Last week Music Feeds reported on an interactive chart floating around the web that purported to have scientifically ranked in order of their respective octave ranges the world’s greatest singers.
To alternating reactions of glee and dismay, heading that list last week was Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose, with his mighty command over a range of five octaves. However, further research has offered a new lead.
Following prompting from their readers, New York-based news outlet Vintage Vinyl News has reconsidered the original criteria established by Concert Hotels to curate their list, which drew its small sample from Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Singers, the nominees for this year’s Billboard Music Awards, and singers who’d been analysed by The Range Place.
Upon expanding the pool and taking into account some singers who didn’t initially fall into the Rolling Stone/BMA criteria, Axl and his five octaves fall back into fourth place, replaced at the top by Faith No More‘s rock savant Mike Patton, who sports an astounding six-octave, half-note range. That’s Eb1 to E7, for those playing at home.
Following Patton are avant-garde vocalist Diamanda Galás and Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth who claim a range of five octaves alongside Rose, but are just a few notes higher. The remainder of the new top 10 features Paul McCartney, Roger Waters, Mariah Carey, Phil Anselmo, German singer Nina Hagen and Devin Townsend. Interestingly, Waters, Anselmo, Townsend and the newly crowned king Patton weren’t anywhere on the original list.
The new list also shook up other placements, pushing notable vocal heros further down the rankings. Consequence of Sound points out Marvin Gaye slipped from the top 10 to the top 30, Steven Tyler landed out of the top five and into the top 20, James Brown tumbled from 6th to the top 25, Freddie Mercury moved down to 35 and Justin Bieber, who previously ranked in the bottom 10, has been pushed off the list entirely.
Other notable additions to the list include Jon Bon Jovi and Deftones’ Chino Moreno who share a range of four octaves and 2-1/2 notes, plus Serj Tankian who wrangled into the top 20 with a range of four octaves and one note.
For added interest several other artists share vocal ranges, resulting in unlikely comparisons. Damon Albarn, Beyoncé, Kate Bush, Chris Cornell and Michael Jackson are all members of the three octaves and four notes club. Michael Bolton, Lou Reed and Eminem sit together at three octaves and two notes, while John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, has the same exact range as Dolly Parton, Adele and Robin Gibb.
Listen: The Vocal Range and Versatility of Mike Patton