Solent City Chorus, Sing in Portsmouth - Glossary

A glossary of Barbershop terms

a cappella
a style of unaccompanied singing (i.e. with no accompanying instruments)
Accidental
a sharp (♯) which makes the note slightly higher, flat (♭) which makes the note slightly lower, or natural (♮), placed next to a note in a particular bar which changes the pitch of the note.
Afterglow
the name for an informal singing (and drinking) session which takes place after a show or other barbershop event.
Anchoring
using muscles to stabilize the vocal mechanism
Arranger
someone who arranges a song in the barbershop style.
BABS
the British Association of Barbershop Singers – the men’s barbershop association in this country which holds an annual Convention in May.
Backbeat
a song in which you emphasise the 2nd and 4th beats in a bar, rather than the 1st and 3rd.
Bar
one section (usually numbered) within printed music
Barberpole cat song (Polecat)
12 songs every barbershopper should know. These are short songs which are sung by most if not all choruses.
Barbershop style
4 part close harmony sung 'a cappella' and characterised by a lead line (the melody) with a high harmony part above the lead (tenor) and two lower harmony parts (baritone and bass).
Baritone
one of four parts of a Barbershop song. The 'Bari' notes are normally (but not always) below the lead note and fill in the chord. Bari voices should be able to sing a high E (perhaps in “falsetto” voice) as the highest note without strain and as low as C. 
Bass
one of four parts of a Barbershop song, usually (but not always) the lowest note and often the first and fifth of a chord. Bass voices should be able to sing a low F as the lowest note without strain and as high as C.
Bright
singing using a bright airy sound which comes from the resonators in your head.
Chord
a group of notes (in barbershop harmony, usually 4 different notes) which when sung in tune produce a harmonious sound.
Choreography
visual presentation accompanying the singing to enhance the message of the song.
Chorus position
the correct stance for singing, facing the Director. (Also 'Successful singers' stance').
Coach
someone who helps the chorus improve certain aspects of the performance e.g. singing or choreography.
Cone/Coning
the art of maintaining the proper balance between parts in a chord.
Contest ballad
a slow song which can be sung in barbershop contests e.g. If I Give My Heart to You. Ballads are typically sung in 'ad lib' style rather than sticking to precise rhythms.
Contest uptune
a faster song which can be sung in barbershop contests e.g. Angry Bill Bailey medley.
Convention
an annual singing event. 
Deconstriction
Opening the throat to avoid any tightness (avoiding the 'Darth Vader' voice)
Diphthongs
groups of (usually) two vowels e.g. now = nah-oow, I = ah-ee. Turning the diphthong correctly is one of the most important elements in tuning and synchronised singing.
Dots
a slang term for the written notes on sheet music (as in "I need to look at the dots").
Downbeat
a song in which you emphasise the 1st and 3rd beats of the bar, e.g. a marching song. Also used to refer to the first beat of a song or bar.
Dynamics
louds and softs. Sometimes described using a scale of 1-5. On a piece of music ff = very loud, f = loud, p = soft and pp = very soft. Also important are terms like crescendo (getting louder) and diminuendo (getting softer).
Energy
to sing with energy is one of the targets of good vocal production. You will often hear the Director asking for more energy – this doesn’t mean singing loudly but means making sure the sound is alive and connected. It also means making sure the sound doesn’t fade before the end of a phrase through lack of breath support.
Ensemble
blended all-parts chorus sound
Falsetto
the high (boy's voice) singing quality
Fifth
the "fifth" of a chord is the note four full steps and one half step above the root.
Flat
a flat symbol (♭) in music tells the singer to sing a note ½ step lower. However, singing a note “flat” unintentionally causes the harmony to be lost!
Focus
projecting your voice forward. Goes with Resonance to make the ideal singing style that has a pleasant, rich sound but also has clarity and can ring (see Musical terms below).
Free production
singing without constriction
Inside Smile
smiling while lifting eyebrows but without opening your mouth, which has the effect of lifting the soft palate.
Key note
each piece of music has a key signature and the key note is the first note of the key, or “doh”. For example, if the key is F the key note (“doh”) would be F. Learning tracks may give the key note then the start note – the note that your part starts on.
LABBS
the Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers, another organisation for women’s barbershop in the UK. Like BABS they organise annual conventions.
Lead
one of four parts of a Barbershop song, usually (but not always) the melody. Lead voices should be able to sing a high F as the highest note without strain and as low as D.
Legato
smooth singing style
Musical Director
the director of a chorus. 
Mirror position/Down the tiles
standing so the singer is facing squarely at the audience (as if you were looking “down the tiles” on the floor) as opposed to Chorus Position where you are facing the Director.
Music Team
usually consists of the Chorus Director, Assistant Directors, Section Leaders and Choreography/Visual Team.
Musical terms
used mainly in barbershop music :
  • swipe (chord progression moving from one note to another, usually on one word),
  • pickup (one or more parts start the phrase before the other parts), 
  • overtones (creation, by perfect tuning and vowel matching, of another note usually heard above the highest note of the chord),
  • ringing chords (when chords are perfectly matched the expanded sound created can be said to ring).
Off the paper
to be able to sing your part without looking at the sheet music.
Overtone
an overtone is a higher note not being sung, but being constructed from the resonance of lower notes being sung. This is also known as a “ringing” chord.
Pitch
the key note of the song, or the note you are meant to be singing.
Pitch pipe
a small circular instrument which gives pitch when blown – the disc is marked with the different key notes. Can also be an electronic device.
Polecat
see 'Barberpole cat song'
Recoil breath
allowing elastic tissue of the abdomen to recoil, drawing breath into lungs  
Resonance
to sing with a full sound or with resonance is vitally important to create a beautiful tone.
Restate
to make a small step forwards and upwards with energy in a song to emphasize a phrase or special moment. This term is used a lot by choreographers.
Rhythm
the varied length of notes and the beat that you hear in a song.
Risers
the special staging which we stand on during rehearsals and performances.
Root
the root of a chord is the "doh" note of the chord. It is also known as the “first” note. Typically, when a “key” is set by blowing a note on the pitch pipe, the note blown is the “root” of the “key”.
Scale
(major)a series of 8 notes (doh, re, mi, fah, soh, la, ti, doh) starting with the key note.
Section Leaders
there are 4 sections in every barbershop chorus (tenors, leads, baritones and basses) and the section leaders are responsible for making sure that members of their section learn the songs correctly and sing with the appropriate style for their section. They run section rehearsals and offer help and support to members in their section.
Section rehearsals
where all the members of a section get together to practice notes and words and vocal technique. This may take place on a separate night or during weekly chorus rehearsals.
Seventh
the “dominant or diminished seventh” of a chord is the note one full step down from the root. This is barbershop’s favorite chord in many songs! It is also the leading tone for the next chord in the circle of fifths. In barbershop the seventh is sung somewhat lower in pitch. This note must be sung slightly softer than the root or fifth of the chord in order for the chord to be in balance and ring.
Sharp
a sharp symbol (♯) in music tells the singer to sing a note ½ step higher. However, singing a note “sharp” unintentionally causes the harmony to be lost!
Singouts
performances. These can be public or private functions, small or large.
Sirening
A warmup technique involving a quiet whimpering sound going up and down the vocal range
Soft Palate
the soft part of the inside of your mouth at the top, towards the back. The part that lifts when you yawn. Lifting the soft palate is important for creating resonance.
Stack
the positioning of chorus singers on the risers
Support
using good posture and engaging muscles to keep airflow strong and constant while singing
Synchronisation
aligning the beginning and ending of each word, vowels, tempo, tuning and dynamics so that the overall effect is not ragged but is crisp and in synch.
Tag
the ending of the song, usually containing exciting chords and chord progressions.
Teach CD
song learning aid with combined recorded voice parts
Tempo
the speed of the song. Accelerando (accel.) = getting faster. Rallentando (rall.) or ritardando (rit.) = getting slower.
Tenor
one of four parts of a Barbershop song,usually (but not always) the highest note and often the third of a chord. Tenors often sing in their “falsetto” voice register. Tenor voices should be able to sing a high C as the highest note without strain and as low as G.
Third
the third of a chord is two whole musical notes above the root. In barbershop the third is sung slightly lower in pitch than we know or hear it on a piano or keyboard. The reason for this is that barbershop is sung and tuned to a just intonation scale as opposed to the piano which is tuned to an even or “well” tempered scale. In order for the chord to ring the singer must adjust the third of the chord slightly flatter than normal. This note must be sung slightly softer than the root or the fifth of the chord in order for the chord to be in balance and ring.
Tonal quality
the 'flavour' or a voice - can be easily altered
Tone onset
the way in which singing is started - may be aspirate (breathy), simultaneous or glottal
Warm-ups
each rehearsal starts with a physical and vocal warm-up: exercises which are devised to enable the singer to rehearse more effectively and to learn and refine vocal skills.
Windows
the space you look through when standing on the risers, formed by the space between the heads of the 2 singers in front.
Woodshedding
the art of singing barbershop by ear without a written arrangement.