D3 ~ C7 (3 Octaves and 5 notes)
G3/G#3 ~ E5/F5
G3/G#3 ~ B5 (with head voice)
- Arguably the strongest female idol singer
- Consistent support in the mixed voice up to E5/F5
- Has shown good moments of support above F5
- Very well connected head voice
- Transitions into head voice are nearly flawless
- Head voice is supported up until Bb5/B5
- Good control of dynamics and mixing
- Runs are precise and well articulated
- Lower range is supported down to G#3/G3
- Improvement has been clearly heard from pre-debut/debut until now
- Nasality is almost never present in her singing
- Vowel shaping often creates a whiny quality in her mixed voice
- Lower range can become muffled with a lowered larynx
- Head voice above B5 shows issues with support and tension
- Mixed voice is very unbalanced and often pushed
- Notes above E5/F5 lack consistency and support
- Lower range below F#3 is often inaudible and overly quiet
- Vowels such as “Eu (으)” and “Aye (애/에)” generally create the most tension in her voice
- Lower register: Her weakest register. Improvement has been heard overtime with occasional moments of support below her supported range but generally her support only goes down to G3/G#3 due to improper larynx positions.
- Mixed register: Mixed voice is very consistent, support is almost always present but due to stylistic reasons and bad habits, the mix can often sound pushed and overly chest-dominant, which has shown improvement over time.
- Upper register: Most consistent register by far, shows the least issues and is one of the most developed head voices amongst female idols. Support and control of dynamics are easily present up until B5 consistently, although she may lack confidence above B5, with problems involving tension.
Amongst idol vocalists, Ailee is one of the top vocalists in terms of agility and precision. Although possessing a chesty mixed voice, Ailee still is able to keep control and flexibility in her runs and melismas. Ailee’s runs are generally very well separated, every note is clear and the overall flow is good and natural. Her runs are also precise in pitch and hardly ever show issues with pitch, her runs flow freely through her songs and she hardly ever has issues with transitions or accuracy. The issue with her runs mostly comes from the lack of bounce they have where, although precise and quite fast and complex, they don’t generally have the lightness and freedom an R&B vocalists tends to favor when doing runs, due to the heavy use of the thyroarytenoid muscles in her voice. Generally someone who does vocal runs in R&B generally uses a more light vocal cord function and a brighter vocal approach as to allow the vocal cords to run through notes carrying less weight and therefore having more freedom. Even then Ailee has shown multiple times that she’s able to carry through complex and long runs without issues in pitch or precision, such in “너를 향한 마음“, “Georgia On My Mind” and “I Was Here” as well as being able to sing through complex vocal lines that transition from her mid-range up to Bb5, such as in “One Night Only“. She’s also shown that her runs can come in different speeds and even in different scales, such as the harmonic minor runs in the beginning of “희야“.
Debuting in 2012 after a few years of training in Korea, Ailee first started off as a Youtube singer with mild success that brought her from her home in New Jersey to Korea in order to make her dreams of becoming a singer come true. From the beginning of her career up until now, Ailee has always been marketed as a strong vocalist, a title she’s been able to keep by being consistent and delivering good vocal performances throughout her career. Voice type wise, Ailee possesses the tessitura and natural range of a higher female voice, a Soprano, with a girly, youthful and light tone, therefore a light lyric. The overly chest-dominant approach used in Ailee’s mix may confuse some to think she’s got a lower voice than she does, but her natural tone is much lighter when she doesn’t try to push too much chest up in her mix.
As a Soprano, Ailee has always neglected properly developing her lower range and therefore this is by far the weakest part of her voice. During debut, Ailee would often show good support down to about A3, but would then generally opt for a lowered larynx position below A3, such as the G3’s in “보여줄게” and “빛과 그림자“, and at times she’d even show lack of stability and problems with pitch in her lower range such as in “나 어떡해“. Her lower range above A3 has mostly always been very well placed, supported and relaxed. Overtime Ailee has shown that she is able to support her voice below A3, most notably the F#3 in “사랑했지만“, however Ailee shows inconsistency with her lower range, most notably the bad habit of always lowering her larynx as she descends into a more challenging lower range for a Soprano. She has shown in performances such as “Georgia On My Mind“, “Stand Up For Love” and “손대지마” that she’s able to support her voice on G#3 and G3, but may favor the bad habit of lowering her larynx for a more stylistically “soulful” sound that may work for her, in performances such as “여러분“, but generally shows a lack of understanding of her instrument as a whole and therefore exposes her lower range as a less developed register. Ideally, keeping a stable larynx and maintaining tone through support and proper mask and chest placement would create a much fuller, natural and soulful sound than lowering her larynx. Below G3, she still shows issues with projection and a low larynx, such as the F3’s in “Halo” and F#3’s in “I Was Here“.
Her mixed range is where Ailee likes to keep most of her focus on and has developed it quite well on her own over the years. In her late teens, Ailee used to show a much lighter approach to her mix and also used to have a lot more tongue tension, as shown in recordings such as her pre-debut track “Jealousy“, where many times her sound would become strangled due to her tongue being tight. Over the years, her mix has improved in support, sound and placement, tongue tension has minimized and she generally shines quite well from F#4 ~ C5, as she’s able to produce very big and full resonance, such as the A4 in “Someone Like You“, Bb4 in “I Dreamed A Dream“, B4 in “싫다 싫어“, and C5’s in “아침이슬” and “Stand Up For Love“. Ailee is one of the vocalist who has mastered support and resonance to an extent where unless she’s in a bad condition, she will generally have good consistent support and resonance will almost always be produced. The issue starts to happen more in Ailee’s voice above C#5, where her voice does not lack support by any means, but the fact that she does not lighten up her mix and allow more cricothyroid muscle coordination into her mix causes an excessive amount of breath support to be necessary so that she can keep her heavier chest-dominant mixed voice approach, causing her to often sound distorted with pushed resonance.
Another issue with Ailee’s mixed voice is that due to her vowel shaping, the sound of resonance can be hindered due to a whiny quality present in her singing. This isn’t always the case and is an issue mostly present when in the “Aye (애/에)” vowel, such as in “손대지마” and “Shake That Brass“. There’s a distortion caused by pushing and a less than ideal vocal tract shape in her mixed voice at times, such as the C#5’s in “얼음꽃“, as well as D5’s in “나어떡해“. Ailee has overtime been able to balance out her mix more, and more than enough times has shown in multiple occasions that she can support and produce good resonance in her mixed voice above C#5 consistently with less pushing, such as the D5’s in “이젠 가슴 아픈 말 하지 말아요“, Eb5’s in “Halo” and “고독한 연인“, as well as E5’s in “미소속에 비친 그대“, “아리송해” and in a parody of “Les Miserables“. Above E5, Ailee has shown more than enough occasions where her support is quite steady and somewhat consistent on F5, although the pushing limits the space in the back of her throat, creating more obstruction even though there’s support, such as in “장미“, “그 여자” and “아리송해“, as well as in studio where she’s shown a more bright approach to her higher belts, such as in “Shut Up” or “Rainy Day”. When singing on a closed vowel like “Eu (으)”, Ailee generally shows tension in her F5’s, even if she may support them, the vowel shape causes her to strain her voice, such as in “You & I“. Above F5, Ailee has had very few moments of support above F5, where she would lighten up her mix more than usual even if not to an extent of no-distortion in sound, such as in the F#5 in “너무 아픈 사랑은 사랑을 아니였음을“, as well as the G5 in “Uptown Funk“. Those cases aren’t consistent occurrences but seem to be happening more often as her career goes on, indicating a slow improvement in this aspect of her singing. Even though her mix may become quite shouty and pushed above F5, she still shows enough control of her muscle coordination to be able to carry through very high passages without showing fatigue or cracking, such as the G#5’s in “Problem“, as well as the A5 in “나 어떡해“.
Aside from the development of her mixed voice that earns her the respect of her other peers for being a powerhouse vocalist, Ailee also is one of the female idols with one of the most developed head voices. Being her register with the least flaws, Ailee has shown multiple times that she’s not only able to transition into this register without many issues, despite some abrupt transitions back down into her mixed voice, such as in “I Will Always Love You“, Ailee is in complete control of her head voice in terms of dynamics, resonance and onsets. At times able to produce soft pure notes, with no tension and a relaxed dropped jaw, Ailee shows ease in adding a little bit of air or keeping her volume controlled high into her head voice, such as the Bb5’s in “리듬속의 그춤을” and “When You Believe“, as well as B5’s in “더 사랑하는 쪽이 아프다” and “3! 4!“. Her head voice can also take on a more powerful and controlled full head resonance when needed, such as the G5 into E5 in “나는 어떡하라구” and the A5 in “싫다 싫어“, as well as being able to sustain notes for a long period of time and control her pitch well without much effort, such as the F#5 into G5 key change in “인연“. Ailee still seems not to venture far into her range above B5, as she’s only done it occasionally, it is possible to assume she might not have enough control or confidence in her head voice to take on higher head voice passages, as heard in the C#6 ~ F6 transition in “3! 4!“. She has been able to produce a whistle register occasionally, such as C7, but without any signs of support and with a lot of tension.
Musically, Ailee is an artist who uses various effects for her emotional delivery. She is without doubt a vocalist who’s able to interpret her song and control her instrument with good breath control, dynamics and vocal effects so as to properly engage the audience and create entertaining vocal performances, such as creating airiness, at times creating fuller sounds in her mix to sound more soulful, at others opting for light and bright approaches if singing something less intense, changes she has mastered overtime and can pull through a whole performance doing them, such as “희야“. Her vibrato at times may seem pushed but due to the excessive air pressure, it may cause her sound to be a little distorted. Nevertheless, she’s in complete control of her instrument within her supported range and sings more or less with the technique she pleases.
Having debuted just in 2012, Ailee has taken Korea over with her powerful vocals landing a spot as one of Korea’s strongest vocalists. For a further career in the music industry and for the sake of her vocal health, it’d be advisable that Ailee should work on further developing a healthier approach to her lower range with a more stable larynx position, as well as a lighter muscle coordination in her mix in order to improve ease, resonance and further explore the full potential of her upper mixed range as a Soprano. Additionally, developing her head voice further and experimenting more in the sixth octave would help her set her apart from other idol vocalists and follow the footsteps of vocalists such as Sohyang and Lena Park.
Ailee is not one to be labelled as a “Karaoke” singer. Taking note from the general idea of self expression and vocal freedom, Ailee follows the pattern of always showing creativity and never delivering vocal performances that are exactly the same as another. Her vocal performances are generally filled with new vocal melodies, playing with rhythm and vocal runs added by Ailee herself, notably being able to always deliver accurate and precise changes to her covers and own original song performances, such as performances like “If I Ain’t Got You“, “보여줄게“, “One Night Only“, “I Have Nothing” and “나 어떡해“.
Good to Great Vocalist
Vocal Range Video(s)
Video by: Ahmin (Kitsunemale)
Video by: Edgar Cárdenas
Best Vocal Performance(s)
video by: MrSkinnyJeanz3
Analyzed by Ahmin (Kitsunemale)