About Barbershop

What is Barbershop?

Barbershop singing is one of the trickiest yet most rewarding accomplishments of a vocal ensemble. Imagine this — you’re singing a song with three other harmonizing voice parts, each hitting the perfect pitch when bam — you hear it. An overtone vibration, a resonant ring, a different sound than any one tone being sung by any one singer! This overtone produces a visceral experience and is unique only to four-part barbershop harmonies!

Ever heard of Deke Sharon? He founded the Contemporary A Cappella Society (CASA) and was music director and arranger on the film Pitch Perfect. He’s a big fan of Barbershop – see his Pop Quiz to learn more about it!

This brand of a cappella preserves the defining characteristic of the ‘ringing chord’ or ‘overtone’ which occurs when the four voice parts sing any major chord together, in tune, on the same vowel sound. This phenomenon is the continual quest for barbershop singers and a source of joy to the singer and audience alike when achieved. No other a cappella singing style has this!

Here are the 6 basics of being in a barbershop chorus:

  1. Singing in tune (yeah, pretty basic!)
  2. Listening to the other singers and blending your voice with theirs in the ensemble
  3. Holding your own part while standing next to others singing 3 different parts
  4. Expressing the song through your voice, face and sometimes even choreography
  5. Practicing your vocal skills, breathing and choreography in between rehearsals
  6. Learning your songs, using sheet music or learning tracks so you’re ‘off paper’ quickly – we don’t hold the music when we sing


Deke gave barbershop a great rap recently on the CASA website, likening it to an a cappella martial art!  Covering blend, tuning, dynamics, rubato, phrasing, rehearsing, performance and community aspects of barbershop, he summed up this way, “I’m not saying you have to learn Barbershop to be a great a cappella singer… but I am promising you if you do sing Barbershop, you’ll be better than if you don’t.”

Read Deke’s article – Barbershop: A Cappella’s Martial Art


As a member of Northern Beaches Chorus, you’ll learn the skills needed to sing your part smart and have fun ringing some chords!

We do more than sing

Performing barbershop arrangements is fun! We use a range of musical and visual methods to convey the story of the song.

Uptunes, or up-tempo music offers scope for exciting visual plans or choreography to make the song a show-stopper. Ballads require an interpretive delivery that transcends the boundary of the stage and captures the hearts and minds of the audience. These skills take time to develop and are an important part of our education program.

Costumes and makeup are an important aspect of showmanship, adding another layer of wow-factor to our performances.  Sweet Adelines costumes can be high on glamour, or whatever is appropriate to a performance story. They are usually bright, eye-catching and often have a lot of sparkle!

Need some examples?

Listen to one of our songs
We aspire to the quality of showmanship and vocal production of the International champions, so we thought it fitting to show you how exciting barbershop can be!

Barbershop is known as an American artform yet the 2014 & 2016 International champions are the Ronninge Show Chorus of Stockholm, Sweden!