Sunday, May 3, 2015

For Musicians: The Oktavist Voice

Now if any of you have checked me out on Google+, you've probably noticed that I'm really "into" music.  I can play piano, guitar, bass, ukulele (I'm cool like that), tenor and alto sax, I can overtone sing (that means two notes at the same time), beatbox, rap, as you can see I'm making all kindz of music gainz (Hodgetwins reference).  So for all my fellow young musicians out there, I salute you and welcome you to my blog, as this series "For Musicians" is dedicated to guys and gals just like you.

Aside from the many things on that list I also like to sing occasionally (haha, actually never), and I'm a little obsessed with vocal music.  I have a relatively low bass voice especially for my age, with potential to grow into a lower basso-profundo.  My range (just to give you an idea) is C#2-C5(A6), brackets being falsetto.  I'm not sure exactly where my highest head voice note is, like I said I don't really sing, but it's around tenor high C and the lowest note I could really project in a choral or operatic setting is probably D#2 unless I'm having a terrible vocal day.  Now, enough about myself, let's talk about these incredible male voices: oktavists.

What is an Oktavist?

The oktavist is the most rare vocal classification of them all, and it's by far the lowest.  Most people with a basic or even a quite advanced knowledge of vocal music think of the lowest voice type as being basso-profundo, and it is in most styles of music.  But there is one even more earthshakingly low voice type originating in Russian Orthodox Chants known as the oktavist, that is even lower.  And no, despite what most people believe oktavists are not the Russian equivalent of basso-profundi, as basso-profundo singers are also existent in some Russian Orthodox music.  What's the difference?  Well a basso-profundo typically has a range of around C2-E4, sometimes being defined as singers who are capable of singing D#2 at fortissimo.  Oktavists on the other hand, are required to sing in the first octave, also called the contra octave.  Oktavists in general are required to sing A#1 and below, but there are many recordings of the most famous oktavists singing as low as F1.  An exceptional and in fact record breaking oktavist, Mikhail Zlatopolsky, projected six audible D1s and a C1 over a full mixed choir during a recording of "A Prayer for the Dead".  This incredible recording can be found on YouTube and I've put one below.  

Mikhail who?  What happened to Tim Storms?

Yes, I am aware that Tim Storms holds the record for the lowest vocal note, but he is barely an oktavist.  His voice lacks the cavernous resonance and sonorous tone of a true oktavist, and he uses amplified vocal fry to produce his lowest notes while guys like Zlatopolsky used the modal register to actually sing those inhuman contra octave notes.  Another important factor in classifying this voice type is whether or not the singer can project contra octave notes over a choir without a microphone. That's impossible to do with the use of vocal fry.  

Links to check out

Great website for info on the oktavist voice website owner's YouTube channel.  Great recordings of legendary oktavists and profundi.
Remastered recording of Pavel Chesnokov's "Do not reject me in my old age" performed by my personal favourite: Vladimir Pasjukov.  Good channel for remastered profundo and oktavist recordings as well.  Song starts on C2 and goes down to A#1 just before the halfway point.


  1. Glad you wrote that. I too concur with the view the likes of Tim storms are just trying and can't really project the notes like zlatopolsky and others can....I have always found that if u put a singer against a piano and try going down, then there's no mistaking the fade off as you go most baritones I start to really lose volume as I near the contra octave...and I won't embarrass myself by trying to project notes below f2 or e2....but it seems the likes of zlatopolsky really project F1 and lower....awesome....I am sure you can't train for's just how long your vocal chords are....I think...