Serj Tankian Vocal Range

System of a Down is a band that has fans all over the world. Their heavy riffs, melodic interludes, and thought provoking lyrics are a testament to modern metal music. Serj Tankian is the main vocalist of SOAD, with Daron Malakian providing backups.

Serj’s voice is iconic. It’s what drew me to the band when they first came out on the scene. I remember hearing “Spiders” for the first time and wondering, “who are these guys?”. Ever since then, I have been a big fan of SOAD and Serj’s singing.

In this article we will take a close look at Serj Tankian’s vocal range, how many octaves his voice is, as well as a closer look at some of the techniques he uses in his singing. Let’s dive in.

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Serj Tankian is a Baritone

A baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It’s often characterized by a rich, warm vocal tone in the range of F2-F4. Serj Tankian is a baritone because his D2 to E6 range lies comfortably within the baritone classification.

However, Tankian’s voice, often traverses beyond these traditional boundaries, spanning from a low baritone to a high tenor. His performances in tracks like ‘B.Y.O.B.’ and ‘Aerials’ exemplify this range, where he shifts from deep, guttural growls to high, haunting melodies with fluidity and power.

Similarly to other expressive baritones, like Kurt Cobain, Serj cannot easily be put in a vocal “box”. Check out the figure below for an idea of where Serj Stands amongst other singers.

voice-types-with-examples-figure

Serj Tankian’s 4 Octave Voice

Serj Tankian’s vocal range is 4 octaves and one note, from D2 to E6. It is based on his recorded music, which makes it easy to track and verify.

I like to point this out because for other popular rock singers, such as Chester Bennington, for example, extremes in the vocal range are often based on short bits of recorded audio or live recordings. I don’t think this is a good representation of a singers true vocal range.

Serj’s High Notes

Serj has amazing control of high notes, keep in mind he is a baritone! His highest recorded is an E6, which can be heard during the high “la la la” part towards the end of the song “Lie Lie Lie” off his solo album. You can also hear this same note in the high falsetto “terracotta” part in “Vicinity of Obscenity” by SOAD.

His control of these notes is masterful. In each example, he showcases how well he can manage in the high registers. Wether its a melodic bridge, or an aggressive verse, Serj delivers with a punch, to boot.

Serj’s Low Notes

Serj’s lowest recorded note is an E6. You can hear this note in the backing vocals of the SOAD track “Arto” where he powerfully delivers it during the chanting part towards the end. If you like Serj’s solo work, and a bit of Zappa, you can hear this same E6 throughout his rendition of “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow“, one of my favorite Zappa tracks.

Overall, these examples showcase how versatile of a singer Serj really is. He is able to transition between registers with ease, and maintain comfort and control when singing in the extremes of his range. You have to give it to him, Serj is a true 4 octave singer.

Check out this video showcasing some of the overall difficult lines Serj has delivered over the years.

Serj Tankian Vocal Techniques

Tankian employs various techniques that enhance his vocal performances. While these techniques don’t technically extend his vocal range, they undoubtedly expand his vocal versatility and the diversity of his performances. They are key factors in establishing his distinctive sound that we all have come to love. Lets take a look at a few here.

Vocal Fry

Tankian often uses vocal fry as a way to reach lower notes. This technique produces a low, creaky sound that is achieved by slackening the vocal cords. The opening lines of “Deer Dance” is an example of this technique.

Falsetto

To reach higher registers, Tankian uses falsetto. This technique allows singers to reach notes beyond their normal vocal range by using only the ligamentous edges of the vocal cords. Tankian’s use of falsetto is evident in the tracks we discussed earlier for his high note.

Growling

Tankian frequently employs a growling technique to add a raw, aggressive edge to his voice. This is a controlled technique where the singer creates a raspy or ‘growling’ sound, typically used in heavier music genres. You can hear this growling effect in many SOAD songs including “Prison Song.”

Melisma

This is a singing technique where a single syllable of text is sung while moving between several different notes in succession. Tankian’s usage of melisma can be found in “Chop Suey!”, particularly in the verses where he quickly transitions between notes on a single syllable.

Conclusion

Serj Tankian is one of my favorite rock singers. His vocal tone and abilities, coupled with a gift for poetry, makes his music a pleasure to listen to.

With a classical range of a baritone, he frequently breaks out of the usual boundaries to tap into notes in higher and lower registers. This earns him the classification of a 4 octave singer, and a well earned one at that. Serj’s voice is a huge part of the appeal of SOAD, and has helped make me a lifelong fan, like many others.

I hope you found this article helpful, and feel free to drop me a comment. Thank you!

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