Today's barbershop is not your grandmother's (or great-grandmother's) barbershop, but the principles remain the same. Today, the songs come from many genres, including modern pop and rock, jazz and old standards, Broadway musicals and gospel—even classical—arranged using a certain set of chords.
Barbershop is a cappella (unaccompanied), four-part harmony built around a melody. Learning the a cappella style and the ear training needed for independent part singing is a challenging but rewarding accomplishment. When the music is sung accurately and with good breath support and vocal technique, barbershop harmony produces overtone vibrations that create a unique, resonant ring.
Vibrato, a hallmark of many other music styles, is used minimally. Wide, obvious vibrato hampers the chord "lock and ring" and the expanded sound characteristic of barbershop harmony.
Women of all backgrounds, ages and skill levels can learn to sing barbershop and become chorus members. It's the blending of unique voices, talents and experiences that creates the space for a wonderful, exciting ensemble. If you can sing in tune and hold your part against others singing different notes, you can do this, too!
VOICE PARTS IN BARBERSHOP SINGING
Many of us are familiar with SATB or SSAA choral music. The melody is usually in the Soprano I line, above the others. The voice parts in barbershop harmony—lead, tenor, baritone and bass—are a bit different from other vocal styles. The tenor and lead read from the treble (top) clef and the baritones and basses from the bass (bottom) clef, but they sing an octave higher than written.