Background and Vocal Summary: +++Stephanie “Stevie” Nicks is an American rock singer-songwriter, best known for being a vocalist and prominent songwriter in Fleetwood Mac. First joining the group in 1975, she contributed singles like “Dreams”, “Rhiannon” and “Sara” to the group’s discography before breaking off on her own successful solo career to write songs like “Edge of Seventeen” and “Rooms on Fire”. Since her beginnings, she has become known for writing some of Fleetwood Mac’s most popular songs, with her rough yet powerful voice nicely counteracting the much softer voice of fellow vocalist Christine McVie. +++Stevie is a good example of a singer whose voice has changed significantly over her career. Starting off as a (fairly low) mezzo-soprano, due to her drug usage, age and extensive touring, Stevie’s voice has more recently lowered to become that of a contralto, with notes in the lower third octave sounding like mid-range to her. In her prime, she was known for being a very dynamic vocalist – she would often belt in the upper fourth octave in the 1970s, though songs like “Landslide” also displayed a more emotional, sensitive side to her voice. Stevie was also known somewhat for her angelic head voice on songs like “Dreams” and “Sisters of the Moon”, which though used infrequently, was distinctly soft and mellow. While in this time her voice was low-set and naturally very husky, it would become more so as time progressed. Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Stevie’s voice lowered gradually and became much more comfortable in its lower register, with Stevie starting to sound strained even in the fourth octave. By 2003’s Say You Will, it was clear that Stevie had become a contralto – she now sounds surprisingly comfortable singing as low as B2. +++Though her voice nowadays perhaps isn’t quite the crystal gem it once was, Stevie’s legacy as one of rock music’s most prominent female vocalists is well founded, inspiring many singers to follow with her distinct husky voice and signature powerful belts.
As part of The Range Place forum, we have kept track of Stevie’s singing from A3 below and A4 above. Here’s a brief overview of the results with a link to the complete thread.This is a representation of Stevie’s range on a piano, her highest note, F6, and lowest note, G♯2, have been labelled red. C4 (or Middle C) is labelled grey.
Vocal Timeline (1973-2017): 1973-1978: Vocally, this is the period commonly seen as Stevie’s best. Here, Stevie has a husky voice with a comfortable lower register and powerful fourth and fifth octave belts. Her head voice was seldom used, though when it was, Stevie demonstrated she had comfort reaching into the fifth octave using it – in live performances, Stevie even demonstrated she could reach up into the sixth octave with ghostly “wails” in live performances of “Gold Dust Woman”. At this point, Stevie was a low(ish) mezzo-soprano with comfort and ease in both her upper and lower registers.
1979-1983: Stevie’s voice seems to have developed something of a rougher edge to it, lowering slightly. Though Stevie’s voice shows little deterioration, in tracks on Bella Donna she neglects using her head voice almost entirely (on one “Leather and Lace” demo, she sounds extremely uncomfortable transitioning to head voice). However, she still demonstrates her signature powerful belts on songs like “Edge of Seventeen” and “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”.
1985-1989: Again, Stevie’s voice seems to have lowered somewhat. Stevie still uses her upper register, though it begins to sound much more uncomfortable comparative to how it did in Rumours, and begins to sound more comfortable singing lower. Stevie’s voice seems noticeably rougher overall, especially when she belts in the fifth octave.
1990-1998: With a much more solid lower register and a somewhat unused higher register, we begin to see Stevie’s voice shift from being a lower mezzo-soprano to more of a contralto. Stevie finds comfort in the third octave while the upper fourth begins to sound particularly strained. At some points on Street Angel, Stevie’s voice sounds noticeably much weaker than it has been previously. While she still seems to be able to belt powerfully at times, her voice sounds inconsistent, with her voice in songs like “Love’s a Hard Game to Play” sounding noticeably weak.
2001-2009: Stevie’s voice finally seems to settle as a contralto as opposed to a lower set mezzo-soprano here – she seldom reaches above A4, with notes in the fifth octave being particularly rare and uncomfortable for her. However, her lower register begins to sound really strong – she reaches into the second octave occasionally, with notes in the lower third beginning to sound like mid-range to her.
2011-2017: Stevie is still a contralto, though her voice begins to sound particularly aged here, with notes in the mid fourth octave sounding really raspy. Her lower register is still really strong, however, and as a result, Stevie would avoid singing higher parts or would lower the key of her old songs so she could sing them live (in one instance, by five whole semitones). While her voice seems to have similarly lost a lot of its power, Stevie’s tone from her prime still remains relatively unchanged, even if her voice has lowered significantly.
Top Ten Vocal Performances:
This list was decided upon by members of The Range Place forum, and thus, is subjective.
1. Edge of Seventeen (1981)
2. Gypsy (1982)
3. Beauty and the Beast (1983)
4. Gold Dust Woman (1977)
5. Wild Heart (1983)
6. Talk to Me (1985)
7. Seven Wonders (1987)
8. Sara (1979)
9. Gate and Garden (1983)
10. Dreams (1977)
About the researcher:
Joining the site in 2016, Alex61 is the responsible for a large proportion of the site’s female singers. He appreciates the work of female singer-songwriters like Björk, Kate Bush and Regina Spektor, and generally prefers more unique voices over those more technically proficient. If you wish to contact him regarding any of his works, feel free to send him a private message after registering at http://therangeplace.boards.net.