July 27, 2017

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What is Barbershop?

Find out about this fabulous musical art form and the organization of real women who sing real a cappella Barbershop harmony on our What is Barbershop page.

 

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What is barbershop?

Barbershop harmony is a four part style of unaccompanied vocal music characterized by consonant four part, unaccompanied, close - harmony for every melody note in a predominantly homophonic texture.  It is sung in the range between A below middle C, and C above middle C.

 

The melody is consistently sung in the second voice, called the "Lead," with the Tenor harmonizing above the melody, the Bass singing the lowest harmonizing notes, and the Baritone completing the chord. 

 

The Tenor part harmonizes consistently above the Lead.  The Tenor voice should have a pure, light tone that will complement but not overpower the Lead voice.  Although Tenor is the highest voice in barbershop harmony, it should not be confused with the soprano of conventional singing ensembles.

 

The Baritone voice covers approximately the same range as Lead.  Baritone harmony notes cross the Lead notes, sometimes sung below and sometimes above the Lead voice.

 

Bass singers should have a rich, mellow voice, and have the ability to easily sing the E flat below middle C.  Bass should not be confused with the Alto of conventional singing ensembles.

 

The melody is not sung by the tenor except for an infrequent note or two to avoid awkward voice leading, in tags and codas, or when some appropriate embellishing effect can be created.

Occasional brief passages may be sung by fewer than four voice parts.

 

 

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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

 


 Maintained by: D. Duncan                                                              Last update: 05/22/2013