What does a ‘light’ voice sound like?

When people come for an initial consultation, we conduct an assessment on their voice. It’s like an MOT for their voice, where we identify what’s good, what’s OK, and what needs work.

But even before we do the assessment, I am listening to the timbre and weight of their voice even as they speak. I want to hear what their voice actually sounds like when it is not interfered with, and from there I can more accurately figure out how to build their voice for them.

What affects their vocal weight

Their size, age, sex, and particular physiology all play a role in how weighty or how light a given will be.

When I talk about a weighty voice, it’s a marriage of several factors. The more muscle someone has in their vocal folds, the more muscular and weighty it can sound. A large larynx, a low larynx and long neck can also deepen the resonance of the voice, which makes it sound weightier but in a different way. The bigger someone’s body, typically the weightier their voice sounds, though this is not always the case. The older someone is, the weightier the voice becomes also, only reversing this trend in much much later life (e.g. muscular atrophy, larynx height, etc).

A lighter voice tends to have all the opposite traits. Smaller statured people, younger singers, women more than men, etc. Lighter voices have less mass to them, less weight, and so are more nimble. They tend to have less range at the bottom end of their voice, and far more at the top. Agility and nimbleness are more normal traits for lighter voices, but they often have to work harder to sound bigger and powerful. The reverse is true for weighty voices.

I’ll cover weightier voices in another post, but now we’ve covered the basics of light vs weightier voices, let’s feature a few examples:

1) Bruno Mars

Listen to the opening seconds of this video. Bruno simply says “It’s so beautiful, I want to hang out with all of my Billboard friends”. Listen to how light and almost feminine his normal speaking voice sounds. Then listen how high his voice sits in the following songs. You can hear his singing voice is more or less in the same place. A lighter voice has this… well… light quality to it, and the power has to come from aggression and style, as the tone can never reach the dramatic height of weightier voices.

2) Jonah Nilsson

This is a Swedish singer, and rose to fame in a trio called Dirty Loops. They did jazz-funk covers of famous mainstream pop songs. He has a very high voice, as evidenced in this track…

But if you listen to this breakdown of another track, just skip through and listen to the weight in his speaking voice.

Can you hear how his voice quality and pitch sits in a similar place to Bruno Mars? I’m not saying they have the SAME voice, I’m asking you to hear the common qualities across the two of them.

3) Juan Diego Florez

Listen to this interview for a moment, and try to hear the same quality in his voice…

Then we shall skip to a short climax in this piece…

A wonderful voice, but the quality of the singing is a much lighter and brighter timbre one than most of the population would ever generate themselves, simply because of how light the instrument itself is.


Hopefully you can hear the commonalities across these voices, and can form some idea of what a ‘lighter’ voice sounds like. Next time I’ll look at a selection of weightier voices, and from there it should be easier to hear how voices can lie in between these extremes.

Leave a Reply