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Definition of the Barbershop Style
What is barbershop harmony?
Here's the complete, technical definition from SPEBSQSA's Contest & Judging Handbook.|
(Taken from the SPEBSQSA Society Contest and Judging Web Site.)
Barbershop harmony is a style of unaccompanied vocal music characterized by consonant
four-part chords for every melody note in a predominantly homophonic texture.
The melody is consistently sung by the lead, with the tenor harmonizing above the melody,
the bass singing the lowest harmonizing notes, and the baritone completing the chord.
The melody is not sung by the tenor except for an infrequent note or two to avoid
awkward voice leading, in tags or 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 appropriate 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.
For questions and information about these programs contact:
M-AD District VP for Contest & Judging
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This page was last updated on March 19, 2003
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