In barbershop music the bass is a harmony part, the lowest of the voice parts. It is written in the bass clef an octave lower than it is sung.
Because a primary characteristic of barbershop music is its cone-shaped sound, the bass must sing with a heavier tone quality than the upper voices; she usually sings with more volume as well. The bass sings a relatively straight, well-produced tone with a minimum of vibrato. The range of the bass part is comparable to that of a contralto in traditional choral music.
The lead sings the melody; the bass provides the harmonic foundation. Ideally, the bass and lead work as a team, establishing a strong and accurate relationship. The harmonic structure of barbershop music assists the bass in providing the foundation. Usually she sings the root or fifth of each chord. Other tones may be sung by the bass in passing or for special effect.
Occasionally an arrangement gives the melody to the bass for a few notes, a phrase or an entire passage. When this occurs, the bass adds sufficient color (vibrato) to her voice to make the melody easily identifiable and the lead sings more like a baritone.
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