How to refine the notes we produce in order to create great barbershop sounds.

It may come as a surprise to some of you, but the human voice is not capable of singing a pure note. If the pitch pipe sounds say, a Bb and you sing the note you hear, it cannot be a pure Bb that you produce. This is no criticism of your ability to sing, it is just a fact of life, or physics’, that we all have to face. The note you sing may well be a Bb (fundamental), but due to the unique shape of your vocal tract after the vocal folds where the note is initiated, your Bb will be accompanied by a number of differing harmonics. I.E the fundamental Bb will be ‘coloured.’ What is more it will be coloured in a way that is unique to you, because of your unique vocal tract.

I bet that ever since you started to use a telephone, you were almost instantly, capable of recognising the voices of your immediate family and friends? This is because of the uniqueness of their natural voices.

I am always surprised when individuals almost proudly ‘claim’ to be ‘tone deaf,’ when they so evidently disprove that ‘fact’ with their ability to recognise differing voices.

Clearly, due to a combination of upbringing, physical abilities, age and possibly training, individual’s sense of pitch accuracy will vary. But the basics remain.

Given the above, you may then ask the question, “how on earth can groups like ours managed to produce such beautiful in-tune singing, with all this other stuff going on?”

Well, the simple fact is we have been taught or have in some other way learned how to control some of it, even though this control may have been a sub-conscious effort on our part.

You will have heard about matching vowel sounds, by altering your mouth shape?

Well, it is mainly the vowels in the lyric that carry the sound along with a few what are called ‘singable consonants’ But although we only have five vowels in our language, A, E, I, O &U, when we sing, we can utilise an additional number of ‘vowel sounds’ Some say ten and others twelve different vowel sounds*. If we then utilise the appropriate mouth shape and tongue position for each vowel sound in our singing, much of the above dissonant effects can be significantly reduced.

One further point of interest is that each of us can alter the harmonic overtones we produce, simply by adjusting our internal and external mouth shape and tongue position.

For example. Take a deep breath then produce a continuing note in your comfort range. Then start altering your mouth shape and tongue position. If you listen carefully, you will be able to hear yourself generating harmonic octaves, fifths, thirds, and sevenths. Just try it (when you are alone of course) and after just a little experimentation you may be surprised.


Nov 28th ‘21

* Our Society claims there are 12 vowel sounds we sing and they have produced explanations and examples of each one, but not covered in this ‘blog.’

Scales,the same message but a different language

When we have spoken in the past about scales, we have used words like intervals, tones, semitones, flatted this, sharpened that, perhaps even diminished, augmented, and so on. But the simple truth is that ALL scales you will need in barbershop can also be identified by one of two just unique patterns for their notes.

Every major scale has the identical pattern of notes regardles of what it is called. eg C major, D major, F#major Db major etc all follow the same pattern.

The same applies to minor scales. They too will have their own unique pattern that will apply regardless of what it is called.  C minor, D minor, F# minor, Db minor, are all built up using a unique minor pattern.

So in order to be able to work out the notes in all the major scales and all the minor scales, you only need to remember just two patterns.

So what are these patterns. Well the easiest way to explain is for you to visualise a keyboard.

If you then press any key, you will generate a note and if you then press the next key up, you will generate a different note a semitone higher. If you then press the next key up again, the note you produce will be a semitone higher from the previous note but a full Tone away from the first key you pressed.

The keys you pressed after the first key produced intervals of a semitone which can be represented by the letter S followed by an S. However the interval produced between the first and third key you pressed would have been a whole Tone which can be represented by the letter T. In other words think of a semitone as an S and a full tone or two semitones apart being a T

If you now go back to the original key you pressed, for arguments sake let us call it the key of C if you now go to two semitones the interval will be a T if you now go up another two semitones you will have another T, now go up just a semitone to produce an S then two semitones for another T then another T  and another T and finally semitone or S you will have played a major scale named after the note you started on. The patter of which will have been TTS TTTS

So regardless of which key on the keyboard you first press, if you then go up following the intervals TTSTTTS you will play a major scale. Simple as that.


Breath support, what is it and how do we develop it.

It is surely understood by us all, that the foundations of a building are essential in ensuring the building remains standing and functional. Well, the foundation of all good singing is breath support. But what exactly does good breath support involve? Continue reading “Breath support, what is it and how do we develop it.”



A definition of vibrato is, ‘a musical effect consisting of a regular, pulsating change of pitch’.

In barbershop singing, we are constantly attempting to achieve chords that are locked and ring with the ideal result of producing expanded sound. That is where the overtones being produced by one section of singers reinforce the overtones being produced by the other sections, thus producing additional audible notes or expanded sound. Continue reading “Vibrato”