is a uniquely American
musical art form. It began in the late
1800s and remained popular through Vaudeville until the mid-1920s. Prior to the advent of radio and television,
people entertained themselves by singing.
Popular songs of that era were written to be sung and played by the
common person, rather than by the experienced musician.
melody lines are simple and lyrics are easy to understand. Singing
in a barbershop quartet can help singers develop and refine tuning and performance
skills, self-confidence and teamwork. A chorus with multiple singers on each
voice part can produce a satisfying barbershop sound, while providing a
supportive environment for weaker or timid singers.
barbershop harmony, the four voice parts have different names and functions
than in other vocal and choral styles.
Although the ranges for the four voice parts are similar to traditional
music, the strength of the barbershop chord structure lies in its cone-shaped
sound. The tenor sings the highest note
in a chord; the bass sings the lowest; the lead sings the melody, and the
baritone sings the note to complete the chord. The lightest production, without sacrificing
clarity or brilliance, must come in the top part (tenor) and each of the three
lower voices sing with increased weight and/or intensity.
Bass range—(F below middle C to G above
Baritone range—(B flat below middle C to C an
Lead range—(Middle C to D or E an octave above)
Tenor range—(F above
middle C to G above the staff)
maximize the effect of the natural overtone series, the roots and fifths of all
chords are sung a little louder than the thirds and sevenths. The melody is tuned to the tonal center, and
the harmony parts are tuned to the melody part.
Clarity and matching of good vowel sounds and balanced volume
relationships by each of the voice parts reinforce the natural harmonic series
(overtones) to produce the unique “ringing” sound characteristic of Barbershop
Barbershop style primarily uses major, minor, dominant seventh and minor
seventh chords, with occasional half or fully diminished seventh chords. A good barbershop arrangement should use the
"barbershop seventh" (a dominant-quality seventh chord that occurs on
any degree of the scale) for at least one-third of its chords. The chord progressions used in the barbershop
style rely on the classical "circle-of-fifths", with a few
interesting embellishments thrown in. Melodies
with this type of harmonic variation easily lend themselves to the barbershop
written structure of barbershop style uses a grand staff. The Tenor and Lead parts are notated on the
treble staff. The Baritone and Bass
parts are notated on the bass staff and are sung an octave higher than written.