|The Voice Parts
Barbershop harmony is vocal harmony produced by four parts: tenor, lead, baritone, and bass. It is different from any other kind of choral or group singing.
TENOR: a harmony part sung
consistently above the lead. It
should not be confused with
soprano of traditional singing. The
tenor should have a light, sweet,
pure tone that will compliment, but
not overpower the lead voice.
approximately the same range as
the lead. The baritone harmony
notes are sung mostly below, but
sometimes above, the lead.
Baritones must consistently adjust
their balance to accommodate
their position in the chord.
LEAD: is the melody and is sung in the
range between A below middle C and C
above middle C.
BASS: singers should have a rich mellow
voice and be able to sing the E flat below
middle C easily. Basses should not be
confused with the alto of conventional
groups. Many altos can sing the bass part,
but others are much better suited to lead or
baritone, depending on their range and
When barbershoppers get together, they do what comes naturally - sing! However, they may not all know the same song. So we commonly learn the last few lines of a song
(referred to as a tag). This part of the song normally contains very interest chord progressions that are a lot of fun to sing. Here's a tag for you to have fun with.
From the “bottom up,” the four voices of barbershop harmony are
bass, baritone, lead, and tenor. The female bass sings in the male tenor
range, the baritone and lead are roughly in the alto range, and the
tenor is in the soprano range. The melody is usually sung by the
leads. Basses generally provide the root of the chord. Tenors add the
“natural harmony,” and baritones take what’s left over to complete the
chord. (Of course, this takes a highly talented person with a superior
ear, as any baritone can tell you!) A good soprano is not always a
good barbershop tenor. In a choir, the soprano assumes the “take
charge” role and everyone blends with her. In barbershop, the feisty
lead takes this role, and tenors must harmonize with her! Also, many
sopranos have been trained to add color and warmth to their voices
through the use of vibrato, which is undesirable in barbershop.
Prairie Echoes Chorus
Master Director Donna Bates
Tuesdays 7:30 - 10:00 pm
Community of Christ Church
1200 S. Malta Rd.
Post Office Box 139
DeKalb, IL 60115
Speaking of Vibrato . . .
Barbershoppers work hard to keep this to a minimum, since chords
cannot “lock” if voices are varying in pitch at different speeds. A
slight vibrato or a tone produced with “color” is desirable in the lead
voice; however, all other voices should strive to produce a clear tone
without vibrato. (Good breath support helps here).
We’re All In This Together
There are no soloists in barbershop harmony, so blending is the
name of the game! Individual voices should not be discernible. If
you can’t hear the people around you, back off the volume a little;
you may be too loud! A successful barbershopper must listen to
those around her, since we have no instrumental accompaniment to
cover any discord.
You probably sing high notes lightly and broaden the tone as you go lower into your range. A
barbershop chorus strives to form a similar “sound cone.” (Picture the familiar food group
pyramid with grains on the bottom, fruits/vegetables next, then meats, and finally fats. I’m not
suggesting that tenors are fat, or that we need six servings of basses daily, but the theory is the
The basses at the bottom of the cone provide a broad foundation. Baritones are next on the
cone, but must remember to “lighten” when they occasionally sing above the leads. Similarly,
leads must “broaden” when they go below the baritones. Both baritones and leads will do a lot
of mixing of “head voices” and “chest voices” as they sing in the middle register (the A below
middle C and the C above middle C). If you are unfamiliar with these terms, don’t worry; you’
ll hear more. Tenors need to be “light”; a “heavy” tenor might be better suited to the lead
section if she has the range.The basses at the bottom of the cone provide a broad foundation.
Baritones are next on the cone, but must remember to “lighten” when they occasionally sing
above the leads. Similarly, leads must “broaden” when they go below the baritones. Both
baritones and leads will do a lot of mixing of “head voices” and “chest voices” as they sing in
the middle register (the A below middle C and the C above middle C). If you are unfamiliar
with these terms, don’t worry; you’ll hear more. Tenors need to be “light”; a “heavy” tenor
might be better suited to the lead section if she has the range.
When the director asks tenors to back off, basses to come out, etc., she is trying to achieve
the proper balance according to the cone.
(Parts taken from an article written by Susan Matlock)
The Sweet Adelines International organization is divided into regions. Prairie Echoes Chorus is part of the Midwest Harmony
Prairie Echoes Chorus is part of Sweet
Adelines International, a large
worldwide organization made up of
nearly 27,000 women from all walks of
life who share the love of barbershop
harmony. The organization
encompasses more than 1200 registered
quartets and 600 choruses.
PRESS RELEASE: The Prairie Echoes Chorus of DeKalb, Illinois received 1st place small
chorus at their regional competition on May 5, 2012 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The 1st place
chorus winner overall had 85 members and the 2nd place chorus had 52 members. Prairie Echoes
Chorus, with 16 members on stage placed 3rd overall. This is a huge accomplishment. We
attribute our wonderful success to having a very experienced master director who is also a
wonderful teacher and mentor. Donna Bates, director of Prairie Echoes, comes to us from Crystal
Lake and has been a past international champion quartet member and now sings in her quartet "On
Q", which placed fourth on Friday, May 4th in the regional quartet competition. Donna also sings
with the 2012 international champion chorus, Melodeers from Northbrook, Illinois. The
Melodeers Chorus has 146 members. Two Prairie Echoes Chorus members, Karen Stuedemann
of Sycamore and Deb Walter of DeKalb also belong to the chorus. Prairie Echoes member, Stacy
Brockman, competed with her quarter "Eclectic" at regional competition for quartets.
Past accomplishments of the chorus have been 2 times international champions in the
Harmony Classic Small Competitions in San Antonio, Texas and South Carolina and 2011
3rd place small chorus in Seattle, Washington. Our motto is "we are small, but 'mighty'."
Our chorus consists of 18 amazing, remarkable women who have a love for singing in the
We are very proud of our three-generation members, Jackie Balon who sings bass and has
been part of the chorus for 25 years, her daughter, Teresa Balon who also sings bass, and
Teresa's daughter, Jessica who experienced her first competition this year and sings lead.
Jackie Balon received the silver note award for her 25 years of participation with Prairie
JOIN US . . .
|We are available to
perform for your
special occasion at
anytime during the
Prairie Echoes Chorus encourages all interested singers to come and sing with us. Our rehearsals are at the
Community of Christ Church, 1200 S. Malta Rd., DeKalb on Tuesday evenings from 7:30pm to 10pm.
Singing, Friendship, Food and Fun! This is what Prairie Echoes is all about! For more info. please call Jess
Prairie Echoes Chorus welcomes four new girls Heidi Bronoski, Valerie Pittman, Kristin Christian and
Valesia Best. Our chorus is proud to say we have three moms who sing with their daughters - Jackie Balon
and her daughter Teresa, Teresa and her daughter Jessica, and Donna OHagen and her daughter Sarah. How
wonderful that they can share this fun hobby! Prairie Echoes has enjoyed the summer months with songs
like Hot, Hot Hot, Kokomo, Lean On Me, Break'n Up is Hard to Do and You Can't Stop the Beat! In June we
raised money for cancer research through donations for Relay for Life for Kishwaukee Hospital in Dekalb,
Illinois. In July we participated in 2 parades in Kirkland and Dixon, Illinois and July 9th we sang at Lincoln
Shire Place in Sycamore, Illinois. July 14 we had a party/reunion at Kris Conley's farm. Four-part harmony,
swimming, food, friendships and fun! Who could ask for more! Our Chorus was chartered in 1983 and
here we are in 2013 still singing and lov'n every minute of it! A special thank you goes to Western Lights
Chorus for their wonderful gift of costumes and PA equipment. We were so surprised! You girls are the
Best! Thank you for your generosity! Please feel free to visit us in Dekalb anytime and we welcome any
other choruses who would like to visit. Feel free to stop in and see us. We meet Tuesday evenings from
7:30pm to 10pm at Community of Christ Church, 1200 S. Malta Rd., DeKalb, IL Til then, keep a
song in your heart.