SAI & BHS Overtones, The Fifth Voice Creation…

Panache Sweet AdelineHere is one of my favorite quartets from the Sweet Adeline society singing one of the songs they won the International championship with “Sweet Adeline“. They are truly wonderful ladies, lending their talents to directing, coaching, quarteting and not the least of which is their long term dedication to the barbershop style of music! They all hail from right here is Southern California.

What is prized is not so much the “overtone” itself, but a unique sound whose achievement is most easily recognized by the presence of the “overtone”. The precise synchrony of the waveforms of the four voices simultaneously creates the perception of a “fifth voice” while at the same time melding the four voices into a unified sound. The ringing chord is qualitatively different in sound from an ordinary musical chord e.g. as sounded on a tempered-scale keyboard instrument.

Most elements of the “revivalist” style are related to the desire to produce these ringing chords. Performance is a cappella to prevent the distracting introduction of equal-tempered intonation, and because listening to anything but the other three voices interferes with a performer’s ability to tune with the precision required. Barbershop arrangements stress chords and chord progressions that favor “ringing”, at the expense of suspended and diminished chords and other harmonic vocabulary of the ragtime and jazz forms.

The dominant seventh-type chord… is so important to barbershop harmony that it is called the “barbershop seventh…” [SPEBSQSA (now BHS)], and Sweet Adeline arrangers believe that a song should contain dominant seventh chords anywhere from 35 to 60 percent of the time (measured as a percentage of the duration of the song rather than a percentage of the chords present) to sound “barbershop.”

Thanks for reading

Jerry Braack

California  USA

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One Response to “SAI & BHS Overtones, The Fifth Voice Creation…”

  1. Hilary Says:

    Hi Jerry .. once again it’s good to have some more information about the Sweet Adelines .. music must run the blood & flowwith notes .. !!

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