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In music, a tenor is a male singer with a high voice (although not as high as a countertenor). In four part chorale-style harmony, it is the second lowest voice, above the bass and below the soprano and alto. A typical tenor will have a range extending roughly from the C an octave below middle C to the A above middle C.

Many of the most famous opera singers have been tenors, such as:

There have also been some tenors who have been well known for other types of music, who have concentrated on concert performances either with orchestras, or in chamber music, such as lieder or song recitals. These performers may be better known for this kind of work than for opera. Famous tenors of this repertory include

It would be wrong to say that tenors only sing in opera, or that they only sing in lieder, but some have spent more of their efforts in certain types of singing than in others.

The name "tenor" comes from the Latin word tenere, which means "to hold". In medieval music, the tenor voice was always assigned the cantus firmus, the main melody. The other voices added harmony and counterpoint to the tenor.

In the Barbershop harmony musical style, the name "tenor" is used for the highest part. The four parts are known (lowest to highest) as bass, baritone, lead, and tenor. The tenor generally sings in falsetto voice (thus the term tenor used in barbershop terminology most closely corresponds to the term countertenor as used in classical music), and harmonizes above the lead, who sings the melody. The barbershop tenor range is, as notated, Bb-below-middle C to D-above-high-C (and sung an octave lower).

It is often applied to instruments to indicate their range in relation to other instruments of the same group. For instance the tenor saxophone.

See also

Other meanings

the true purport and effect of a deed or instrument; the character or usual pattern of something; the drift or general meaning of a statement or discourse; the concept, object, or person meant in a metaphor.