Jeff Buckley

Jeff's vocal style and range


The Kingdom For A Kiss Jeff Buckley F.A.Q. By Rebecca Kane ©1998, 1999
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Jeff's vocal style and range
        Jeff Buckley had an ethereal voice and an incredible vocal range. He was a tenor capable of reaching a falsetto* pitch. A tenor's range in the bass clef spans middle C to high F. Jeff's actual range was four octaves.3

        Jeff's vocal style was significantly influenced by Mahalia Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, Robert Plant, and Freddie Mercury. Jeff was also an enthusiastic admirer of Nusrat Ali Fateh Ali Khan:

"He's my Elvis."1          -- Jeff Buckley
* Falsetto
(n.) An unnaturally or artificially high-pitched voice or register, especially in a man. (Webster's College Dictionary, Random House, New York, 1991.)
        Russ received an e-mail from a vocal student at the University of Queensland named Mirko. She shared this insight after studying Jeff's voice:

        "Jeff Buckley was a light lyric tenor. His very different registers were blended marvelously. His chest, voice, and head voice were perfectly integrated. His falsetto was good, too, and his fluctuating between falsetto and head voice is something most singers are very jealous of. His tessitura (or comfortable singing range) was between E below middle C, which he often started verses on- ("Grace", "Lover ...", "Last Goodbye"), and the notes D right above middle C and F# just above that- in most of his choruses. He also used his high A frequently. A typical lyric tenor tessitura. In other words, to the unacquainted, the same range as Pavarotti. Except, Jeff was very fond of the alto register, which he would exploit in falsetto, or coordinated head voice (a fuller, wailing type of voice).
        "His lowest note was on a live version of "Dream Brother" (on the Australian Grace album pack- it must have been the weather!) and it was the second A below middle C -- this is quite low for a high tenor voice. He loved to wail in head voice on the high E, which he did on half the songs on Grace, but mysteriously stopped doing them on Sketches .... This was high "showstopper" note, I guess. For example, in "So Real", at the outro, he sings the high E, and then scoops up to the High F# , this is very high, even for a tenor. And it's not in falsetto -- falsetto is quite easy to do for most male voices. No, this is in a coordinated head voice -- that's a full sounding voice -- very difficult to do (or at least sustain) at that pitch! Jeff's head voice (not falsetto) was quite unique. He could sing in an alto range quite effectively- check out "Strange Fruit" on the "Man in the Moon" session -- breathtaking; or the Edith Piaf cover on Live at Sin-. And evidently his voice wasn't up to scratch on the day of the "Man in the Moon" sessions.
        "His highest note is on the B-sides on Sketches ... on the track "Gunshot Glitter." It's an Eb above the soprano high C!!!! This is coloratura (high agile soprano) territory! It's kind of a squeaky falsetto note- only for a second, but it's technically phenomenal- it sounds like he was just playing around. Another phenomenally high passage is in the jazz scat in " The Way Young Lovers Do" on Live at Sin-. He actually gets into the super-register, normally reserved for trumpets!
        "Anyway, his voice was magnificent. And his breath control was phenomenal- the sustained notes in "Mojo Pin" are very, very hard to sustain the way he does."*

3 Guitar Player, March 1994, Volume 28, Issue 3, Page 120
1 Dye, David. "World Cafe." WXPN Interview, Winter 1993/94
* Wilkins, Kim "Mirko," 26 Oct 1998.

Last Updated: 19 Apr 1999


The Kingdom For A Kiss Jeff Buckley F.A.Q. By Rebecca Kane ©1998, 1999
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