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Contest & Judging System

Contest & Judging System

Information and Documents

Whether you aim for the gold, or want an objective benchmark of your abilities from year to year, the Contest and Judging system helps everyone get more from the hobby.

All chorus and quartet competitors are scored in three categories, Music, Performance, and Singing. A brief description of each category is below. Expanded information can be found in the C&J Handbook.

Contest and Judging Handbook

BHS Contest Judging Assignments

What does it take to be a judge?

The Three Judging Categories

Music Category

Music is defined as the song and arrangement, as performed. The Music Category judges the arranger’s skill and the performer’s musicianship in bringing the mood or story of the song to life, and the suitability of the material to the barbershop style.

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The Music judge is responsible for adjudicating the musical elements of the performance. He judges the degree to which the musical delivery demonstrates an artistic sensitivity to the song’s ongoing predominant musical element(s) and mood or story, as well as the extent to which the musical performance displays the hallmarks of the barbershop style. One of the primary hallmarks of barbershop music is its consonant harmony. Thus, the quality of performance depends largely on the ensemble presence, accurate execution, and artistic delivery of the consonant harmonies traditionally identified with the barbershop style. Indirectly, the Music judge evaluates the work of the composer and arranger. A basic prerequisite for a successful barbershop performance is that the song be appropriate to the barbershop style.

See  more information on MUS

Download the Contest and Judging Handbook (PDF, 1.7MB)


Performance Category

These judges evaluate how effectively a performer brings the song to life. They judge the entertainment value of the performance; the art of the performance.

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One significant goal of any art form is communication. A barbershop performance refers to how the artist communicates his/her message and vision via the transformation of a song into an entertaining experience for an audience. The performance of a song is the artist’s gift to the audience; whose experiences, memories, and imagination transform that gift into an emotional experience. The performers’ goal is to create a high level of entertainment through the performance. The means to that end are as varied as the personality, abilities and creative skills of the performers.

Watch a presentation from Harmony University 2016 on the new Performance Category

See  more information about the Performance Category

Read the FULL Performance Category Description


Singing Category

In the Singing category we judge artistic singing in the barbershop style – listening holistically for ringing in-tune voices that use a free, beautiful and rich vocal quality, which is wonderfully unified and vocally expressive.

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Judges in this category evaluate the degree to which the performer achieves artistic singing in the barbershop style: the production of vibrant, rich, resonant, technically accurate, and highly skilled sound, created both by the individual singer’s use of good vocal techniques, and by the ensemble processes of tuning, balancing, unity of sound and precision. They listen for a sense of precise intonation, a feeling of fullness or expansion of sound, a perception of a high degree of vocal skill, a high level of unity and consistency throughout the performance, and a freedom from apparent effort that allows the full communication of the lyric and song.

See  more information on SNG

Download the Contest and Judging Handbook (PDF, 1.7MB)


Definition of the Barbershop Style

Barbershop harmony is a style of unaccompanied vocal music characterized by consonant four-part chords for every melody note in a predominantly homophonic texture. The melody is consistently sung by the lead, with the tenor harmonizing above the melody, the bass singing the lowest harmonizing notes, and the baritone completing the chord. Occasional brief passages may be sung by fewer than four voice parts.

Barbershop music features songs with understandable lyrics and easily singable melodies, whose tones clearly define a tonal center and imply major and minor chords and barbershop (dominant and secondary dominant) seventh chords that often resolve around the circle of fifths, while also making use of other resolutions. Barbershop music also features a balanced and symmetrical form, and a standard meter. The basic song and its harmonization are embellished by the arranger to provide appropriate support of the song’s theme and to close the song effectively.

Barbershop singers adjust pitches to achieve perfectly tuned chords in just intonation while remaining true to the established tonal center. Artistic singing in the barbershop style exhibits a fullness or expansion of sound, precise intonation, a high degree of vocal skill, and a high level of unity and consistency within the ensemble. Ideally, these elements are natural, unmanufactured, and free from apparent effort.

The presentation of barbershop music uses appropriate musical and visual methods to convey the theme of the song and provide the audience with an emotionally satisfying and entertaining experience. The musical and visual delivery is from the heart, believable, and sensitive to the song and its arrangement throughout. The most stylistic presentation artistically melds together the musical and visual aspects to create and sustain the illusions suggested by the music.