Non-gendered part names in SATB Closed scores

• Jul 8, 2022 - 18:06

Would you consider changing the default part names for the SATB closed scores from "women" and "men" to something like "high voices" and "low voices", or even just "upper" and "lower"? There are so many countertenors out there who sing alto - the last choir I sang with had an average of two-three women out of a choir of 16+! Not to mention some older choirs where women sing tenor...
Thank you!


Soprano and Alto are still female voices, tenor and bass still male voices, even if occasionally sung by the other gender.
But you can name the partname however you like.
And even the instrument name, if you just edit the closed score satb template file

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

In the contemporary choral world, the part names are not considered gendered, it is merely the notes you are singing on the page at that time. Historically, as well, soprano and alto would most likely not have been female voices - the tradition of boy sopranos is a long one. The name simply refers to the part, like saying bassoon, or clarinet, or flute. Therefore, like a group of instruments is labeled "strings," or "woodwinds," a group of singers should be labeled something equally as neutral.

In reply to by [DELETED] 3697836

Thanks for your understanding that this is indeed my opinion and not meant derogatory or offending.

BTW, in our choir we often divide by high and low voices, soprano+tenor vs. alto+bass, so here's another argument against your proposal.
But yes, we had several women in Tenor (but singing an octave higher), and even one in Bass.
And occasionally a male Alto too.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Maybe "upper" and "lower" then? Or, "treble" and "bass," referring to the clefs (yes, I know that is also an issue.)? We called the SSAA choir I was in last year a treble choir. I have never heard of women singing tenor an octave higher - I can sing most tenor lines at pitch, but I usually sing alto. Countertenors are extremely common in my line of musical work, almost more common than women singing alto in some circles!

In reply to by [DELETED] 3697836

I agree with Jojo. You have the ability to change the terms to whatever you like, as does anyone else. Insisting that default terms which correctly represent the vast majority of cases, and which most people are perfectly happy with must change to meet some imaginary "standard of inclusiveness" is the definition of entitlement, and it's not needed or wanted here.

In reply to by Al Loast

I'd very much like the ability to change them because they're not reflective of my scores most of the time. I'm looking at SSSSAATTBB scores. The second voice is not alto (it's lower boy soprano), yet I have to set it to "Women" or "Men" to access the voices in the mixer.

In reply to by mirabilos

How would a template help me with the voice naming in the mixer? AFAICT the mixer only has voice subselections for closed scores based on Channel tags in instrument.xml. I'm sure I could edit that, but I just don't know what that would do to files saved, particularly in how they appear on another musescore installation. And the mixer channel feature appears to have gone AWOL in MuseScore 4 beta.

Incidentally, the particular score in most recent memory really has 4 soprano voices and 2 alto voices. The split is a mismatch. I don't know what's more "usual", as I've only worked on a limited set.

Edit: It would appear the instrument section is copied into the mscx, so it should be possible to do this with hacked up templates. It's still a bit uncomfortable for me to have to perform external edits to documents, compared to something I could tell a common user where to select.

In reply to by yannv

The instrument information from instruments.xml is copied into the score file. So you could consider changing the instrument information in a specific score and then use that one as a template.

Since the instrument definitions are copied into the score itself, changes to an instruments.xml file do not affect existing instruments in existing scores.

In reply to by yonah_ag

Here are my thoughts, then.
The statement that ends with "how people feel included and welcomed in the music world." Seems a bit odd and troublesome to me. Hopefully I'll figure out why. Perhaps it's because so many aspects of music are not welcoming. I could easily join most community or church choirs. I wouldn't stand a chance in a professional group. And that is how it should be.

The music world changes very slowly. A pianist can sit down with the oldest copy of a Bach keyboard piece that they can find, and play it. And certain things have become standard because, for the most part, they work. I can't speak Italian. But if I sit in with a local orchestra in Rome, I can read my part.

Perhaps men and women labels are out dated. But I think everyone knows what they refer more to ranges, than who sings them.

On the inclusion part, just let me add this. I'm a baritone. I can't sing high enough full voice to sing tenor. And I can't sing low enough to sing bass. So there's that. Do you actually know someone who didn't feel welcome because their range didn't match traditional ranges?

In reply to by bobjp

The music world only changes slowly when people resist change. You would be surprised at how fast it can change, when people are open to and willing to change and adapt. Our spoken language is evolving, so why shouldn't our written language evolve to match? It is not so much that people might not feel welcome because of their range, its that they might not feel welcome because of the language used to talk about and to people with such a range in the rehearsal setting.

It seems that I am coming from a different experience, perspective, and maybe even generation with regards to this than others! I hold that just because something (linguistically speaking) is standardized doesn't mean it should remain standardized that way, and that the long-held standardizations in music need to be challenged and examined to see if they really are good.

In reply to by [DELETED] 3697836

Nah, you're coming here to virtue signal and preen about how woke you are.

You were triggered by the words "male" and "female" as you've been told you should be, and now you're trying to get them removed in the holy name of "inclusion" without being able to point to a single example of how they cause any harm or make anyone feel "unwelcome".

Take a hike.

In reply to by [DELETED] 3697836

I don't think it's about resisting anything. It's more about using what is widely understood. Yes, language changes. But (for example ), English in the US is not the same as English in the UK. Which one is the standard we should change everything to?
So a composer writes a flute part. He does so because that's the instrument he wants to play that part. To do so is a long standing tradition. Shall we come along and say that label needs to be changed to "upper wood wind"? Then oboes, piccolos, or even bagpipes could play that part.
I think everyone understands that female voices tend to be higher pitched than male voices.

In reply to by bobjp

I don't think it's about resisting anything. It's more about using what is widely understood.

Yes, and I would consider it to be "common sense" usage.
When I was a youngster, my box of crayons wasn't sophisticated enough to include the color "burnt sienna", so I used brown instead and meant no disrespect for the color burnt sienna. To me, it was no big deal.
(Hmm... just now, the word "brown" actually seems more inclusive to me - after all, consider umber and ochre... ;-)

Regarding instrument names, the "flute" section in an orchestra may contain Gemeinhardts, Artleys, Yamahas. etc. Is this distinction critical? Most likely it's not very important at all except, perhaps, to a flute salesman (or saleswoman, err... salesperson).

So... to answer the OP's comment: I would be curious to hear what other's thoughts are...
My thought is that the choice of the words "women" and "men" for a closed score SATB situation is no big deal. In fact, I wonder what types of humans were primarily used when recording the soprano samples for the soundfont? Same question applies to bass voice samples.
Now, for open score SATB.. well, I guess the naming choice is more obvious.

As mentioned by most responders (some more "welcoming" than others ;-) ) you are free to adjust/create such a template and/or use an additional custom instruments.xml file to define "high/mid/low voice" instruments. (hint: start with a copy from the existing file, remove all other instruments and then rename men/women as you see fit).

Will we change the current default part names?
Probably not, at least not at this moment in time.
Yes, language changes and sometimes this will result and reflect in different standards (hopefully for the better). But MuseScore on the musical front isn't a tool for declaring, enforcing or setting such standards; it is a tool that usually implements and follows them.

Could we add those new instruments next to the current defaults?
Possibly yes.
At least this request would have a much higher chance of being allowed. Then both types of instruments would be shipped side by side; allowing easier use of them all. And if there is enough support voiced for a different vocal template, then over time, that could be included as well.

Whether or not the gender discussion is "woke snowflake shit" or "important future" will remain to be seen and to me personally largely an uninteresting discussion for which there are both biological as well as psychological arguments to be made. So I'll boil my stance down to the following:
Is there value in SATB instruments/template? Yes, it is the historical and still the common major use case standard.
Is there value in HML Instruments/template? Instruments, yes. Templates, given the current minority use case, probably, but not convinced it should be a default template.
Should we drop SATB in favor of HML? No, probably never. Although time will tell whether or not a new default template will have to be considered at some point in the future.

In reply to by mirabilos

I can't say that I've ever understood tenor to be a high voice or alto to be a low voice.
Sure, tenor is a high male voice. But doesn't that negate your non-gendered idea? If a group wants to perform a piece that has a boy soprano part ( gendered, no? ), but has no boy soprano singer, guess who sings that part. You could number the parts. But what if the high part doesn't go above A4? Who sings voice 4? After looking at the score, I might be able to tell. However some other gendered label would be faster. I don't think it's about nomenclature needing to be updated. It's more about the already present ability to name parts what you want. and if you have to use women and men to access it, well I think there are more important things to worry about . It's not about resisting change. It's more about what is more commonly understood. I feel that four, or maybe six part harmony are more common. Of course there are exceptions. Just my opinion.

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