Top 5 Famous Baritone Singers
Alright, let me start by saying I'm a rock guy.
And if you've found your way here, you're either a rock/pop/blues guy or gal yourself - or you might be a little lost.
So this isn't going to be your average "top famous baritone singers" lists where I list Opera singers who ruled the earth over a century ago;
- Tita Ruffo (1877 – 1953)
- Friedrich Schorr (1888-1953)
I'm going to be super selfish and share with you MY top five favourite baritone singers.
Baritone voice type, that is, not "baritone character in an Opera" - two very important differences.
So first, let me explain.
Classical vocal fach such as Verdi Baritone, Alto, Soprano etc, refer to a relatable 'character' within a specific range of a singer's voice - build, tone, ability to fit a character used to play much more into the certification of a singer's fach than today - especially in contemporary singing like rock.
If we're talking the classical training I took many years ago, and consider the natural ease that I sing within the C2 - E4 range; you might be mistaken for thinking I'm a bass.
The character of my voice, however, is much more of a baritone.
But because I'm somewhat of 'slight' build and not your typical hulking bass baritone - I likely wouldn't fit "the villain", so I might be pushed into the Verdi Baritone character, interchangeable between a casual baritone role or even as a fill-in for the Tenor without the same high range.
You can see it really has little to do with potential range, how low or high your voice is - or even your approach as a singer.
It's all about how well you fit that character.
But in contemporary singing, these types are often simplified and refer more to where your break periods lie, how and when you transition between each register, the weight and timbre of your voice and even your available low range.
Many beginner singers, guys at least, assume that because they haven't learned to sing high notes correctly, then they "must be a baritone" - which is really just confirmation bias rather than an indication of any vocal type or character.
If we scooch back to myself here for a moment - I've actually become quite well known for singing effortlessly in the higher Tenor range with a bright, powerful and easy tone.
But when I use my natural range in the lower baritone to bass register, people are often shocked and confused about my type as a singer.
Hi - I'm Kegan from Bohemian Vocal Studio. I'm a low baritone who has spent over two decades learning how to take that low baritone rumble and sing correctly in the Tenor range and beyond using great technique, extensive training and the only vocal method recommended by other voice coaches - The Foundation Vocal Approach.
Keeping this in mind, I'd love to share with you my top 5 favourite Baritone Singers - updated in 2021.
First up, let me say that there's a ton of "deep" rock singers that really straddle the line between baritone and tenor in a tonal sense - Danzig, Chris Cornell, even Elvis; and I'd love to include 'em all. But we're going to keep this short and sweet and centred around the top 5 famous baritone singers.
There's also a ton of obscure stuff I love like Fields of the Nephilim (Carl Mccoy), Down (Phil Anselmo), The Mission (Wayne Hussey) and Sisters of Mercy that feature heavily stylised vocals which again straddle that line - but I'll keep this as accessible as I can.
#1 - Jim Morrison
Let me start out by saying something that not too many voice coaches will share with you - Jim Morrison was an amazing singer.
He was great.
Sure, there's some squeaks and pops, and definitely some drunken warbling when we're talking live shows - But all in all, Jim Morrison was a seriously respectable as a singer when you really dig deep into The Doors catalog;
- Yes, The river knows
- Love Street
- Spanish Caravan
I find the doors songs where Jim really SINGS with a clear, full, resonant tone to be my favourite.
I spun nothing but Doors and Pink Floyd records for a few years through highschool - I'm forever coloured by my adoration for Jim Morrison's voice.
#2 - Johnny Cash
I'm a giant Johnny Cash fan.
I mean, who isn't, right?
Funnily enough, I once had a voice teacher tell me I would "never sing anything but Johnny Cash songs" - which I think was actually meant to be an insult to my poor technique at the time, but it's one I wore like a badge of honor.
Johnny was also a great singer too. A few personal favourites of mine are American Remains and The Highway Men by The Highway Men (Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson are also favourites of mine for other reasons) and also his quintessential cover of Nine Inch Nails' iconic "Hurt".
#3 - Axl Rose
I kinda threw Axl in the mix as a bit of a curveball for you to challenge those notions that "baritones sing low" and "tenors sing high".
I grew up with the original Guns 'n Roses.
I remember when Use Your Illusion was first released - whatever you feel about G'n'R today, back in those days they were an ICON, absolutely EPIC like The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and Metallica all rolled into one.
The funny thing about Axl's voice is that he doesn't often sing with his natural range - in fact, his high range is really put on too and isn't an "open" vowel in the way that I teach and personally sing; it's all about masque, masque masque.
And you can never have too much masque, right?
Unless there's too much - like AXL.
All humour aside, my favourite GNR songs are ones like Night Train and It's so Easy where you get a glimpse at that naturally low range hiding underneath layers of paint-stripping-banshee-wailing-screeching we all know and (some) love.
Brian Johnson from ACDC is a pretty similar story too - so it's no wonder we had "AXL/DC" a few years ago when he was unable to tour - they're basically cut from the same cloth as far as baritone singers who screech as high as they possibly can.
#4 - Mark Lanegan
Mark Lanegan is one of those dark horse kinda guys that once you know, you KNOW - but most people just don't know.
The Blues Funeral album was the one that really converted me to Lanegan and made me realise the true power and magic of his voice - although I was aware of him through a few Screaming Trees songs and obviously the Mad Season album where he duets on a couple of tracks with Layne Staley.
I really feel like Mark grew into his voice eventually.
We're getting a little into Goth Rock territory here, but songs like St. Louis Elegy, Nocturne and Death Trip to Tulsa are some of my favourite songs EVER.
The incredible thing about Mark's voice is that he really CAN sing with excellent, clear technique - but often chooses not to; and can switch between a really beautifully resonant tone and a painfully emotive tone that sounds like his last breath on cue.
Mark Lanegan is in a similar league to guys like Sivert Hoyem, Nick Cave, Blixa Bargeld and Leonard Cohen for me - with varying abilities and shades that create a mystery like no other.
#5 - David Bowie
Bowie, like Scott Weiland, is another confusing one of many people "but he sings high!" - but the true tonal quality and natural low range are definitely there if you have the ear for it.
Bowie was a truly great singer, and able to morph his voice into so many different characters and shades.
Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs are probably my two favourite "classic" Bowie albums, but Blackstar is definitely at the top for me too.
Bonus #6 - Mike Patton
I've gotta make up for throwing AXL at you, right?
Mike Patton is one of those "secret baritone" singers that most people don't realise has such a low voice naturally - and is just such a GREAT singer that available range and a changeable tone are on tap.
I also grew up in the era where Faith No More ruled the earth in their semi-original formation, Angel Dust being my favourite of their albums.
Smaller and Smaller, Ashes to Ashes, Stripsearch and even tunes like Evidence display what Mike was capable of in his low range, and the natural baritone timbre he had available when he wasn't squealing through a gas mask or doing the parody Anthony Keidis thing.
Seriously, GREAT singer.
CAN A BARITONE LEARN HOW TO SING?
I appreciate great technique. Great singing ability. From John Fogerty to Aretha Franklin to many of the guys I mentioned above, great technique = great singing ability.
So if you're wondering whether the reason you've been struggling to learn how to sing is "because you're a baritone", you seriously need to check yourself, hard.
I felt the same for a REALLY long time.
I doubted myself.
I had no range.
My voice was hoarse.
My highest note was around an F3.
My voice in the morning was (and often still is) a comfortable D2.
I'd like to help you get past the idea that a baritone can't sing high notes, by SHOWING you how to actually do it yourself. That's right, I'm not just going to "tell you" that it can be done, I'm going to SHOW YOU how I did it myself, and I'm going to teach YOU how to do it too!
Watch this video to learn how I turned a measly octave of baritone range into FOUR full octaves of power.
Add your details to receive your free 3-part Vocal Plan including "Mastering The Art Of Singing" PDF Guide + Bonus Vowel Modification Training Video:
I never thought I'd be able to develop a powerful and effortless voice for rock and metal, but after taking regular lessons with Kegan, I've not only met, but surpassed my expectations and goals.
Kegan has helped me put the "Singer" into singer-songwriter, and has helped me all the way through to recording my first album!
It's a 1000% brilliant vocal method.
Kegan's training also helps me as a voice coach.