The Definition of the Barbershop Style
The following definition follows the definition of the Barbershop Harmony Society.
Barbershop harmony is a style of unaccompanied vocal music characterized by consonant four-part chords for every melody note in a primarily homorhythmic (the same word sounds at the same time) texture. The melody is consistently sung by the lead (second tenor), with the tenor (first tenor) harmonizing above the melody, the bass singing the lowest harmonizing notes, and the baritone completing the chord. Occasional brief passages may be sung by fewer than four voice parts.
Barbershop music features songs with understandable lyrics and easily singable melodies, whose tones clearly define a tonal center and imply major and minor chords and barbershop (dominant and secondary dominant) seventh chords that often resolve around the circle of fifths, while also making use of other resolutions. Barbershop music also features a balanced and symmetrical form, and a standard meter. The basic song and its harmonization are embellished by the arranger to provide appropriate support of the song’s theme and to close the song effectively.
Barbershop singers adjust pitches to achieve perfectly tuned chords (instead of tempered tuning like the piano) in just intonation while remaining true to the established tonal center. Artistic singing in the barbershop style exhibits a fullness or expansion of sound, precise intonation, a high degree of vocal skill, and a high level of unity and consistency within the ensemble. Ideally, these elements are natural, not manufactured, and free from apparent effort.
The performance of barbershop music uses appropriate musical and visual methods to convey the theme of the song and provide the audience with an emotionally satisfying and entertaining experience. Barbershop singers traditionally do not hold sheet music. The musical and visual delivery is from the heart, believable, and sensitive to the song and its arrangement throughout. The most stylistic performance artistically melds together the musical and visual aspects to create and sustain the illusions suggested by the music.
Barbershop can be performed in quartets as well as choirs, and can be found all over the world in male, female, and mixed ensembles.
The Three Judging Categories
BinG! Barbershop in Germany e.V. orients its rules at the competition rules of the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS). The evaluation is devided in three categories: Music, Singing and Performance.
Music is defined as the song and arrangement, as performed. The Music Category judges the suitability of the material to the barbershop style and the performer’s musicianship in bringing the song and arrangement to life. The Music judge is responsible for adjudicating the musical elements in the performance, judging the extent to which the musical performance displays the hallmarks of the barbershop style and the degree to which the musical performance demonstrates an artistic sensitivity to the music’s primary theme(s). The sensitive handling of musical elements, such as melody, harmony, and embellishments, demonstrates musicality in a performance. A strong musical performance is one in which everything provided by the composer and arranger is skillfully delivered and effectively integrated in support of the musical theme.
These judges evaluate how effectively a performer brings the song to life. They judge the entertainment value of the performance; the art of the performance. One significant goal of any art form is communication. A barbershop performance refers to how the artist communicates his/her message and vision via the transformation of a song into an entertaining experience for an audience. The performance of a song is the artist’s gift to the audience; whose experiences, memories, and imagination transform that gift into an emotional experience. The performers’ goal is to create a high level of entertainment through the performance. The means to that end are as varied as the personality, abilities and creative skills of the performers.