Barbershop vocal harmony, as codified during the barbershop revival era (1930s–present), is a style of a cappella close harmony, or unaccompanied vocal music, characterized by consonant four-part chords for every melody note in a predominantly homophonic texture. Each of the four parts has its own role: generally, the lead sings the melody, the tenor harmonizes above the melody, the bass sings the lowest harmonizing notes, and the baritone completes the chord, usually below the lead. The melody is not usually sung by the tenor or baritone, except for an infrequent note or two to avoid awkward voice leading, in tags or codas, or when some appropriate embellishment can be created. One characteristic feature of barbershop harmony is the use of what is known as "snakes" and "swipes". This is when a chord is altered by a change in one or more non-melodic voices. Occasional passages may be sung by fewer than four voice parts.
Barbershop music is generally performed by either a barbershop quartet, a group of four singers with one on each vocal part, or a barbershop chorus, which closely resembles a choir with the notable exception of the genre of music.
According to the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS), "Barbershop music features songs with understandable lyrics and easily singable melodies, whose tones clearly define a tonal center and imply major and minor chords and barbershop (dominant and secondary dominant) seventh chords that resolve primarily around the circle of fifths, while making frequent use of other resolutions." Slower barbershop songs, especially ballads, often eschew a continuous beat, and notes are often held (or sped up) ad libitum.
Except for the bass, the voice parts in barbershop singing do not correspond closely to their classical music counterparts; the tenor range and tessitura are similar to those of the classical countertenor, the baritone resembles the Heldentenor or lyric baritone in range and a tenor in tessitura, and the lead generally corresponds to the tenor of classical repertoire, with some singers possessing a tessitura more similar to that of a high baritone. Barbershop singing is performed both by men's and women's groups; the elements of the barbershop style and the names of the voice parts are the same for both.
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The defining characteristic of the barbershop style is the ringing chord, one in which certain overtones of the four voices reinforce each other, sometimes so strongly that the overtone is perceived by the listener as a distinct tone, even though none of the voices are perceived as singing that tone. This effect occurs when the chord, as voiced, contains intervals which have strongly reinforcing overtones (fifths and octaves, for example) that fall in the audible range; and when the chord is sung in perfect just tuning without excessive vibrato. Both of these characteristics are important in many styles of singing, but in Barbershop there is an extreme emphasis on them that tends to override other musical values. For example, favored chords in the jazz style are characterized by intervals which don't audibly ring, such as diminished or augmented fifths. For another example, Barbershop music is always a cappella, because the presence of fixed-pitch instruments (tuned to equal-temperament rather than just temperament), which is so highly prized in other choral styles, makes perfect just tuning of chords impossible.
The physics and psychophysics of the effect are fairly well understood; it occurs when the upper harmonics in the individual voice notes, and the sum and difference frequencies resulting from nonlinear combinations within the ear, reinforce each other at a particular frequency, strengthening it so that it stands out separately above the blended sound. The effect is audible only on certain kinds of chords, and only when all voices are equally rich in harmonics and justly tuned and balanced. It is not heard in chords sounded on modern keyboard instruments, due to the slight tuning imperfection of the equal-tempered scale.
Gage Averill writes that "Barbershoppers have become partisans of this acoustic phenomenon" and that "the more experienced singers of the barbershop revival (at least after 1938) have self-consciously tuned their dominant seventh and tonic chords in just intonation to maximize the overlap of common overtones." However, "In practice, it seems that most leads rely on an approximation of an equal-tempered scale for the melody, to which the other voices adjust vertically in just intonation."
What is prized is not so much the "overtone" itself, but a unique sound whose achievement is most easily recognized by the presence of the "overtone". The precise synchrony of the waveforms of the four voices simultaneously creates the perception of a "fifth voice" while at the same time melding the four voices into a unified sound. The ringing chord is qualitatively different in sound from an ordinary musical chord e.g. as sounded on a tempered-scale keyboard instrument.
Most elements of the "revivalist" style are related to the desire to produce these ringing chords. Performance is a cappella to prevent the distracting introduction of equal-tempered intonation, and because listening to anything but the other three voices interferes with a performer's ability to tune with the precision required. Barbershop arrangements stress chords and chord progressions that favor "ringing", at the expense of suspended and diminished chords and other harmonic vocabulary of the ragtime and jazz forms.
The dominant seventh-type chord is so important to barbershop harmony that it is called the "barbershop seventh". BHS arrangers believe that a song should contain dominant seventh chords anywhere from 35 to 60 percent of the time (measured as a percentage of the duration of the song rather than a percentage of the chords present) to sound "barbershop".
Historically barbershoppers may have used the word "minor chord" in a way that is confusing to those with musical training. Averill suggests that it was "a shorthand for chord types other than major triads", and says that the use of the word for "dominant seventh-type chords and diminished chords" was common in the late nineteenth century. A 1910 song called "Play That Barber Shop Chord" (often cited as an early example of "barbershop" in reference to music) contains the lines:
'Cause Mister when you start that minor part
I feel your fingers slipping and a grasping at my heart,
Oh Lord play that Barber shop chord!
Averill notes the hints of rapture, "quasi-religion" and erotic passion in the language used by barbershoppers to describe the emotional effect. He quotes Jim Ewin as reporting "a tingling of the spine, the raising of the hairs on the back of the neck, the spontaneous arrival of goose flesh on the forearm ... the fifth note has almost mysterious propensities. It's the consummation devoutly wished by those of us who love Barbershop harmony. If you ask us to explain why we love it so, we are hard put to answer; that's where our faith takes over." Averill notes too the use of the language of addiction, "there's this great big chord that gets people hooked." An early manual was entitled "A Handbook for Adeline Addicts".
He notes too that "barbershoppers almost never speak of 'singing' a chord, but almost always draw on a discourse of physical work and exertion; thus, they 'hit', 'chop', 'ring', 'crack', 'swipe', and 'bust.' Vocal harmony is interpreted as an embodied musicking. Barbershoppers never lose sight (or sound) of its physicality."
While the modern era of barbershop music is accepted to have begun with a 1940s revival, opinions as to the genre's origins vary with respect to race, gender, region and context.
Historical memoirs and journalism indicate a strong tradition of quartet singing among young African American men, gathering informally to "crack up a chord". This was acknowledged as early as 1882, when a New York Age writer traced the development of this singing as a home-grown amusement, arising from the exclusion of Blacks from theaters and concert halls. Jazz musician Louis Armstrong told of having harmonized on New Orleans street corners as a boy, and NAACP executive secretary James Weldon Johnson "grew up singing barbershop harmony".
English "barber's music" was described in the 17th century by Samuel Pepys as amateur instrumental music. The Encyclopædia Britannica considers the 19-century origins of the quartet style as "obscure", possibly referring back to barber's music, or dating to when barbershops served as community centers, where men would gather for social and musical activities with barbers traditionally being musicians. Later, white minstrel singers adopted the style, and in the early days of the recording industry their performances were recorded and sold. Early standards included songs such as "Shine On, Harvest Moon", "Hello, Ma Baby", and "Sweet Adeline". Johnson noted in the 1920s how the genre had already crossed racial barriers.
Barbershop music was very popular between 1900 and 1919, and some of the most popular quartets were the Haydn Quartet, the American Quartet, and the Peerless Quartet. Modern barbershop quartets often costume themselves in gaudy versions of the vaudeville dress of this time, with boaters and vertically striped vests. Composer and pianist Scott Joplin incorporated a barbershop quartet into his 1911 opera Treemonisha. The genre gradually faded into obscurity in the 1920s, although barbershop-style harmonies remained in evidence in a cappella forms of traditional black gospel and white gospel.
Other researchers argue that today's barbershop music is an invented tradition related to several musical features popular around 1900, including quartet singing and the use of the barbershop chord, but effectively created during the 1940s in the ranks of the Barbershop Harmony Society whilst creating a system of singing contests and its contest rules.
Barbershop Harmony Society
The revival of a cappella singing took place circa 1938 when tax lawyer Owen C. Cash sought to save the art form from the threat of radio. He garnered support from investment banker Rupert I. Hall. Both came from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Cash was a partisan of quartet singing who advertised the fact that he did not want a cappella to fall by the wayside.
Cash had struck a chord, albeit unwittingly. Soon across North America, thousands of men responded. Later the "Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America" was established, known by the abbreviation S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A. at a time when many institutions in the US used multiple initials to denote their function. The group adopted the alternate name "Barbershop Harmony Society" early in its history. While its legal name has never changed, it changed its official brand name to "Barbershop Harmony Society" in 2004.
Sharp Harmony, a Norman Rockwell painting, appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post magazine issue dated September 26, 1936; it depicts a barber and three clients enjoying a cappella song. The image was adopted by SPEBSQSA in its promotion of the art.
Female barbershop music
Traditionally, the word "barbershop" has been used to encompass both men's and women's singing in the barbershop style – in quartets and choruses. Sweet Adelines International and Harmony, Incorporated are two women's barbershop singing organizations that operate globally and in North America, respectively. Other women's organizations include the Ladies Association of Barbershop Singers (LABBS) in the United Kingdom, the Spanish Association of Barbershop Singers (SABS) in Spain, and the Irish Association of Barbershop Singers (IABS) in Ireland.
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In North America most male barbershop quartet singers belong to the Barbershop Harmony Society, while most female barbershop quartet singers are in either Sweet Adelines International or Harmony, Inc. Similar organizations exist in other continents and countries.
A barbershop chorus sings a cappella music in the barbershop style. Most barbershop choruses belong to a larger association of practitioners such as the Barbershop Harmony Society, Sweet Adelines International, LABBS (Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers), BABS (British Association of Barbershop Singers) or Harmony, Inc.
In the Barbershop Harmony Society, a chorus is the main performing aspect of each chapter. Choruses may have as few as 12 or as many as 150 members singing. Choruses normally sing with a director, as distinct from quartets. It is not uncommon for a new quartet to form within a chorus, or for an established quartet affiliated with a given chorus to lose a member (to death, retirement, or relocation) and recruit a replacement from the ranks of the chorus. Choruses can also provide "spare parts" to temporarily replace a quartet member who is ill or temporarily out of town.
Unlike a quartet, a chorus need not have equal numbers singing each voice part. The ideal balance in a chorus is about 40% bass, 30% lead, 20% baritone and 10% tenor singers.
Filling the gap between the chorus and the quartet is what is known as a VLQ or Very Large Quartet, in which more than four singers perform together, with two or more voices on some or all of the four parts. A VLQ possesses greater flexibility than a standard quartet, since they can perform even with one or more singers missing, as long as all four parts are covered. Like a normal quartet, a VLQ usually performs without a director.
- The Vocal Majority, based in Dallas, Texas. Thirteen-time International Chorus Champions
- The Masters of Harmony, nine-time International Chorus Champions. Based in Los Angeles County, California.
- The Louisville Thoroughbreds, seven-time International Chorus Champions from Louisville, Kentucky.
- The Alexandria Harmonizers, based in Alexandria, VA. four-time International Chorus Champions.
- The Ambassadors of Harmony, 2004, 2009, 2012, and 2016 International Chorus Champions. Based in St. Charles, Missouri.
- The Westminster Chorus, a youth barbershop chorus in California started by young members of the Masters of Harmony, who are International Chorus Champions of 2007, 2010, 2015 and 2019 and currently hold the record for highest scoring set (2019) and highest scoring song (From Now On/Come Alive Medley [from The Greatest Showman]).
- Chorus of the Chesapeake, two-time International Champion chorus, based in the Baltimore, Maryland area.
- Southern Gateway Chorus, of Cincinnati, Ohio, has earned 22 medals (including two gold) while competing since 1963 in International contests.
- The Toronto Northern Lights, 2013 International Chorus Champions, five-time International Chorus Silver Medalists. Based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
British Association of Barbershop Singers
- The Cottontown Chorus: Seven times British champions in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2018; four times BABS silver medalists (2001, 2002, 2004, 2015) and bronze medalist for 2003; European Barbershop Convention silver medalists for 2005 and 2009; winners of the adult section of BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year for 2008; Irish Association of Barbershop Singers international gold medalist for 2008; winning chorus at the Manchester Amateur Choral Competition for 2008; four-time BHS International competitor, in 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2017; based in Bolton, Greater Manchester, England.
- Cambridge Chord Company: twice European barbershop chorus champions (2001 & 2005) and bronze medalist (2009); four times British Association of Barbershop Singers chorus champions (1999, 2002, 2004, 2006); BABS Millennium champions (2000); five time BABS silver medalists (1994, 1997, 1998, 2009, 2010); "Choir of the World" National Eisteddfod of Wales 2004; chorus based in Cambridge, England.
- The Great Western Chorus of Bristol winners of a record ten gold medals (1977, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1990, 2008, 2010, 2015, 2017), four times BABS silver medalists and five times bronze medalists. The Great Western Chorus hold more chorus competition medals than any other chorus in the association; Radio 3 "Choir of the Year" 2006 Finalists; based in Bristol, England. They won the inaugural Barnardo's Adult Male Choir Competition, have always placed within the top five nationally, and are one of two choruses to have won contests back to back due to the "Year Out" rule (wherein a chorus that wins the national contest takes a year out) not being active at the time. They competed at the International contest in 2009, 2011, and 2018.
- The Grand Central Chorus: Five times British Champions (1993, 1996, 2001, 2003, 2012); four times BABS silver medalists (2005, 2006, 2007, 2016); winner of the 2016 Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers Performance Award; based in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, England.
- Hallmark of Harmony: Eight times British champions, formed in 1978 and based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England.
- Shannon Express: twice champion chorus formed in 1978 and based in Potton, Bedfordshire, England.
- Mantunian Way: a youth chorus from the University of Manchester; part of the Manchester University Barbershop Singers (MUBS); the association's first and so far only full youth chorus (in which all members and committee members are under 26 years of age); 2014 British Bronze Medalist Chorus; the first youth chorus to win national medalist ranking and the first chorus in the association's history to win a medal in their national contest debut (other than within the first contest in 1975).
- Crawley Chordsmen: Four time British champions (1975, 1976, 1978, 1984), and one of two choruses to have won contests back to back due to the "Year Out" rule (wherein a chorus that wins the national contest takes a year out) not being active at the time. Defunct as of 2011 due to low membership.
Sweet Adelines International
- Gem City Chorus, five-time Sweet Adelines International Chorus Champions from Dayton, OH.
- Lace City Chorus, six-time (four times consecutively) Sweet Adelines Region 31 Gold Medal chorus from Nottingham, United Kingdom.
- Melodeers Chorus, six-time Sweet Adelines International Gold Medal chorus from Northbrook, Illinois.
- North Metro Chorus, five-time Sweet Adelines International Chorus Champions from Toronto, Ontario.
- Pride of Kentucky Chorus, eight-time Sweet Adelines Region 4 Chorus Champions from Louisville, Kentucky.
- The Rich-Tone Chorus, five-time Sweet Adelines International Chorus Champions from Richardson, Texas.
- Surrey Harmony Chorus, five-time Sweet Adelines Region 31 Gold Medal chorus from, United Kingdom.
- Celebrity City Chorus, five time Sweet Adelines Region 11 Chorus Champions from Las Vegas, Nevada.
- Scottsdale Chorus, six time Sweet Adelines International Chorus Champions from Region 21, Scottsdale Arizona.
Barbershop Harmony New Zealand
- Vocal FX, Wellington, New Zealand, 6 times New Zealand Chorus champions, 2014 Pan Pacific Chorus Champions
- Polytonix, Auckland, New Zealand, 2014 Pan Pacific Silver Medalists
- The Mission, Wellington, New Zealand, 2015 BHNZ Quartet Champions, 2016 International Youth Quartet Bronze Medalists
Sweet Adelines Australia
There are 32 chartered women's barbershop choruses all around Australia. The following choruses have won the Regional Championship:
- Endeavour Harmony Chorus, Sydney – NSW
- Perth Harmony Chorus, Perth – WA
- The Melbourne Chorus, Melbourne – VIC
- Circular Keys Chorus, Sydney – NSW
- A Cappella West Chorus, Perth - WA
Irish Association of Barbershop Singers
- Lady Barbalade, 2018 IABS national female quartet champions with the highest national female quartet score ever at IABS, from Dublin.
- Blingmasters, 2018 IABS national female chorus champions with the highest national female chorus score ever at IABS, from Dublin.
- 4 in a Bar, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 IABS national male quartet champions, from Dublin.
- Autotunes, 2014 IABS national male quartet champions, 2015 IABS International quartet champions, from Dublin.
- The Polyphonics, fifteen times male chorus champions, most recently 2015, from Cork.
The Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers
- Amersham A Cappella, LABBS 2016 and 2010 gold medallist chorus; 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 silver medallist chorus from Amersham
- Cheshire Chord Company, LABBS 2012, 2014 and 2018 gold medallist chorus from Warrington
- Crystal Chords, LABBS 2018 Silver and 2011 and 2017 Bronze medallist chorus from Greater Manchester
- GEM Connection, LABBS 2008 Silver and 2012 and 2015 Bronze medallist chorus from Long Eaton
- The White Rosettes, LABBS Chorus Champions: 2017, 2015, 2013, 2011, 2009, 2007, 2005, 2003, 2000, 1996, 1993, 1990, 1987, 1986, 1984, 1983 plus European Ladies Chorus Champions: 2017, 2013, 2009 from Leeds
Typical barbershop songs
Barbershop Harmony Society's Barberpole Cat Songs "Polecats"—12 songs which all Barbershop Harmony Society members are encouraged to learn as a shared canonic repertoire—all famous, traditional examples of the barbershop genre:
- "Down by the Old Mill Stream" (by Tell Taylor)
- "Down Our Way" (by Al Stedman & Fred Hughes, arr. Floyd Connett)
- "Honey/Little 'Lize-Medley" (Traditional, arr. Floyd Connett)
- "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" (words by Beth Slater Whitson, music by Leo Friedman)
- "My Wild Irish Rose" (words and music by Chauncey Olcott, arr. Floyd Connett)
- "Shine on Me"
- "The Story of the Rose" ("Heart of My Heart")
- "Sweet Adeline (You're The Flower Of My Heart)"
- "Sweet and Lovely" (by Norm Starks, arr. Mac Huff)
- "Sweet, Sweet Roses of Morn" (Oscar F. Jones and Martin S. Peake 1915)
- "Wait 'Til the Sun Shines, Nellie" (by Andrew B. Sterling and Harry Von Tilzer, arr Warren "Buzz" Haeger)
- "You Tell Me Your Dream (I'll Tell You Mine)"
The Barbershop Harmony Society announced on May 28, 2015, that the "Polecat" program would be expanded to include the following songs:
- "Bright Was The Night"
- "(When It's) Darkness On The Delta" (Levinson, Neiburg, Symes)
- "Drivin' Me Crazy"
- "From The First Hello To The Last Goodbye" (words & music: Johnny Burke)
- "Goodbye, My Coney Island Baby / We All Fall"
- "Hello Mary Lou (Goodbye Heart)
- "I Don't Know Why (I Just Do)"
- "I've Been Working on the Railroad"
- "Lida Rose / Will I Ever Tell You"
- "Over The Rainbow" (words by E.Y. Harburg and music by Harold Arlen)
Examples of other songs popular in the barbershop genre are:
- "Alexander's Ragtime Band"
- "Come Fly with Me"
- "Hello Ma Baby"
- "In the Good Old Summer Time"
- "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair"
- "Last Night Was the End of the World"
- "Love Me and the World Is Mine"
- "Shine On, Harvest Moon"
- "Sweet Georgia Brown"
- "Wedding Bells Are Breaking Up That Old Gang of Mine"
- "What'll I Do"
- "Yes Sir, That's My Baby"
While these traditional songs still play a part in barbershop today, barbershop music also includes more current titles. Most music can be arranged in the barbershop style, and there are many arrangers within the aforementioned societies with the skills to include the barbershop chord structure in their arrangements. Today's barbershop quartets and choruses sing a variety of music from all eras—show tunes, pop, and even rock music has been arranged for choruses and quartets, making them more attractive to younger singers.
- List of Barbershop Harmony Society quartet champions & List of Barbershop Harmony Society chorus champions
- List of BABS quartet champions by year & List of LABBS quartet champions by year
- Sweet Adelines International competition
- American Harmony Documentary Film (2009) about Barbershop music
- Mook, Richard. "Barbershop Quartet Singing". Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
- "Definition of the Barbershop Style, from the Contest and Judging Handbook". Barbershop Harmony Society. July 11, 2002. Archived from the original on June 7, 2007. Retrieved June 6, 2007.
- Averill, Gage (2003). Four Parts, No Waiting: A Social History of American Barbershop Harmony. Oxford University Press. p. 164 and 166. ISBN 0-19-511672-0.
- Muir, Lewis (music); Tracy, William (lyrics) (1910). Play That Barber Shop Chord. New York: J. Fred Helf. Archived from the original on December 14, 2012.
- Döhl, Frédéric (2014): From Harmonic Style to Genre. The Early History (1890s–1940s) of the Uniquely American Musical Term Barbershop. American Music 32, no. 2, 123–171, here 123–124. "In recent years, new insights and greater clarity have been acquired, which include aesthetic issues relating to sound, some answers to questions of race, gender, and other social factors shaping the genre, and exploration of the ideology surrounding the so-called revival around 1940. Still, the debate about the origins of this genre seems to be widely unsettled. The current models that chart the birth of barbershop harmony are diverse and often contradictory with regard to categories such as race, gender, regional context, social environment, amateur or professional, impromptu or composed-arranged, and highbrow or lowbrow."
- Abbott, Lynn (1992). "'Play That Barber Shop Chord': A Case for the African-American Origin of Barbershop Harmony". American Music. University of Illinois Press. 10 (3): 289–325. doi:10.2307/3051597. JSTOR 3051597. S2CID 191390367.
- Wright, David (January 2015). "The African-American Roots of Barbershop (and why it matters)" (PDF). The Harmonizer: 10–15. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
- "Barbershop quartet singing". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
- Everett, Dianna (2009). "SPEBSQSA (Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America)". The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
- "History of the Barbershop Quartet, A Time-Honored Tradition". May 8, 2012. Retrieved July 23, 2012.
- "Take 6". Primarily A Cappella.
- Henry, James Earl (2000). The Origins of Barbershop Harmony: A Study of Barbershop's Links to Other African American Musics as Evidenced through Recordings and Arrangements of Early Black and White Quartets. Washington University.
- Brooks, Tim (2005): Lost Sounds. Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890–1919. Urbana-Champaign/IL: University of Illinois Press
- Averill, Gage (2003): Four Parts, No Waiting. A Social History of American Barbershop Harmony. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Garnett, Liz (2005): The British Barbershopper: A Study in Socio-musical Values. London: Ashgate.
- Triplett, Gene (March 10, 1985). "Barbershop Quartets To Trim Tunes at Show". NewsOK. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
- "Keeping The World In Harmony". CBS News. October 18, 1999. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
- "Who is the Barbershop Harmony Society?". Barbershop Harmony Society. Archived from the original on January 14, 2014. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
- "Chorus Locator". British Association of Barbershop Singers. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
- "Official Results". Barbershop Harmony New Zealand. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
- "Youth Quartet Contest". The Harmonizer (published October 24, 2016). October 2016. pp. 21, 24–25. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
Youth bronze medalist The Mission (New Zealand)
- "Irish Association of Barbershop Singers". Irish Association of Barbershop Singers. Retrieved October 31, 2016.
- Hicks, Val (1988): Heritage of Harmony: Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America. Friendship/WI: New Past Press.
- Abbott, Lynn (1992): Play That Barber Shop Chord: A Case for the African-American Origin of Barbershop Harmony. American Music 10, no. 3, 289–325.
- Stebbins, Robert A. (1996): The Barbershop Singer: Inside the Social World of a Musical Hobby. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
- Averill, Gage (1999): Bell Tones and Ringing Chords. Sense and Sensation in Barbershop Harmony. The World of Music 41, no. 1, 37–51.
- Henry, James Earl (2000): The Origins of Barbershop Harmony: A Study of Barbershop's Musical Link to Other African-American Musics as Evidenced Through Recordings and Arrangements of Early Black and White Quartets (PhD diss., UMI Microform 9972671, Washington University in St. Louis). Ann Arbor: ProQuest.
- Ayling, Benjamin C. (2000): An Historical Perspective of International Champion Quartets of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, 1939–1963 (PhD diss., UMI Microform 9962373, The Ohio State University). Ann Arbor: ProQuest.
- Henry, James Earl (2001): The Historical Roots of Barbershop Harmony. The Harmonizer (July/August), 13–17.
- Averill, Gage (2003): Four Parts, No Waiting. A Social History of American Barbershop Harmony. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Ayling, Benjamin C. (2004): An Historical View of Barbershop Music and the Sight-Reading Methodology and Learning Practices of Early Championship Barbershop Quartet Singers, 1939–1963. International Journal of Research in Choral Singing 4, 53–59.
- Mook, Richard (2004): The Sounds of Liberty: Nostalgia, Masculinity, and Whiteness in Philadelphia Barbershop, 1900–2003 (PhD diss., UMI Microform 3152085, University of Pennsylvania). Ann Arbor: ProQuest.
- Brooks, Tim (2005): Lost Sounds. Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890–1919. Urbana-Champaign/IL: University of Illinois Press.
- Garnett, Liz (2005): The British Barbershopper: A Study in Socio-musical Values. London: Ashgate.
- Mook, Richard (2007): White Masculinity in Barbershop Quartet Singing. Journal for the Society of American Music 1, no. 3 (2007), 453–483.
- Döhl, Frédéric (2009): That Old Barbershop Sound: Die Entstehung einer Tradition amerikanischer A-cappella-Musik. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.
- Döhl, Frédéric (2012): Creating Popular Music History: The Barbershop Harmony Revival in the United States around 1940. Popular History Now and Then, ed. Barbara Korte and Sylvia Paletschek. Bielefeld: transcript, 169–183.
- Mook, Richard (2012): The Sounds of Gender: Textualizing Barbershop Performance. Perspectives on Males and Singing (= Landscapes: the Arts, Aesthetics, and Education, vol. 10), ed. Scott D. Harrison/Graham F. Welch/Adam Adler. Dordrecht: Springer, 201–214.
- Nash, Jeffrey Eugene (2012): Ringing the Chord. Sentimentality and Nostalgia among Male Singers. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 51, no. 5, 581–606.
- Hobson, Vic (2013): Plantation Song: Delius, Barbershop, and the Blues. American Music 31, no. 3, 314–339.
- Nash, Jeffrey Eugene (2013): Puttin' on Your Face: Staged Emotions among Barbershop Singer. The Drama of Social Life: A Dramaturgical Handbook, ed. Charles Edgley. Farnham: Ashgate, 229–244.
- Döhl, Frédéric (2014): From Harmonic Style to Genre. The Early History (1890s–1940s) of the Uniquely American Musical Term Barbershop. American Music 32, no. 2, 123–171.
- Hobson, Vic (2014): Creating Jazz Counterpoint: New Orleans, Barbershop Harmony, and the Blues. Jackson/MI: University Press of Mississippi.