What is barbershop?

Barbershop harmony is a style of four-part a capella (unaccompanied) vocal music.   It features songs with understandable lyrics and easily singable melodies.  The musical and visual delivery is from the heart, believable, and sensitive to the song and its arrangement throughout. 


The melody is consistently sung by the lead, with the tenor harmonizing above the melody, the bass singing the lowest harmonizing notes, and the baritone completing the chord.

                                                                                                   c. Diana Milesko


The tenor's range is similar to a first soprano.  Her part is almost always above the melody.  She sings with lightness and bell-like clarity -- and with no vibrato.


The lead generally sings the melody, in about the same range as an alto.  The melody in women's barbershop music is pitched a little lower than that of regular choral music.  A lead must sing with musical authority, moving smoothly and consistently through her range.


The baritone sings a harmony part which is in the same voice range  as the lead.  A baritone's voice must be flexible, singing with strength and fullness when her notes are below the melody and with a lighter  quality, more like a tenor, when her notes are above the lead's.


The bass is the lowest voice in the chord.  Her range is similar to that of a second alto or contralto.  She sings with authority, fullness and strength.  Her part is the foundation for the barbershop sound.

Pitch Pipe Magazine

If you want to stay informed of the all the happenings of the female barbershop music scene, subscribe to Pitch Pipe, which is put out by Sweet Adelines International each quarter. It's full of news, reviews, and previews of coming events and competitions.


History of Sweet Adelines International

After World War II, barbershop singing was growing increasingly popular for men. In 1945, a small group of women wanted to participate in the chord-ringing, fun-filled harmony that the men were singing. So these women organized "Sweet Adelines in America." From its humble beginnings in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Sweet Adelines International, as it is now called, has grown to a membership of almost 30,000 women in countries all across the globe.


August 10, 2020






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What is Barbershop?

Find out about this fabulous artform and the organization of women barbershoppers on our What is Barbershop page.


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