Monday, April 03, 2023

The secret world of … the fifth SATB harmony section

This is a series of five posts looking in a light-hearted way at the different types of singers in a typical community choir. 

You might have thought that SATB choirs (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) have just four different voice sections, but you’d be wrong. There is a fifth section known as the Floaters (or Flexitarians).

Here are ten things I’ve learnt about Floaters after leading community choirs for over 25 years:

  1. In community choirs it is quite common for some singers to be able to sing many different parts as the range is not huge.
  2. These Floaters (or Flexitarians) move around at will, singing different parts for different songs.
  3. All well and good, but when the concert comes, they forget which part they’re supposed to be singing.
  4. There is another kind of Floater which is the “Oh, that’s too low/ high for me.” They start out in one part, but then realise that some of it is too high or too low. So they move to an adjacent section.
  5. Everything starts out fine, but then they come to a bit which is too high or too low, so they move back to their original part.
  6. Repeat endlessly.
  7. There are also other singers with specific voice parts like Baritone, Contralto, Mezzo-Soprano, Countertenor, etc. who have no natural home in a SATB choir. They tend to wander freely and sing whatever part comes naturally.
  8. Floaters don’t like to be pinned down. They are always moving around, trying to avoid detection.
  9. Floaters can’t be relied upon in concerts because nobody knows where they should be. This takes up a lot of time in rehearsals, especially when they deny all knowledge of a particular song.
  10. Some singers are not really Floaters, but just mildly confused with short attention spans. Their friends in their section usually come to their rescue. It might take some time though.


You might also find these fun from Classic FM: The 10 worst things about being a choral singer and The 10 worst things about being a countertenor.


You might find this older post of mine interesting too: Neither fish nor fowl – why most singers don’t fit neatly into SATB boxes

Chris Rowbury


Get more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox!

Click to subscribe by email.


found this helpful?

I provide this content free of charge, because I like to be helpful. If you have found it useful, you may like to ...

... to say thank you.





Monthly Music Round-up: