What is barbershop style a cappella?
Barbershop style music is sung in four part harmony, a cappella style (no accompaniment). We take the names of the parts from men’s barbershop:
The barbershop style of singing lends itself to songs from any era – today’s ballads, favorite hits from the past, popular tunes, patriotic songs, even jazz. The basic song and its harmonies are embellished by the arranger to make it more interesting, fun to sing, and entertaining for audiences. The goal in barbershop singing is to create an expanded sound which creates the illusion of more voices than are actually singing. This requires precise tuning, matching vowel sounds, good ‘unit sound’ (having all members of one part sing alike), and proper balance of the chords. With training and practice these elements become natural and free from apparent effort. When it all comes together we ‘ring the chord’ – which means we create harmonics. Harmonics are notes that the listener hears but are not actually being sung. Because we do not hold music when performing, we are free to emote and visually present the theme of the song using whole body movement. This creates a very entertaining experience for the audience, and it is a lot of fun for the chorus as well.
Top photo: Taughannock Falls, Trumansburg, NY