Defining the Barbershop style…

The definition of this style is – 3 parts harmonizing to 1 melody line, wherein the melody of the song should be distinctly heard by the listener (no matter which person is actually singing the melody) just slightly louder than the harmony parts.  Normally the melody is sung by the second from the top of the 4 voices, but the melody can move to other voices as dictated by the arrangement, the chord structure or the voicing of a particular chord or passage within a song.  An example of that might be the bass singer (lowest of the 4) singing the melody of “Old Man River” since it is mostly in the lower register.

Unfortunately, Barbershop harmony is one of the best kept secrets in the United States today.  There actually is a formal society of people that was founded in 1938 by Owen C. Cash in Tulsa Oklahoma in order to preserve what had already become an ever expanding group of followers.  Not that The Barbershop Harmony Society, (formerly known as The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, Incorporated (S.P.E.B.S.Q.SA. Inc.), was or is trying to keep this style of music a secret, it’s just that not that many people really know about it.  The international headquarters was based in Kenosha, Wisconsin prior to relocating in 2007 to Nashville, Tennessee.

Jerry Braack

California USA


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