The following is a brief overview definition of the BHS contest & judging system. Complete information and rules can be found at the following Barbershop Harmony Society page.
The barbershop style can be viewed as having two major components: technical and artistic. The technical aspects of the style relate to those elements that define the style regardless of how well it’s performed. The artistic aspects relate to those performance aspects that are equally essential to the style’s preservation.
The performance of each song is judged by three categories: Music, Presentation and Singing. Each category judge will determine a single quality rating or score, on a scale of 1 to 100. The judge will determine whether the level of the performance is excellent (A-level, from 81-100), good (B-level, from 61- 80), fair (C-level, from 41-60), or poor (D-level, from 1-40), and award an exact score based upon an evaluation of all the elements in the performance that have an impact on his category. If no quality rating is appropriate, owing to an unequivocal and definite violation of the rules, the judge will forfeit his score by awarding a zero.
There is no appropriate formula for weighting the various elements in a category; rather, it is up to the judge to view the total performance from his particular orientation, and evaluate the elements of the performance on a song-by-song basis. Elements that are particularly crucial in one song performance may be less important in another song performance. The judge will evaluate the overall effect or value of the performance.
The major responsibilities of each judging category are as follows:
An audience member experiences the art form of barbershop music as a whole. Thus, even while evaluating a performance from a particular perspective, an audience member will experience the total performance. Each of the three categories – Music, Presentation, and Singing – should be a particular orientation or perspective from which a judge views the total performance, rather than a blinder that restricts his focus to a certain domain. Accordingly, all judges judge the total performance and, to some extent, certain elements of a barbershop performance will be evaluated by judges in two, or even all three, categories. Those aspects of a barbershop performance that are evaluated by judges in all three categories are: the preservation of the barbershop style; ringing, in-tune singing; vocal quality; the suitability of the song to the performer; self-expressiveness and heartfelt performance.