What is barbershop?

Barbershop harmony is a style of unaccompanied vocal music characterized by consonant four-part chords for every melody note in a predominantly homophonic texture. The melody is consistently sung by the lead, with the tenor harmonizing above the melody, the bass singing the lowest harmonizing notes, and the baritone completing the chord.



Bass - the Power Of Barbershop: This part occupies the bottom of every chord. The lock and ring we all strive for are impossible without the basses skillful execution of their line.


Baritone - The Chameleon Harmony Part: Baritones occupy a unique place in the barbershop sound. The baritone and lead in combination are the entire middle of every chord with exception of infrequent voicing of the tenor below the lead. This unique relationship with the lead requires that both bari and lead sing equally solid and complete vocal lines.


Lead- It's Not a Part ...It's an Attitude: The lead part is so much more than the melody. Leads must approach the part with abandon as well as artistry. They need to be confident and consistent while maintaining a sound that supports the ring (overtone quality) of the group's sound.


Tenor - From the Top of the Mountain: Tenors occupy the top of the barbershop chors ... with the infrequent exception of singing below the lead for a few chords. This puts the tenor singer in a similar situation with the basses, forming the "frame" around the two parts weaving between them.


Barbershop harmony is characterized by a "cone-shaped" sound, with the lower voices singing a wider, more resonant tone. When all four voices are singing the correct notes, tuning them accurately, producing a tone that is appropriate for their placement in the cone, and matching their vowel sounds, a wonderful thing happens! Those four tones produce a ring or overtone -- a fifth tone that nobody is singing, but that we all can hear. To "lock and ring" a chord is the goal of every barbershop group, and it's sure to bring on the goosebumps and the applause!


Barbershop music features songs with understandable lyrics and easily singable melodies whose tones clearly define a tonal center and imply major and minor chords and Barbershop (dominant and secondary dominant) seventh chords that resolve primarily around the circle of fifths, while making frequent use of other resolutions. Barbershop music also features a balanced and symmetrical form, and a standard meter.


The basic song and its harmonization are embellished by the arranger to provide support of the song's theme and to close the song effectively. Barbershop singers adjust pitches to achieve perfectly tuned chords in just intonation while remaining true to the established tonal center.

Artistic singing in the Barbershop style exhibits a fullness or expansion of sound, precise intonation, a high degree of vocal skill and a high level of unity and consistency within the ensemble. Ideally, these elements are natural, unmanufactured and free from apparent effort.


The presentation of Barbershop music uses appropriate musical and visual methods to convey the theme of the song and provide the audience with an emotionally satisfying and entertaining experience. The musical and visual delivery is from the heart, believable, and sensitive to the song and its arrangement throughout. The most stylistic presentation artistically melds together the musical and visual aspects to create and sustain the illusions suggested by the music.


History of Sweet Adelines International

After World War II, barbershop singing was growing increasingly popular for men. In 1945, a small group of women wanted to participate in the chord-ringing, fun-filled harmony that the men were singing. So these women organized "Sweet Adelines in America." From its humble beginnings in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Sweet Adelines International, as it is now called, has grown to a membership of almost 30,000 women in countries all across the globe.


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