Barbershop quartet singing
- Richard Mook
American barbershop quartet singing is characterized by homophonic, close-harmony, four-part arrangements, either improvised or prepared in advance, with the melody performed by the second tenor, or “lead.” Harmonies emphasize circle of fifth progressions, often with added sevenths. Modern performers use just intonation, allowing the overtones produced by the singers to reinforce one another, creating chords that “ring” or “expand.” Both arrangements and performance practices favor the prolonging, or “worship,” of such chords. To vary the homophonic texture of their arrangements and create novel harmonies, barbershop groups often add “snakes” or “swipes” in which one or more non-melody voices change pitch, thereby altering the chord. The style emerged in 1880s and was popular among diverse amateur and professional groups across the United States between ...