Men in Accord sing primarily four-part, harmony in the barbershop style. Barbershop singing is unaccompanied (a capella).
Although barbershop-style music is usually built on simple melodies, the a cappella style and the ear training necessary for independent part singing make it both challenging and rewarding. When the music is sung accurately and with good vocal techniques, barbershop harmony produces overtone vibrations that create a resonant ring unique to this form of music.
Voice Parts in Barbershop Singing
In simple terms, barbershop harmony is vocal harmony produced by four parts: lead, tenor, baritone and bass. Finding the right part for your voice is the initial step. Any man of average singing ability, with or without vocal training, will find a part that fits his range.
The voice parts in barbershop harmony have different names and functions than they do in other SATB or TTBB vocal styles. The LEAD voice generally sings the melody and is below the TENOR harmony; the TENOR part sings the highest note in the chord; the BARITONE part fills in the all-important missing note in a chord that may be above or below the melody; the BASS part supplies the harmonic foundation (root or fifth) of the chord.
TENOR is a harmony part sung consistently above the lead. The tenor should have a light, sweet, pure tone that will complement but not overpower or overshadow the lead voice. Occasionally you will have notes below the lead. When this happens, your tonal quality will need to change from being light and clear to being more full and round. Flexibility is the key and knowing when you need to change.
LEAD is the melody and is sung with authority, clarity and consistent quality throughout the lead's range. The lead is responsible for conveying the interpretation, emotion and inflections of the song. On the rarer occasions when the melody line is in another part, which may be only for a few notes, the lead will need to be aware to lighten his vocal quality to allow the melody to shine wherever it is being sung.
BARITONE covers approximately the same range as lead. Primarily sung below the lead but sometimes sung above, depending on where the melody is situated, baritones must constantly adjust their balance to accommodate their position in the chord. They must have a good ear.
BASS is the lowest note in the barbershop chord. Singers should have a rich, mellow voice and generally sing the root and fifth of each chord. The bass sings a relatively straight, well-produced tone. A bass sings with a heavier tone quality than the others and generally with more volume, to fill out the “cone.” The bass part provides the foundation of each chord.
You will need to be able to sing in tune.
You'll need to be able to hear those around you and blend your voice with theirs.
You'll need to be able to eventually hold your own – there will be times when you are singing while standing next to someone who isn’t your part.
You will need to practice the songs at home with the help of learning tracks and sheet music.