AW: Barbershop Ferrets

Belben Philip Philip.Belben at
Tue Oct 5 07:30:46 EDT 2004

>>> hiiiiigh)..."), but I don't know the rules.
> I used to sing in a women's barbershop group (the Sweet Adelines) and
> there are some rules for arrangement.  First and foremost - there are
> four parts - low to high they are bass, baritone, lead, and tenor

OK, that's what I remember.

> (yes the women's groups keep these names.)

That I didn't know!  So women who sing bass are more common than you might
think :-)

> The melody must primarily be sung by the lead - the tenor sings high
> harmony, the bari and bass low.  You can put the melody in other parts
> but only for a certain number of notes/measures.

Sounds reasonable.  Although I do remember songs in which, singing Baritone,
it was I rather than the lead who had the tune.

Seriously, yes, I was planning to put the melody in the Lead / second tenor

> There are also rules about consecutive intervals (only x number of thirds
> before you change the chording/voicing.)  It's tricky.  It's very tempting
> to have the tenor sing a third above the lead all the time but don't do

Sounds like commonsense to me.

ISTR there were also rules about such things as which part the seventh can
be in under various circumstances, but I never learned them...

The problem I expect to encounter is that when I put the tune in a inner
part, I seem to slow the harmonic pace right down, whereas for barbershop
harmonies need to move on almost every note of the tune.


(FWIW the chord progression that is most closely associated in my mind with
barbershop is one that I call the cascade of sevenths.  The harmonies make a
sequence of dominant sevenths, each resolving in the expected manner: for
example, in C major you might get A7, D7, G7, C.  The tune does whatever it
will - maybe it rises up the scale to a C - but the tenor part descends a
chromatic scale: in this example G, F#, F, E.  The cascade isn't limited to
four chords - it can go on for as long as the harmonies can be made to fit
the tune, with falling fifths in the bass and chromatic descent in the
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