Ringing Chords the Barbershop way Part 1…

Dapper Dans Disneyworld

The defining characteristic of the barbershop style is the ringing chord. This is a name for one specific and well-defined acoustical effect, also referred to as expanded sound, the angel’s voice, the fifth voice, or the overtone. (The barbershopper’s “overtone” is not the same as the acoustic physicist’s overtone which is known as heterodyning).

The physics and psychophysics of the effect are fairly well understood; it occurs when the upper harmonics in the individual voice notes, and the sum and difference frequencies resulting from nonlinear combinations within the ear, reinforce each other at a particular frequency, strengthening it so that it stands out separately above the blended sound. The effect is audible only on certain kinds of chords, and only when all voices are equally rich in harmonics and justly tuned and balanced. It is not heard in chords sounded on keyboard instruments, due to the slight tuning imperfection of the equal-tempered scale.

Gage Averill writes that “Barbershoppers have become partisans of this acoustic phenomenon” and that “the more experienced singers of the barbershop revival (at least after the 1940s) have self-consciously tuned their dominant seventh and tonic chords in just intonation to maximize the overlap of common overtones.

Stay “tuned”

Jerry Braack

California  USA

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One Response to “Ringing Chords the Barbershop way Part 1…”

  1. Hilary Says:

    Hi Jerry .. – it sounds as though you’ve got loads of knowledge .. which definitely will be passed down through your BarberShop blog

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