The Barbershop Style


Perth Harmony is an a cappella ensemble that specialises in the art of barbershop.

Barbershop singing is characterised by close four part harmony sung unaccompanied and memorised. It has a recognisable melody, which is usually not the highest part, and a strong bass line (lowest voices) to assist the quality of ‘lock and ring’ - the sensation of more having voices than you see with audible overtones (harmonics).

Barbershop has some similarities with musical theatre in that it uses a strong storytelling element and a full, resonant singing style. It is a performance artform that supports the storytelling with visual performance, including choreography and costuming. Our repertoire usually incudes some songs from musicals as they suit the style so well. 

Generally the lead section sings the melody, the tenors sing the highest note in the chord, the baritone part sings harmonies around the melody, and the bass supplies the foundation of the chord. Barbershop harmonies have a different balance to the SATB harmonies you may have heard. This is to enhance the natural overtones of the chords for a richer sound, making the whole greater than the sum of the parts. To further support overtones, vibrato is minimised for more precise tuning. 

Perth Harmony competes nationally in barbershop competitions and also applies elements of the style and technique to a wide variety of show repertoire spanning this century and last. 

As a group for all singers identifying as female, we cover a wide vocal range across the four parts. If you don't quite fit the range of a typical pop song there is likely still be a place for you! 

Tenor

This is a harmony sung above the melody. Tenors sing to support, but not overpower the melody and suit voices that are high, clear ,and pure with little to no vibrato. Tenors most often sing from about G above middle C to an octave above that. 

Lead

The lead part, like its name suggests, most often sings the melody and is sung with authority and consistent quality. They usually sing from G below middle C to D above middle C. A lead has personality and presence. 

Baritone

If you love harmony, you will love baritone. While the range is approximately the same as that of the lead, baritone harmonise above and below the melody as required to support the chord. They need both a strong lower range and a clear upper range to best cover the full part. 

Bass

The basses sing the lowest note in the chord and have a range from D below middle C to G above middle C. Bass singers have a resonant and rich sound that naturally opens up the lower they sing. The bass part often adds rhythmic interest to the music.