What is Barbershop Singing?
Barbershop Harmony is simply a style of unaccompanied (a cappella) four-part singing with three parts harmonising with the melody line. It originated in the USA in the 1890’s when men would sing while waiting in a queue to get their hair cut. They would sing popular songs of the day and others would harmonise in their own particular fashion.
Many people still think that Barbershop is sung only by men, whereas in fact the Ladies Association, the Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers ( LABBS) has been in existence for almost 40 years. It was formed by a small group of “Barbershop Widows” who were so fed up with their husbands going off to their Choruses that they decided to start up on their own. Most of these Ladies’ Choruses are still going strong today!
Barbershop is fun and is a surprisingly easy and enjoyable past-time that allows you to become involved in a musical hobby without having a trained voice.
What Are The Four Voice Parts?
The four parts that make up the barbershop harmony are Tenor, Lead, Bass and Baritone.
The TENORS sing above the melody line and should be able to sing to Top G without any vocal vibrato.
The LEADS carry the melody line which usually has a vocal middle range starting from just below Middle C (G) to the D above Middle C.
The BASS line gives a good solid pitch and their range is in the lowest register with the lowest note being the C below Middle C.
The BARITONES have the same vocal range as the Leads – some members think they sing the left-over notes! But this part is the most interesting and challenging.
How is it Entertaining?
In addition to singing we use facial and body expression and movement to enhance the feeling of the song in order to provide the audience with a satisfying and entertaining experience – and we always perform without any music on stage with us! As well as the more traditional Barbershop songs, we sing a mixture of ballads and modern up-tempo numbers such as “Under the boardwalk” and “Get by with a little help from my friends”.
As well as the musical harmony, barbershop singing stands for friendship which supports it’s chorus members through difficult times and shares with them their happy times. You are never alone if you are a Barbershopper!
Do I need to have sung before?
If you have sung before, that’s fine. It’s also fine if your only previous experience is singing in the shower or the car!
Do I need to be able to read music?
It can help when learning new songs to have a little understanding of the language of reading music, however not all of our ladies read music.
How will I learn the songs?
We learn the songs by a combination of chorus work, session practice and invidual learning listening to teach tracks.
How do I know which part I will sing?
You will spend some time with each section to find the part your voice is best suited to. You will then take a short, placement test to confirm you are singing in the right section.
When can I perform with the chorus?
Before you can join the chorus in “sing-outs” or competitions, you will need to have learned a number of songs from the repertoire. Once you are confident with those, you will take another voice test to confirm you as a fully-fledged chorus member.