What do tenors do when the baritones sing silent night at church? I am talking about a tenors who is not in the choir. Do tenors try to sing a tenor line or just refrain from singing this low notes? Or maybe tenors refrain from singing as it is too low?

  • What type of arrangement of "Silent Night" is this? Are the baritones singing the melody? If so, are the sopranos singing period? – Dekkadeci Dec 16 '19 at 16:27
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    Whenever they get to a bit they can't reach any other way. It's pretty common practise for non-singers. – Tetsujin Dec 16 '19 at 16:46
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    In case someone doesn't get Douglas Adam's joke: Detchant isn't really a music term, it's a placename which he, as a joke, as attached a meaning to. The real musical term is descant. – Rosie F Dec 16 '19 at 17:18
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    @RosieF - appreciate the clarification, but every time a Douglas Adams [or Terry Pratchett] joke needs explaining, I die a little inside :\ – Tetsujin Dec 16 '19 at 18:39
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    Note that I assume Hank is referencing the arrangement of Silent Night pitched in B-flat he asked about before. – Athanasius Dec 18 '19 at 20:38

The range of a twelfth is a touch more than a lot of carols, but what most 'singers' with a small range do is jump the octave, and either drop down for the high three or four notes, or up for the lower ones. Some will do it without even noticing.

If the accompanist is accomplished, he (or she!) may put a song into a more comfortable key. Others bash on regardless. There may also be someone who is tone deaf, and sings the whole song on a monotone. No key problems for them!

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    Way to early to say it's the preferred answer. Others may contribute. – Tim Dec 16 '19 at 16:59
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    Another option: sing harmony. – phoog Dec 16 '19 at 19:13

One option is for the singer to choose a note from the accompaniment chords, and sing his choice, or even vocally arpeggiate the accompaniment chords, but the singer will need decent sight reading skills and a strong relative pitch in order to even attempt pulling this off. That said, if the sheet music is done right, each note on each beat will harmonize with the other notes and the melody on that same beat. It will probably take some practice to get the hang of it, but it can be a lot of fun when you do.

  • For well-known enough music like the OP's "Silent Night", you don't need sight reading skills to pull off the above. You just need good enough relative pitch or maybe even just a good enough memory. – Dekkadeci Dec 17 '19 at 12:19
  • @Dekkadeci- What you say is true, I know of some people who can just naturally harmonize with others without any training at all, but I assume they must be skilled naturally in order to be able to sing this way. Kind of like a child prodigy musician. Also, I assume that the OP is interested in being able to sing this way on more music than just Silent Night, although it wasn't so stated. – skinny peacock Dec 17 '19 at 14:01

Assuming that OP is referencing the arrangement of Silent Night brought up in a previous question, the problem appears to be that the pitches of the melody are too low for some (high) tenors.

In that case, and if the tenor wants to sing the melody as part of the congregation, Tim's solution is the most obvious: skip around in octaves as necessary. Many singers of any voice part will do this when necessary.

When in a congregation, it's also usually possible to sing harmony (e.g., the tenor line), though in some places you might stand out if you do so. If the tenor line for this particular arrangement lies too low in parts, you could even sing the alto line. (I've certainly skipped up to sing the alto occasionally in this arrangement of Silent Night, even though I'm a baritone, just for fun because it's low enough and the men's lines are boring. And if no one else is singing parts around you, it makes some good harmony with the melody.)

  • Is that B♭ really too low for a tenor? I have zero classical training but I'd have thought anyone capable of growing facial hair could hit that. I always thought of myself as maybe a high-ish tenor & I can hit the D below that. – Tetsujin Dec 19 '19 at 18:02
  • @Tetsujin: Read the OP's comments in the question I linked. It's not too low for most tenors, but apparently it is for OP. (I made the same assumption at first.) – Athanasius Dec 19 '19 at 19:38
  • tbh, I'm not getting the OP's point. "Why is it too low" but then the rest of it goes on about how high can be reached… I lost the plot before I read it all. If the OP has a range of a 15th, then … perhaps in the wrong business... but that's not my call to make. – Tetsujin Dec 19 '19 at 19:43
  • @Tetsujin: I don't know. I can't answer for OP. All I know is that OP said that B-flat was too low, and I can imagine it is too low for some men with particularly high voices, just as a low B-flat (below middle C) is a strain for the occasional coloratura soprano. As for the rest, all I know is what OP said. – Athanasius Dec 19 '19 at 19:48
  • …so the best we have is "it depends"… followed by "pick a note you can reach"… & we're back to Detchant, which is how poor singers have dealt with it since time immemorial - either that or "bust a gut & sound really really uncomfortable" ;) – Tetsujin Dec 19 '19 at 19:51

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