Basso profondo (Italian: "deep bass"), sometimes basso profundo or contrabass, is the lowest bass voice type.

Basso profondo voice range (C2–C4) indicated on piano keyboard in green with dot marking middle C

While The New Grove Dictionary of Opera defines a typical bass as having a range that extends downward to the second E below middle C (E2),[1] operatic bassi profondi can be called on to sing low C (C2), as in the role of Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier. Often choral composers make use of lower notes, such as G1 or even F1; in such rare cases the choir relies on exceptionally deep-ranged bassi profondi termed oktavists or octavists, who sometimes sing an octave below the bass part.

Bass singer Tim Storms holds the Guinness World Record for the "lowest note produced by a human".[2]


Range of a basso profondo according to the Italian definition ranging from C2 to F4

According to Rousseau (1775): "Basse-contres – the most profound of all voices, singing lower than the bass like a double bass, and should not be confused with contrabasses, which are instruments."[3]


An oktavist is an exceptionally deep-ranged basso profondo, especially typical of Russian Orthodox choral music. This voice type has a vocal range which extends down to A1 (an octave below the baritone range) and sometimes to F1 (an octave below the bass staff) with the extreme lows for oktavists, such as Mikhail Zlatopolsky or Alexander Ort, reaching C1.[4]

Slavic choral composers sometimes make use of lower notes such as B1 as in Rachmaninoff's All-Night Vigil, G1 in "The Twelve Brigands", G1 in "Ne otverzhi mene" by Pavel Chesnokov, or F1 in "Kheruvimskaya pesn" (Song of Cherubim) by Krzysztof Penderecki, although such notes sometimes also appear in repertoire by non-Slavic composers (e.g. B1 appears in Gustav Mahler's Second and Eighth Symphonies).

In popular culture, several a capella groups have bass singers with an oktavist range, such as Home Free's Tim Foust, VoicePlay's Geoff Castellucci, and Avi Kaplan formerly of Pentatonix, as well as Tony-nominated Broadway performer Patrick Page, each of these being able to reach down to a G1 or in some cases even lower, with Castellucci able to hit a B0 using subharmonic singing and Foust able to hit a G0 using growl.

See also


  1. ^ Owen Jander; Lionel Sawkins; J. B. Steane; Elizabeth Forbes. L. Macy (ed.). "Bass". Grove Music Online. Archived from the original on 16 May 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2006.; The Oxford Dictionary of Music gives E2 to E4 or F4
  2. ^ "Lowest vocal note by a male". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 7 April 2022.
  3. ^ Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1775). Dictionnaire de musique (in French). Paris. p. 66. ... des Basse-Contres les plus graves de toutes les Voix, qui chantent la Basse sous la Basse même, & qu'il ne faut pas confondre avec les Contre-basses, qui sont des Instrumens.
  4. ^ Galbraith, R. (28 March 2018). "Russian Basses". Russian Sacred Music. Archived from the original on 25 June 2022. Retrieved 11 July 2019.

Further reading