Scroll Top

Barbershop Lingo

Like most performing artists, Sweet Adelines have a language of their own. What follows is a quick snapshot of terms you may come across on the website. 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.


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 neighborhood dog. Bari notes are found in the bass clef, above the bass line, sung an octave higher than written.


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.


The main body of a song, after the intro and before the tag.


Competition is not an unfamiliar term, but it helps to know we can compete at two levels – both the regional level (once a year, in the spring) and the International level (every other year, in the fall).


Harmonic balance in barbershop is stacked in a cone shape, not a cylindrical shape, as with traditional choral music. Confused? Check out our barbershop page. It will demystify the subject for you.


A gradual increase in volume.


A gradual decrease in volume.


Similar to decrescendo, it is more about becoming soft then lessening the volume.


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.

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?


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


The singer of the melody line, about 95% of the time.


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.


An acronym for Personal Vocal Instruction. Periodically, your section leader will conduct PVIs to build and reinforce vocal skills as well as review music and work through any rough spots a member may be experiencing with a particular song in the repertoire.


Gem City is part of Region 4, which includes Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia.


The brilliant, bright “forward” sound in the voice that must be present to generate an overtone.


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


A mini-rehearsal for a specific voice part organized by the section leader, often outside of weekly rehearsals.

Section Leader

Section Leaders 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.

Sweet Adelines International

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


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


The highest part in barbershop singing, not to be confused with a soprano of SATB music. See our barbershop page for more information.

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Sweet Adelines International openly recognizes our racist history, a past that saw the organization ban membership for women of color from 1958 to 1966. It is an ugly truth we acknowledged at our 2016 convention, and since then we have worked — in videos and in The Pitch Pipe — to educate our members about this truth and how we are working to use the history as a catalyst for our inclusion and equity work of today. We believe it’s important to be clear about what happened in the past, because racism and discrimination were unacceptable then and they are something we will not tolerate now.

We are taking steps NOW to make this an organization that celebrates our differences and makes ALL its members feel welcomed. We’re doing that in many ways, from the creation of our Diversity and Inclusion Task Force to the development of a comprehensive toolkit that soon will be available as a resource for chapters to give members the tools they need to help welcome members who come from different ethnic and racial backgrounds, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and people from varied religions.

Sweet Adelines International is committed to addressing and condemning racism, discrimination, and other forms of inequity not only with our words but with our actions.

Join the Gem City Chorus

If you possess a passion for music, the ability to carry a tune, and the desire to master the art of harmony, then you’ve found your place with us. Contact us today and experience the world of barbershop with Gem City Chorus.