What is barbershop harmony?
Barbershop harmony is a distinctive American vocal sound produced by four unaccompanied voices with harmony parts both above and below the melody. We strive for warm, perfectly tuned chords to produce overtones – that elusive “ring.” Any woman can find a voice part that fits her vocal range, from high sopranos to those who sing men’s tenor. Although no prior training is required to sing in the barbershop style, everyone from inexperienced singers to professional musicians will find enjoyment and exciting challenges.
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.
A great Barbershop performance is a visual treat as well -- both choruses and quartets enhance the music with movement 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.
History of Sweet Adelines International
After World War II, barbershop singing was growing increasingly popular for men. In 1945 a group of women in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 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, Sweet Adelines International, as it is now called, has grown to a membership of almost 30,000 women in countries across the globe.
If you want to stay informed of all the happenings of the female barbershop music scene, subscribe to Pitch Pipe, which is published by Sweet Adelines International each quarter. It's full of news, reviews, and previews of coming events and competitions.
September 22, 2014
Meet the Chorus
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What is Barbershop?
Find out about this fabulous artform and the organization of women barbershoppers on our What is Barbershop page.
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