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Mix up the Charts for Mixed Harmony Success

May 28, 2019

Mix up charts for mixed harmony success

Kim Newcomb explains that when it comes to mixed singing, you don't always have to do what's on paper.

Mixed Double Quartet Close Up

When I coach mixed ensembles, it often blows their minds when I show how they don’t have to do exactly what’s written. Because there isn’t yet a lot of barbershop music arranged specifically for mixed voices, mixed ensembles need to feel comfortable with being flexible and making things work for them.

Some basic principles:

Key changes are fine

If a song is too high or too low for your ensemble, just change the key. Divide voice parts. If a section is too high or too low for a singer, try switching part of the line with another singer. For example, if the lead melody is quite spread, try having the lead sing the upper part of the melody line and the baritone sing the lower part.

Swap Octaves

If a part of your vocal line is too high or too low, try having another voice part sing it in a different octave. For example, if the tenor line is too high in a couple of measures, consider having the bari sing that part an octave lower and the tenor taking the baritone notes.

Cut, paste, delete

If a section of the song doesn’t fit right in your voices, change it—or don’t even sing it. Don’t like the intro? Go without it. Don’t like the tag? Make a new one.

Tags: Play your strengths

If you have a tenor, baritone, or bass that can hold a post forever—do it! Even if the music says it’s a lead post, it doesn’t have to be. Make it your own.

About the Author


Kim Newcomb is a busy learning track maker, private voice instructor, coach, and harmony camp clinician. She sings with The Ladies quartet, Half and Half quartet, and directs Capital City Chorus in Indianapolis.

As seen in The Harmonizer, March/April 2019 "Harmony University" issue, pg. 32