuels the vibratory movements of the vocal folds. The sound energy (symbolized by Fire) produced by the vibratory movements of the vocal folds ignite the voice. The singer’s vocal agility (symbolized by Water) is a product of the coordination between the muscles within the voice box and the singer’s breath flow he human vocal tract. To me, the comparisons between the singing voice and the elements was easy. But I realize that this has been a lifetime in the making.

“[…]elemental symbolism can be found throughout the world (…)”

People who know me might also chime in with something to the effect of, “Erik, admit it, you were actually inspired by Captain Planet, Sailor Moon, Pokemon, and Avatar: The Last Airbender”! And I wouldn’t put up much of an argument to that statement. In fact, I’d also add to the list of inspiration! Astrology, specifically the elemental components of the zodiac, played a significant role in laying the foundation for what would become the Vocodojo Elemental Voice Classification System™ (E-VCS™). Except, instead of the day, time, and place of your birth being the determining factors for your dominant vocal element, your singing voice quality, the sensations you experience when you sing, the manner you perform (yes, even if you only sing in the car or in the shower), and your personality as a singer would be the determining factors. If elemental symbolism can be found throughout the world of the visual and performing arts, literature, martial arts, and spiritual practices, then the singing voice should be no different.

My Background. My Calling.

I’m a singer and Clinical Voice Pathologist. I feel incredibly fortunate to have a career as a medical Speech-Language Patholgist/Clinical Singing Voice Specialist! My privilege and responsibility to serve my patients has offered me opportunities to work with world renowned singers to people who just want to experience the joy of singing to their grandchildren. The voice is precious! It’s the instrument that is the most deeply connected to our emotions, which can make it the most powerful and the most sensitive of all the instruments. Throughout my singing endeavors, my research, and my clinical practice, I realized that I’m hypersensitive to the holistic voice. I feel undeniable sensations throughout my body that cue me into my client’s body while they’re singing. But my sensitivity also allows me a deeper insight into my clients’ personality and their perception of their singing voice. This ability, coupled with my love of singing, and love of teaching, has helped craft my unique approach to voice rehabilitation, voice training, and teaching people how to sing.

Music is in my blood and singing has been my calling since as early as I can remember. It’s very likely that this calling is genetic in origin, but I have to give a great deal of credit to the familial encouragement to pursue singing from both sides of my family. My vocal journey took me from my pre-school singing ensemble to musical theater stages, a cappella groups, jazz ensembles, gospel choirs, concert choirs, solo performances, singing from the rafters of historic churches, touring England with SCSU choir, touring around the country with the Yale Russian Chorus, and to getting hired to sing in the Yale Opera ensemble at the gorgeous Shubert Theater. From Rock and Roll to classical, I love to sing. It’s my favorite way to express myself and it gives me an immense sense of purpose. I hope that the Vocodojo philosophy will offer singers a deeper understanding of their own voice to improve freedom of expression while singing. When we sing with purpose, authenticity, and an open heart, we can create a community that not only accepts the differences between singers, we can create a community that celebrates the differences between singers.

Dynamic Vocal Elements

Based on my personal and professional experience, I believe that a comprehensive self-assessment in the form of the Vocodojo Test would be a great way for singers to gain insight on their singing voice classification, without anyone else giving them a specific label. This is empowering and potentially life-changing for a singer! And just as we change our opinions and personal tastes, there might be times throughout a singer’s life when they start adopting more characteristics of another vocal element. That is perfectly fine. It’s also fine if a singer determines that their dominant vocal element is constant throughout their entire life. Just as the elements in nature are dynamic, the vocal elements can be dynamic and nebulous with each individual singer. Elemental symbolism can be found throughout the world of the visual and performing arts, literature, martial arts, and spiritual practice. In my opinion, the singing voice is no different.

Take the Vocodojo Test to Discover YOUR Vocal Element!

I’m excited for you to dive into your vocal elements and for you to have a deeper appreciation for the awesomeness of YOUR voice! Please feel free to ask questions, share your thoughts, and communicate among yourselves about the Vocodojo™ Elemental Voice Classification System™ (E-VCS™) and the Vocodojo™ philosophy.


– Erik

Creator & Founder of Vocodojo

P.S. Voice Geeks UNITE!!!

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