Barbershop harmony is unaccompanied, four-part a cappella harmony. 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 group. 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. Women of all skill levels join us, and their abilities are as varied as they are.
VOICE PARTS IN BARBERSHOP SINGING
The voice parts in barbershop harmony for women have different names and functions than they do in other SATB or SSAA vocal styles. The LEAD voice usually 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 or 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 we look for in our chords.
TENOR is a harmony part consistently above the lead. The tenor should have a light, sweet, pure tone that will complement, but not overpower or overshadow the lead voice. Light lyric sopranos generally make good tenors. The range for tenor is from G above middle C to high F on the top line of the clef.
LEAD is the melody and must be sung with authority, clarity and consistent quality throughout the range. The lead sings with limited vibrato to add color and warmth to the sound. The lead is responsible for conveying the interpretation, emotion and inflections of the song. the range is equivalent to a Soprano II and is from A below middle C, and C above middle C.
BARITONE covers approximately the same range as lead. The voice part is similar to equivalent to Alto 1, except that baritone harmony notes cross the lead notes, primarily sung below the lead but sometimes sung above, depending on where the melody is situated. They must have a good ear.
BASS is the lowest note in the barbershop chord. Singers should have a rich, mellow voice and generally sing the root and fifth of each chord. The bass sings a relatively straight, well-produced tone with a minimum of vibrato. The range is comparable to that of a contralto or Alto II in traditional choral music. The range is from E flat below middle C to G above middle C. Similar to the baritone, this part is written in the bass clef an octave lower that it is actually sung.