How does BBC1’s new choir show Pitch Battle actually work?

Allow us to acca-explain the rules of Saturday night's newest singing series


Saturday nights on BBC1 are set for a bit of a shakeup as Mel Giedroyc, Gareth Malone and Kelis bring a brand new singing show to our screens. 


Pitch Battle combines choirs and Pitch Perfect style singing showdowns, but how does the show actually work?

What are the rules of BBC1’s Pitch Battle?

Pitch Battle sees 30 choirs and vocal groups with up to 25 members going head-to-head in a battle to win £50,000.

The competing groups come from all musical backgrounds and genres – from rock to country and yes, acapella – and feature singers who vary in age from 17 to mid 60s. Both amateur and professional groups are allowed to compete in the competition, which will test their strengths and weaknesses.

30 groups will compete across five heats, with just one winner from each heat progressing to the Live Final. 

What happens in each Pitch Battle heat?

Each episode sees 6 choirs competing for a place in the live final, with only one space up for grabs.

The show opens with a very special group performance arranged by the Series Musical Director Deke Sharon, who is the Musical Director on the Pitch Perfect movies. All six acts participate.


We’ve had a sneak peek at one and it’s all very glamorous and tuneful. You’ll be shimmying on your sofa!

The choirs are then paired off to face each other – for example, Choir A will face Choir B, Choir C will face Choir D, and Choir E will face Choir F.

Round 1 – Showstoppers & Riff Offs 

Choir A is up first and they perform their very own ‘Showstopper’, which is the song or a mash up of songs which they believe best show off their style and talent.

Choir B then perform their showstopper, before going head to head with Choir A in a themed Riff Off. This means that the choirs will sing songs based on a chosen theme.

For example, if the theme is Angels, they might sing songs like Beyonce’s Halo, Sarah McLachlan’s Angel or Robbie Williams’ Angels. Choirs A and B will sing in turn, going back and forth three times, battling each other to win the Riff Off. There’s some rather snazzy lighting on the stage that shows where the battle line is drawn.


Pitch Battle musical director Deke will give some feedback after the Riff-Off and then it’s down to the three judges – Gareth Malone, Kelis and their guest judge – to decide which choir goes through to the next round.

The entire process is then repeated with Choir C and D each performing a showstopper and going head-to-head in a themed Riff Off, and Choir E and F doing the same thing. 

By the end of Round 1 we’ll be left with just three choirs.

Round 2 – The Solo Battles

In Round 2, the three remaining choirs must pick a soloist, who’ll take centre stage and sing with the backing of the group. The judges will assess their performances and decide which two choirs should progress to Round 3.

Round 3 – The Final Battle

At this stage only two choirs will remain and they’ll go head to head, singing one of the guest judge’s songs.

For example, when Will Young is the guest judge the choirs will sing one of his tracks.

To announce the heat’s winner, the guest judge will then stand up, take a microphone and reveal which choir has won the battle by joining them on their side of the stage – while they’re still singing. Their portion of the stage will also light up to indicate that they’re going through. 

How many choirs will compete in the Live Final?

Five choirs will make it through to the final automatically, but they’ll also be joined by a Judges’ Wildcard. That means we’ll have six choirs singing to win the prize.

Gareth and Kelis will reveal the Wildcard at the end of episode five.


Who are the guest judges? 

American singer-songwriter Bebe Rhexa, Kiss from a Rose singer Seal, Pop Idol winner Will Young, Jonas Brothers turned DANCE front man Joe Jonas and music legend Chaka Khan are the five guest judges lined up for the heats.

The guest judge for the Live Grand Final has yet to be revealed.

How can I vote for my favourite choir?

You can’t – until the Live Final, that is. During the heats the decisions will lie with the judges but they’ll become powerless in the final episode, when the choirs will compete for the public vote.


Pitch Battle airs on BBC1 on Saturday June 17th at 7.30pm