The Barbershop Terminology Explained

What's With All The Lingo?

Like most performing artists, Sweet Adelines have a language all their own. What follows is a quick snapshot of terms you may come across on the website and you will almost certainly hear many of these concepts or phrases bounced around during rehearsal.   In the meantime, consider this a crash course for the casual observer.

a cappella: Vocal music performed without instrumental accompaniment.

Afterglow: A gathering of Sweet Adelines to let our hair down after a show, concert or convention.  A social event to celebrate all our hard work.

Baritone: The harmony part sung both above and below the lead line but rarely below the bass and never above the tenor, to the relief of many a neighbourhood dog.  Bari notes are found in the bass clef, above the bass line, sung an octave higher than written.

Barbershop: the type of music we sing in four part harmony.

Bass: In terms of range, the lowest singing voice part. Bass notes are written in the bass clef, lower than the baritones, and sung an octave higher than written.

Bubbling: This is an important part of our vocal warm up – which sounds absolutely absurd and takes a while to perfect.

Crescendo: A slow increase in volume

Coaching: For Manawatu Overtones this is a Sweet Adelines member outside our chorus,  either from New Zealand or America who has been brought in to improve our chorus either vocally or visually.

Cone: Harmonic balance in barbershop is stacked in a cone shape, not a cylindrical shape, as with traditional choral music. Confused?    Barbershop harmony has a different balance of voices than traditional Harmony.  The higher the voice part, the less intensity and weight the singer applies to her vocal output, creating a harmonic “cone structure”  rather than a cylindrical shape.

Convention: Convention is not an unfamiliar term, but it helps to know we compete at two levels - both the regional level (once a year, in May) and the International  level (every year in October).

Decrescendo: A gradual decrease in volume.

Diphthong: Get acquainted with this term as soon as possible. It's vital! Diphthongs are vowel sounds with two distinct parts: the primary vowel and secondary vowel. It's as if the word has two syllables. For example, boy = bo-ee, my = mah-ee, eyes = ah-eez, etc.

Director: The person who leads our chorus in a song –  her hands  tell us how she wants us to sing.

Down the Tiles:  this means we are not facing the Director … but standing straight on the risers looking at the Audience.

Dual member: A member who belongs to two or more Sweet Adeline choruses, generally but not limited to the same region. Yes, they exist! Tells you something about our organization, doesn't it?

Dynamics: A combination of contrasting volumes, choreography, and facial characteristics used to deliver the emotional content of the story to the audience.

Groupanizer: Our Chorus members' only site with all our information, calendar, weekly rehearsal programme, songs, music learning tracks, membership lists, and our avenue for communication.

Lead: The singer of the melody line, almost one hundred percent of the time.

Learning Tracks: Can be found on groupanizer and the start place for all new songs introduced for learning.

Overtone: An audible note that is higher than, and different from, the four pitches being sung by a chorus or quartet. It's a marvel of the human voice. Some may not understand what they are hearing, but it's there when you listen to an A-level chorus like Pride of Portland.

Pitch Pipe: This is used at the beginning of every song to know the start note we sing from.

PVI: An acronym for Personal Vocal Instruction. Periodically, a visiting Coach will hold  PVIs to build and reinforce vocal skills as well as review music or  work through any rough spots a member may be experiencing with a particular song in the repertoire.

Region: Manawatu Overtones are part of Region 35, which is the whole of New Zealand.  Sweet Adelines worldwide is broken up into regions.

Ring: The brilliant, bright "forward" sound in the voice that must be present to generate an overtone.

Risers: The metal, stair-like structure that the chorus rehearses and performs upon.

Sectionals: A mini-rehearsal for a specific voice part organized by the section leader outside of weekly rehearsals or during rehearsal night.

Section Leader: Section leads (not be confused with the "lead" voice part) are members of the music team that oversee the education and training of each voice part. There are two to three experienced members leading each section.

Showmanship: The is the performance part of our singing – the wow factor, the visual movement we put to our songs.

Sweet Adelines: A worldwide organization of women singers committed to advancing the musical art form of barbershop harmony through education and performance.

Tag: The climax or ending of a barbershop arrangement. Tag is also used to describe learning a short phrase of a song with all voice parts present.

Tenor: The highest part in barbershop singing, not to be confused with a soprano.