When you hear the words 'Barbershop music', you might think of four men in straw boaters and striped waistcoats singing 'Yes Sir That's My Baby' and you'd be right! But Barbershop is also so much more than that!
Barbershop music is unaccompanied 4 part harmony singing, and it is written in a way so that when it's sung well, overtones are produced. These overtones sound like there's a 5th person singing in the room, and create a ringing effect - it's the essence of barbershop music!
Barbershop music is usually built on simple melodies that are easy to sing, but it's the a cappella style and ear training necesary for independent part singing that make it one of the most challenging, yet rewarding forms of vocal ensemble.
The four parts involved have the same names, regardless of whether it's a mens or womens group (they are just sung at different pitches to cater for the variation in range between male and female voices). Barbershop choruses are generally comprised of all men or all women.
Starting at the bottom we have the 'Bass' part, the lowest part which provides a solid foundation for the other parts to sing to. Next up is the Baritone part, which sings a harmony note normally between the bass and lead (melody part). The 'Lead' part sings the melody, and above that we have the tenor, the highest part which sings a harmony part above the melody.
Barbershop singing can be very addictive, and is seriously good for your health and social life!