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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We're always looking for new members! Are you an experienced barbershopper? A choral singer from your school days? A raw beginner who's never sung anywhere outside of your own shower? As long as you have a desire to sing and perform, you're welcome to try out the Coastal Chordsmen Chorus! Information regarding rehearsal times and locations can be found at the bottom of this page, as well as links to more general information about the barbershop style of music.

Questions

  1. What will I do during my first few chorus visits?
  2. Do I have to read music to join the chorus?
  3. I sang tenor/bass in high school, college, or church choir. What part should I sing here?
  4. I tried it -- I liked it! How do I officially join?
  5. OK, I'm in! When do I get to sing in public?
  6. I thought this was a Barbershop Quartet organization. What about quartets?
  7. How about women, can they join too?
  8. I'm interested, but I don't live in your area. Are there other groups like the Coastal Chordsmen out there?

Answers

What will I do during my first few chorus visits?

One of the first things you will do (after being enthusiastically greeted by everyone in the chorus) will be to have a voice placement audition with the director. This is not an audition in the sense of "making it" into the group; it's a simple set of vocal exercises designed to ensure that you're placed into the appropriate voice part (Tenor, Lead, Baritone or Bass). Once the director places you in a section, you will be assigned a "riser buddy" for the evening on your voice part to assist you during the rehearsal. You will be given a guest book containing all the current chorus repertoire, and invited to join the chorus on risers for rehearsal. You can start singing right away! Of course, if you prefer to sit and observe at first, that's OK too -- take it at your own pace! Return to Top

Do I have to read music to join the chorus?

Reading music is always helpful, but it's not necessary. We use a "part-dominant learning track" system. Stereo learning tracks are available in CD or cassette tape format, or as .mp3 downloads from the Members Only section of our website. Your voice part will be isolated in the left channel, with the other three parts in the right channel. When you are first learning a piece, use your stereo's balance control (or position yourself by the left speaker) to hear your part alone. As you get more confident in your part, adjust the balance to the center to bring in the other parts you'll be harmonizing with. When you feel you've really got it down, turn the balance all the way to the right and fill in the missing part with your voice! Return to Top

I sang tenor/bass in high school, college, or church choir. What part should I sing here?

The four voice parts in barbershop music are:

Tenor

- Harmonizes consistently above the melody, usually in a light head tone or clear falsetto. A classical/church/glee club tenor is not necessarily a barbershop tenor. Many bass/baritone types make excellent barbershop tenors through use of the falsetto or head tone.

Lead

- Sings the melody. A church choir or school choir tenor is usually a good candidate for lead.

Baritone

- Crosses voices frequently with the lead part, filling in whatever notes are needed to complete the four-part chords. May be sung by a traditional choral tenor or an agile bass voice. The baritone part is generally considered the trickiest part to sing, and requires an excellent ear for harmony and interval.

Bass

- The lowest part, and always on the bottom. This is the one part that's pretty much the same for barbershop as it is for other forms of choral music. A barbershop bass should have a solid low F; very few arrangements dip below this.

In any case, the director/music team will help you to find the right part for your voice. It's not unusual for some singers to sing multiple parts over the course of their barbershop lives. Return to Top

I tried it -- I liked it! How do I officially join?

When you're ready to become a full-fledged member (typically after attending three weeks of rehearsals), our chapter secretary will assist you with the membership process. We're a chapter of the International Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS), and chartered in the Northeast District (NED). Annual membership fees include Society and District Dues, as well as a nominal Chapter dues. Multi-year subscriptions and age discounts are available in certain circumstances. Membership includes a subscription to The Harmonizer, the Society's monthly publication. You'll receive a membership card and an official chorus repertoire book. Return to Top

OK, I'm in! When do I get to sing in public?

This is different for every member, depending on your personal progress on the repertoire music. The music team and director will work with you to bring you up to speed as quickly as possible -- for some, this is a matter of weeks, for others a matter of months. Again, it depends largely on the pace at which you're comfortable. Return to Top

I thought this was a Barbershop Quartet organization. What about quartets?

Although we rehearse and perform primarily as a four-part chorus, we also support and encourage barbershop quartets. We have official quartets (registered with the society for purposes of competition), just-for-fun quartets that sing together for the sheer joy of it, and even spur-of-the-moment pick-up quartets who ring a few chords together during break times or over pizza after rehearsal. Also, every Valentine's Day we form several quartets that travel all over Southern Connecticut delivering singing valentines -- for many, this is a great introduction to the quartet experience. Return to Top

How about women, can they join too?

The Barbershop Harmony Society limits membership to "male singers of good character" but our wives and lady friends are welcome to give support and attend events. For those ladies who wish to sing barbershop, we encourage them to visit the Harmony on the Sound Chorus (Sweet Adelines International). They are perennial international competitors and also rehearse in Trumbull, CT. Return to Top

I'm interested, but I don't live in your area. Are there other groups like the Coastal Chordsmen out there?

There are several barbershop choruses/chapters in Connecticut, and hundreds more throughout the United States. In fact, there are now Barbershop organizations in Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa... just about anywhere you go, you can find barbershoppers! Visit the Society's Barbershop Locator Page to search for chapters in the U.S. and Canada. Return to Top

Ready to give the Chordsmen a try? Visit our Rehearsals Page for times and directions!