About Barbershop

What makes Barbershop different from other choral styles?

Barbershop harmony is unaccompanied, four-part a cappella harmony. When the music is sung accurately and with good breath support and vocal techniques, barbershop harmony produces overtone vibrations that create a resonant ring unique to this form of music. Although barbershop style music is usually built on simple melodies and is relatively easy to sing, the a cappella style and the ear training necessary for independent part singing make it one of the most challenging and rewarding accomplishments of a vocal ensemble. Our chorus members work hard to achieve the demands of this musical art form.

The voice parts in barbershop for women have different names and functions than they do in other vocal styles. The LEAD voice, generally sings the melody and is below the TENOR harmony; the TENOR part sings the highest note in the chord; the BARITONE part fills in the all-important missing note in a chord that may be above and below the melody; and the BASS part supplies the harmonic foundation (root or fifth) of the chord. Similar to choral music, minimal vibrato should be apparent in barbershop singing. Wide and obvious vibratos tend to hamper the lock and ring that sought in each chord.

A chorus is the main performing aspect of barber shoppers. Choruses may have as few as 12 or as many as 150 members singing. Choruses normally sing with a director, as distinct from quartets.  Unlike a quartet, a chorus need not have equal numbers singing each voice part. The ideal balance in a chorus is about 40% bass, 30% lead, 20% baritone and 10% tenor singers. 

In almost all cases a barbershop chorus will be either all-male or all-female, because the art-form demands an extremely close matching of tonal qualities.

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.