We have three groups (soprano, alto, and baritone) and for one of the songs we're singing, each vocal section has a piece or section that we have to sing while the other ones stay silent. Our conductor referred to it as a specific word but I don't remember what it was called. I searched online, but I still couldn't find it.

Could anyone tell me what the term is?

  • "and for one of the songs we're singing each vocal section has a piece or section that we have to sing." - Can you clarify what you mean by this?
    – LSM07
    Apr 9, 2019 at 0:54
  • @LSM07 "each vocal section has a piece or section that we have to sing" probably means that one part (soprano, alto, or baritone) sings while the other parts remain silent. In sheet music, there would be rests in the measures of the other two parts while the third part sings.
    – AduyummY
    Apr 9, 2019 at 5:30
  • 2
    Please clarify whether the other parts stop singing during these passages or whether these passages are simply the primary melody and the other parts continue singing harmonization. Apr 9, 2019 at 6:25
  • I agree with @chrylis that this is not very clear. Could you edit your question and include the relevant fragment of the score?
    – Melebius
    Apr 9, 2019 at 7:37
  • 2
    As it stands, the question lacks pertinent information which is needed for a definitive answer. It could mean two opposing things.
    – Tim
    Apr 9, 2019 at 8:34

3 Answers 3


Possibly soli?

In my experience, it means a solo for an entire section. For example, a saxophone soli would be a feature for all the saxophones in a big band.

Google tells me it has other meanings in different contexts, so it may not be a universally applicable term.

  • This is also my experience; whenever i encounter a "soli", it means "a solo for all applicable people together, instead of choosing just one individual"
    – ThisIsMe
    Apr 9, 2019 at 6:48
  • 2
    In my experience from classical music, soli is simply the Italian name for soloists and is used in contrast to the choir – you can often find “soli e coro” in scores.
    – Melebius
    Apr 9, 2019 at 7:30
  • 1
    "Soli" is just the Italian word for "solos". It is not a singular noun with a different meaning.
    – Rosie F
    Sep 30, 2019 at 9:08
  • @RosieF Music Italian doesn't really follow the rules of Actual Italian. In the music I'm familiar with (concert/marching/big band), soli is a direction to play as a section. Solo is a direction for a single player to play. It's just one of those cases where you need to pick the right term for the context.
    – endorph
    Sep 30, 2019 at 9:24
  • @endorph Oh, I see, you meant the musical indication, used as a noun meaning a similar passage. I'm with you now. Just as we might speak of "a tutti" meaning a passage for the full orchestra/band or "an Adagio" meaning a movement with that tempo indication.
    – Rosie F
    Sep 30, 2019 at 9:29

I know only that we used to call in a march for brassband the "bass-solo" when the whole tenor- and bass- section are playing the melody, while the alto and soprano instruments play the accompaniment.

You can apply the use of this meaning for the melody in a section also for singing-voices:

the melody in the soprano is the usual case, but when the melody is in the other voices, you can name this sections of a song: the alto solo and the tenor solo.


If other voices are singing (or playing) at the same time, the leading voice is simply called melody and others are performing accompaniment.

In polyphonic compositions, the voice singing (or playing) the main melody is called cantus firmus (Latin) or canto fermo (Italian). In this case, the other voices are performing at the same time, too. The relation between voices is called counterpoint.

  • 2
    On condition the other voices were also singing, this is correct. In the event that they weren't, this is wrong.
    – Tim
    Apr 9, 2019 at 8:35
  • @Tim I understand the part of the question “each vocal section has a piece or section that we have to sing” in the way that other voices are also singing. I tried to clarify (and extend) my answer.
    – Melebius
    Apr 9, 2019 at 9:18

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