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Can the terms "lyric", "coloratura", and "dramatic" also be applied for pop/non-classical singers?

Or are they strictly used within the classical music or opera only? According to wikipedia, words like lyric, dramatic, coloratura, and other defining qualities should never be applied to a non-classical singer. Also specific kinds of voices like soubrette and spinto should not be used outside of classical singing.

But I know there are some non-classical musicians and voice teachers who sometimes apply those terms for non-classical singers. I heard that most pop singers nowadays have lyric voices, like Norah Jones, Josh Groan or Beyonce. Jennifer Hudson and Tom Jones are both said to possess dramatic voices. Somewhere, I've read that Kelly Clarkson is a spinto soprano (really???). Wikipedia also classifies Whitney Houston as "dramatic coloratura soprano". Aside from her, I don't know any other pop singers who are said to have coloratura voices. (Okay, this is just some of what I have heard or read previously from/in various sources. Please do not attack me if you think what I said/wrote is wrong. I am open to any correction whatsoever).

So tell me, do you think the terms "lyric", "coloratura", "dramatic", "spinto", "leggiero" etc can also be used outside of classical singing? Or are they strictly for opera singers only? And if they CAN be used for pop singers, can you tell me which singers who are classified within each voice type?

Thanks in advance.


LOL Mamianka, you made me laugh LOL LOL LOL.

And Edik, thank you so much for your explanation. I actually already KNOW the definition of lyric, coloratura, dramatic, spinto, soubrette etc. I only wanna know whether those terms can be used outside of classical music. That's all.

And Ms. Chick, welcome back! =)

Update 2:

Oh yes, btw I agree with Ms. Chick. There IS such thing as "dramatic coloratura" so it's not something contradictive.

7 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    If Whitney Houston ever WAS a "dramatic coloratura soprano", then that means that somewhere in her career, she would have professionally sung arias such as those for the Queen of the Night in Mozart's "Magic Flute". HAH! - Fat Chance! To use legitimate operatic terms to describe pop singers is like using terms that describe specialist micro-surgeons, to the local BUTCHER at the meat market on the corner. Do we all appreciate the guy who can pick out a nice rib roast for us? Sure. Would we want him to put an implant lens in our eye? Not so much.

    A pop belter is NOT a dramatic soprano, any more than Michael Bolton is a Heldentenor (I actually heard an *operatic* CD he made years ago - I almost PEED, it was so funny!!!!) So - every time you see one of these terms applied to pop singers, you can laugh to yourself, that for what their PUBLICIST is paid, they could afford to buy a little classical music dictionary - and mis-apply the terms to their employer.

    Other way around - I have heard opera singers try to sing pop music. With a VERY few exceptions, this usually makes me cringe. I know *my* strengths and limitations. I could stand up right now and play several flute concerti by memory, with orchestra - that is my business. Wanna see me in a thong, doing a back-up dance on MTV ? Those people on this list who know who I REALLY am are right now losing their breakfasts!

    Source(s): Professional music director, voice teacher, and competition judge in NY since 1971.
  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

    Coloratura Definition

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Ok I am a dramatic coloratura soprano, and I am classicly trained.

    I am going to say that my teacher told me in my first voice lesson ever that I am a natural lyric mezzo soprano, but because of my range (A2-C7) and where my vocal transitions are etc. He wanted to train me as a soprano. Coloratura is not something that comes naturally, I spent three years learning technique and other than the first year which was spent learning breath control and projection and diapragm control, most of what we focused on was vibrato and coloratura (like getting it fluid).

    So no, those terms cannot be used outside of classical singing.

    The six main vocal types can be.







    Other than those six voice types you cannot apply classical terms to pop singing.

    E.G. Mariah Carey may have the range of a coloratura soprano but she is not a coloratura soprano.

    Like those kind of terms were applied on the basis of "this singer has been trained to produce sound and sing in a way that is of a certain vocal type."

    And although a lot of women say they are altos, they are most likely mezzo-soprano's or even sopranos because even if they can reach low notes, most likely they wont have the darkness or the vocal weight to be considered real contraltos.

    And no I have never heard of a non-classical singer being called soubrette etc.

    They can be called soprano or baritone etc.

    Hope that answers your queston.

  • 1 decade ago

    I've answered this question in the singing section already, but I wanted to add to this one. There is such thing as a dramatic coloratura. These are agile soprano singers with dramatic instruments. Joan Sutherland was often described as one. Its hard to find such a voice, but they're out there. Its debated that Beverly Sills was one as well. There are actually dramatic coloratura roles out there. The character in Norma written by Bellini is considered one. But Edik, I can see where you're coming from.

    And Mamianka, I'll join you in that back up dance. Shhhh. Don't tell my kids. ROTFL!

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    6 years ago

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  • Edik
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    You know, as I've been composing my answer to your question, it occurs to me that this is actually a much more interesting question than it first appeared! My initial reaction was to say no, these are just classical terms. But having checked Oxford Music Online (see below), I'm not sure about all of them. Hopefully a real singer will chime in with his/her take...cause goodness knows I'm no singer...

    First, I can't imagine classifying Whitney Houston as a dramatic coloratura. In fact, the combination of "dramatic" and "coloratura" seems contradictory to me. That would be like Isolde digging in and singing Queen of the Night during Act 3...not gonna happen.

    My understanding is that most of these terms are as much ways of classifying specific opera roles as they are in classifying people's voices. So, while some of them may seem to be applicable to pop singers, the terms won't really be defined the same way. From your descriptions, it sounds like "lyric pop singer" is used to describe someone who has a smooth voice quality, and has nothing to do with range. (I only know Norah Jones from your list) And "dramatic pop singer" is used to describe people who sing more up-beat (I guess that means "dramatic") music. So, if you want to accept a generalized definition of these terms, then go ahead and apply them to what you want. But it doesn't really make sense to me...

    Looking at Oxford Music Online (a much more reliable source than Wikipedia...), here are some comments:

    Dramatic soprano: "The term admits a wide variety of repertory and voice type. Any claimant to it must possess a powerful voice and a style capable of energetic emphasis..." [vague definition...but it DOES say a "wide variety of repertory and voice type."]

    Coloratura: "A term applied to elaborate decoration, either extemporized or notated, of a vocal melody (by figuration, ornamentation, etc.). A coloratura soprano is one with a high, light, agile voice capable of singing such virtuoso arias as the two written by Mozart for the Queen of Night in Die Zauberflöte." [I can't imagine this in pop music, unless you want to call Mariah Carey's squealing "coloratura..." but it's not really the same...]

    Lyric soprano: "This is the central, ‘standard’ type of soprano voice, one whose range covers the two octaves from c′ to c ‴ with something over at either end, whose power and fullness are sufficient to take her out of the class of Light soprano while not extending to the demands of heavy roles open to the Dramatic soprano, and whose appeal lies not so much in the agility of her florid singing as in the beauty of tone she is able to bring to her singing of the melodic line..."

    Soubrette: "A secondary female role in comic opera, often a lively and coquettish lady's maid such as Despina in Così fan tutte or Adele in Die Fledermaus."

    Spinto: "Pushed, urged on. Term used of certain variety of v., particularly sop. or ten., e.g. soprano lirico spinto, meaning a v. which has been ‘pushed’ into more forceful singing. Butterfly is an example of a spinto sop. role." [I'm sure this terms doesn't have the negative connotation that "pushed" does in the vocal sense...but "pushed voices" (ie. strained, overworked, poorly maintained) are about all I hear when I turn on pop maybe this works for pop music.]

    Hope this helps!

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