Barbershop is a specific type of four part a capella singing characterised by close harmonies and ringing chords. Its origins are thought to lie in African-American spiritual and folk singing, which evolved into four part close harmony singing named after the barbers’ shops that served as a gathering place.

Each of the four voice parts plays a role. The Lead part generally sings the melody. The Tenor part sings harmonies above the melody line, and the Bass part harmonises below it. The Baritone part has a very similar range to Lead, and usually lies underneath the Lead to complete the chord structure, but can also be above the Lead. Barbershop can be sung by a four person quartet or a four part chorus of many members!

You will have noticed that women’s barbershop uses names for the singing parts that usually refer to male voices, and that these don’t mean the same as they do in classical music! It’s true that barbershop can seem to have a language of its own, but you soon pick it up. The best barbershop word of all? Afterglow! (After-show party).

We work on many elements to improve, with specific reference to the judging categories at barbershop competition. We strive for a specific type of sound, with finely tuned, ringing chords, and for a moving performance that really tells the song’s story to our audience.

For a better idea, why not watch us on YouTube?

You can find out more using Sweet Adelines’ Barbershop 101.