Barbershop harmony is a style of unaccompanied four-part vocal music. The melody is consistently sung by the Lead part. The Tenor part harmonizes above the melody, the Bass part sings the lowest harmonizing notes, and the Baritone part completes the chord. Barbershop harmony is rooted in African-American traditions of the late 1800s in the Southern US. More information on the origins of barbershop singing is available from the Barbershop Harmony Society.
Click here to watch a video of our Bursary Students singing Hello Mary Lou. This Ricky Nelson classic is an example of one of the most enjoyable parts of barbershop singing: new songs being set to barbershop harmony.
What makes something a “barbershop harmony”? Basically, the voices do not go where we would normally expect them to in four-part vocal music. Composers also make frequent use of a special chord, called a “barbershop seventh”, to add that iconic barbershop “crunch” to their harmonies. This makes barbershop music uniquely enjoyable, whether you’ve been singing other genres for quite some time or are just starting out.