Turns out Mike Patton, and not Axl Rose, is the greatest singer of all time

on May 25, 2014, 4:00pm

Last week, we published a list of the best singers as ranked in order of their respective octave ranges. Amid a list of powerhouse vocalists like Adele, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys, and more, one Axl Rose reigned supreme with a mighty range of five octaves. However, if you thought it a little odd that the title of “greatest living singer” went to this guy, you aren’t alone; VVN Music went ahead and dug a little deeper into other singers’ ranges. As it turns out, Rose may want to wait to order those new business cards.

For their purposes, VVN expanded on the original criteria established by Concert Hotels, which drew its sample from Rolling Stones’ list of the 100 Greatest Singers, the nominees for this year’s Billboard Music Awards, and those singers who’d been analyzed by The Range Place. Because of that somewhat strict criteria, a rather sizable chunk of singers were originally excluded.

So, now who stands atop the mountain of crooners and songbirds? That distinction goes to Mike Patton, who has a doubly impressive range of six octaves. (Again, for comparison, world record holder Tim Storms has a range of 10 octaves.) Surely, Rose must still rank fairly high according to VVN’s revised list, right? He’s actually slipped to number four, behind Avant-garder singer Diamanda Galás and Mr. David Lee Roth. While Rose, Galás , and Roth each have a range of five octaves, both Galás and Roth have ranges that are just a few notes higher.

In fact, if you count those extra notes on top of the singer’s base octave range, it helps re-shuffle a majority of the list. Here’s some other interesting tidbits gleaned from the revised list:

– The remainder of the new top 10 features Paul McCartney, Roger Waters, Mariah Carey, Phil Anselmo, German singer Nina Hagen, and Devin Townsend. In fact, Waters, Anselmo, and Townsend weren’t anywhere on the original list. Nor was the new King of the Sing, Patton.

– Several acts have fallen further down on the list. That includes Marvin Gaye slipping from the top 10 to the top 30; Steven Tyler landing out of the top five and into the top 20; James Brown tumbling from #6 to the top 25; Freddie Mercury falling to the 35th spot; and Justin Bieber, who previously ranked in the bottom 10, has been pushed off the list entirely.

– Other notable additions include: Jon Bon Jovi and Deftones’ Chino Moreno in the top 12, each with a range of four actives and 2-1/2 notes; Serj Tankian in the top 20 with a range of four octaves and one note; Maynard James Keenan reaching the top 30 with a range of four octaves; Nick Cave in the top 40 with a range of three octaves and 5-1/2 notes; and Karen O landing securely in the top 50 with a range of three octaves and 4-1/2 notes.

– Several A-list singers even share the same rage (three octaves and four notes): Damon Albarn, Beyoncé, Kate Bush, Chris Cornell, Geddy Lee, Michael Jackson, and Cedric Bixler-Zavala.

– Somehow, Michael Bolton and Eminem have the same exact vocal range of three octaves and two notes.

– Let this sink in: John Lydon, a.k.a. Johnny Rotten, has the same exact range as Dolly Parton and Robin Gibb.

– In news you didn’t see coming, Captain Beefheart (with four octaves) has a greater range than Lorde, Whitney Houston, AdeleAlicia Keys, and Katy Perry.

Head over to VVN Music for the entire list, which also includes John Lennon, Elvis Presley, Rihanna, Dave Gahan, Bruno Mars, Ray Charles, and many, many more. Below, enjoy a few samples from the top five.


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May 27, 2014 at 4:28 am

Attila Csihar has a larger range than any of these I think

May 28, 2014 at 1:12 pm

She doesn’t.

May 27, 2014 at 4:17 am

Rob Halford and King Diamond are still not on this list!!

May 27, 2014 at 4:06 am

Dax Riggs!

May 27, 2014 at 10:56 am

I knowwwww.

May 28, 2014 at 12:39 am

Motherfuckin dax Riggs.

¤\( `⌂´ )/¤ (@di0__0ib)
May 27, 2014 at 3:54 am

King Diamond?

May 27, 2014 at 2:51 am

Yma Sumac?

May 27, 2014 at 1:14 am

What about the guy from Pavement?!!!!!

May 27, 2014 at 12:37 am

I don’t think anyone could seriously base ‘Greatest singer of all time’ on range alone. There’s tone, pitch control, purity, clarity, diction, resonance and ability to express emotion.
Of all those singers, I’d put Freddie Mercury and Mike Patton above the rest.

May 27, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Truth and I would agree on both points.

May 28, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Mike Patton isn’t just a singer he’s a vocal artist, for anyone who doesn’t know his prolific career, he’s not a one trick pony like most of these other singers, the band Fantomas alone represents his control and range as vocalist! His career also includes voicalizations for movies and video games. The best part is Mike Patton still plays in bar venues throughout the world! Find me someone alive today with a more impressive resume…

August 13, 2014 at 7:33 pm

Right right!!!!

August 13, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Wonderfully said…..

May 26, 2014 at 11:47 pm

Matthew Bellamy?

May 26, 2014 at 11:45 pm

Jeff Buckley….

May 27, 2014 at 4:03 pm


May 26, 2014 at 10:34 pm

Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford, Michael Kiske?

Ping Gee
May 26, 2014 at 10:08 pm

I’ve heard that Tim Foust, from Home Free, winner of season 4 of THE SING-OFF has a vocal range of 5 octaves. Is he any where on your list?

October 20, 2014 at 2:16 am

INSANE !!!!! ams

May 26, 2014 at 8:34 pm

What about Gene Ween?

Nick King
May 26, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Um, hello… ROB HALFORD???

May 27, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Said Patton is better then him.

May 26, 2014 at 7:08 pm

It’s about fucking time someone recognized Diamanda Galas AND Nina Hagen!

timothy monti
May 26, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Not that i am a fan…but shouldnt Celine Dion be tjee somewhere?

timothy monti
May 26, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Sorry..on *there…

May 26, 2014 at 3:45 pm

King Diamond tho?

Monte Belle
May 26, 2014 at 3:16 pm

I love this list.
The recognition of Nina Hagen and other singers who are not exactly top 40 music is awesome. I especially Love Mike Patton being number 1. Faith no more has so much more than people heard on the radio.

May 26, 2014 at 7:51 pm

J. Benny Hill (@JBennyHill)
May 27, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Faith No More was but a drop in the bucket for Patton.

May 26, 2014 at 2:33 pm four octaves and he can sing polyphonic

May 26, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Bobby mcferin? Not sure how many octaves but it’s up there

May 26, 2014 at 2:17 pm

what about Tim Buckley, Yma Sumac, Sister Odetta, Johm Martyn? just to name a few…

Gayna Thrones
May 26, 2014 at 2:14 pm

How about Miles Kennedy?

May 26, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Picking the greatest singers of all time simply based on octave range is a bit ridiculous. It says nothing of the quality of those notes, or the use of them to actually make music. On that basis, the piano and violin become the “best” instruments based on their range.. regardless of WHO is playing them. And I’ve heard some awful violinists vs. great saxophone…for example. Musicality and quality of those notes are given no value. So, of course you are going to find some crazy juxtapositions! Otherwise this list is about as valid as answering 5 questions to find out how much of a genius you are.

May 26, 2014 at 7:50 pm

May 26, 2014 at 12:12 pm

How about Yma Sumac?

May 26, 2014 at 10:58 am

Chris Cornell

May 26, 2014 at 9:01 am

Yeah cool I love faith no more!

May 26, 2014 at 8:13 am

Problem is that you are including falsetto on the high end and growls on the low. That isn’t natural range. Anyone can learn the tricks it takes to use a false voice relatively easily. Actually achieving a natural range over 3 or 4 octaves takes a tremendous amount of skill and practice. Most of your top 20 wouldn’t even be near that list.

Gerrit Karafiat
May 26, 2014 at 12:45 pm

I´m still impressed…

May 28, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Well, mike patton can go from E1-D6 or D#6 in his normal(modal) voice so he’s still got a bigger range than most

maike jones
June 8, 2014 at 3:26 pm

I find it absolutely astonishing that you guys can even measure the range of ANY of the singers,
that you have mentioned. Patton? His vocal tricks come from the attempt to
perform Galas composition WILD WOMEN WITH STEAKKNIVES, her work in 1982 on Mute Records.
But he cannot sing it; he can only scream it and it is ugly, not flipped-out like she is. His solo piece is a noise attempt at re-creating it. But Galas is an operatically trained singer,
so she sings like Hendrix, when not doing those other vocal techniques. Check out O DEATH
on youtube.
If you are talking about “singing,” Patton and the male rock singers are not qualified
to “sing” more than one octave. When one uses the expression, a two and a half
octave range, it means that the timbre of the notes are even throughout the scale.
This takes twenty years to learn. Look under coloratura sopranos and understand
that you are talking about old men who are fossils and never learned to sing.

May 26, 2014 at 5:33 am

“– In news you didn’t see coming, Captain Beefheart (with four octaves) has a greater range than Lorde,”

Lorde only has one range;That range is the sound of stones shaken in a tin coffee can. She is awful! Patton is a GOD. Second… The guy from Wolfmother.

May 26, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Kinda of ironic that Mike Patton hates wolfmother. Look it up

May 27, 2014 at 1:29 am

Having the singer from Wolfmother in the 2nd spot, after Patton, IS the joke of the first post. If people have seen that short interview clip of Patton at the festival ,while Wolfmother is playing, should see the humor of that post.

May 27, 2014 at 11:33 pm

haha! yeah I got the first joke!!!! bahahaha!!

May 30, 2014 at 11:58 am

Hear hear! But don’t forget Randy Jackson from Zebra.

May 26, 2014 at 1:49 am

diamanda is great great great

Ian Brewer
May 25, 2014 at 11:44 pm

How about Harry Nilsson?

senor t mohnay
May 25, 2014 at 11:16 pm

Straight up- thank you for revisiting this list & including Patton. Cheers for doing the right thing!

May 27, 2014 at 4:24 pm

I think Patton & Cornell got it covered!!!!


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