If you’ve sung in a choir, you’ll be familiar with SATB or SSAA choral music, where the melody is usually in the First Soprano line, above all others. In barbershop, the Lead voice usually sings the melody and is below the Tenor part which has the highest note in the chord. The Baritone part fills in the all-important missing note in a chord that may be above or below the melody and the Bass part supplies the harmonic foundation of the chord.
(SSAA: Sop 1)
Tenor has a light, sweet, pure tone that complements but not overpowers the lead voice. Light lyric sopranos make good tenors, with a range from G above middle C to high F on the top line of the clef. On the odd occasion the Tenor sings notes below the Lead, the tonal quality changes from light and clear, to more full and rounded.
(SSAA: Sop 2)
Lead is the melody and is sung with authority, clarity and consistent quality throughout her range. The Lead sings with limited vibrato as a clean, pure sound is what helps the chord ‘lock’ and ‘ring’. This part is where the interpretation, emotion and inflection stem from. Range is usually from A below middle C and C above middle C.
(SSAA: Alt 1)
Baritone covers a similar range to the Lead, singing mostly below the Lead notes but sometimes above. They must have a good ear and be able to constantly adjust their balance to accommodate their position in the chord.
(SSAA: Alt 2)
Bass is the lowest note in the barbershop chord, with a rich mellow sound. The range is from E flat below middle C to G above middle C. Like the Baritone, this part is written on the bass clef of barbershop sheet music. The bass part provides the foundation of each chord, usually with more volume to fill out the barbershop ‘cone’.
When you audition for a chorus, our educators will place your voice in the right voice part for you so you’re singing in the range that best suits you.