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Start a Quartet

Are you looking to start a quartet?

Quartetting provides a nearly infinite amount of opportunities to perform for local and international audiences, and through the Society, you'll instantly become a part of a huge community of singers.

WATCH: After Hours - Butter Outta Cream (from Catch Me If You Can)

Becoming a BHS-registered quartet

Contemporary, Doo Wop, country, jazz, gospel, broadway show tunes, children’s songs, even classical… if you can think of a genre, there’s most certainly a barbershop arrangement available for it. Sing uptunes, ballads, or try your hand at comedy...the possibilities are endless!

Want to learn more on how to master the art of quartetting? BHS-registered quartets receive free access to the Guidebook for Performing Quartets as well as a sortable Subject Matter Expert (SME) database that assists and guides quartets in their use of technology and marketing, and provides access to coaches and contacts for performance, show development, and arranging.

Already a BHS member? Login to the Doc Center to view all of the resources available to registered quartets.

Note: This will launch the Member Center page. You will need a login to complete the registration process. Email customerservice@barbershop.org if you have any questions about your login.

You must be a member of the Barbershop Harmony Society in order to register a new quartet. Details for mixed and women's quartets coming soon!

Classifications & Performance Opportunities

Click here for more information about entering a quartet competition.

Note: you must be registered with the Society in order to enter a competition.

There are three main classifications for quartets in the Barbershop Harmony Society:

Next Generation Quartets - 25 and Under

All singers in a Next Generation youth quartet must be 25 and under and are eligible to compete in our Next Generation Barbershop Quartet Contests that take place all across the Society and even abroad.

Next Generation Barbershop helps singers discover a sound that’s uniquely their own. Distinct programs for singers in grades 6-12 and post-high school offer ensemble options to fit your skills and interests: men’s, women’s, or mixed voice quartets and choruses.

Next Generation Barbershop Contests and Festivals offer easy video entry, exciting destination events, and funding for travel and lodging.

WATCH: The Newfangled Four - Hello My Baby...Through the Years

Quartets - All Ages

Open to all ages, our “regular” quartets must all be members of the Barbershop Harmony Society. Registered quartets are eligible to compete in the local district contests, and are given the opportunity to qualify to compete at the International level at our annual summer convention.

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Seniors Quartets - 55 and Up

The Seniors Quartet Contest holds regional-based contests where Seniors Quartets (each member at least 55 years old with an average age of 60 for all quartet members) vie for the chance to qualify to compete at the International Seniors Quartet Contest at the annual Midwinter Convention.

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The Parts of a Quartet

Barbershop harmony is a style of four-part, unaccompanied singing, utilizing close-harmony and intuitive voice leading characterized by consonant four-part chords for every melody note.

Tenor

The tenor is the highest part that harmonizes above the melody, utilizing a falsetto/light head voice approach.


How To be a Great Tenor:
Don Kahl helps you improve your tenor-singing techniques

Submitted by Don Kahl, tenor, Rural Route 4, 1986 International Quartet Champion

Describing how to sing great tenor is a bit like demonstrating how to dry one's back without using one's hands. You pretty much learn by doing and not by reading. Does reading an article in a golf magazine help your game? There are, however, some tips that are translatable to your tenor-singing techniques.

Sometimes, in our attempt to conserve enough air to maintain support through a phrase, we don't achieve preparatory breath well in the first place. Make the breath part of the release while forming the next intended target.

Barbershop performers are always behind the focus of the ensemble sounds we create. Listen carefully.

Shift body weight at appropriately frequent intervals. Maintain shoulder posture, and keep chin in a comfortably low position. There is no such thing in justly-tuned barbershop tenor singing as a half step. Tenors need to work diligently to sing in tune with the lead. Be alert to the need for lifting or settling certain intervals as you rehearse and perform. The chord that the audience perceives as ringing is because of instantaneous adjustments. A tenor and their lead can never duet too much.

Imagineering or looping one's performance is excellent for creating a consistent and positive frame of mind. Run through your entire performance in your mind. The more you prepare yourself the more confident you'll be. Rehearse not just enough to get it right, but enough to never get it wrong.

Don's eight tips for better tenor singing:
• Breathe to consume air, not to conserve air
• Finish phrases with a breath
• Listen harder
• Move feet to stay fresh
• There are no half-step intervals
• Duet the melody
• Rehearse until error-free -- then do it again
• Loop your performance

Lead

The lead is the melody singer, and in barbershop typically sings melodies which lie within the vocal and skill range of the average singer.

How to be a Great Lead:
Some tips from a world champion lead.
Submitted by Joe Connelly, four-time quartet gold medalist


When the audience is leaving the auditorium after a show or contest, what will they be humming? The melody, of course (music judges excluded, for reasons we can't explain here).

It is the lead singer's job to execute (no pun intended) each melody line with precision and flair. It is this "recognizable line that is familiar to audiences and puts them at ease. Although this makes the lead part the easiest to learn, it also means that the lead singer is the most vulnerable. When you sing melody, you can run, but you can't hide.

So, what does it take to be an awesome lead singer? Let's take a look at three of my personal favorites, and observe what I consider to be their most outstanding qualities. (Keep in mind that these all-time greats sang with phenomenal harmony-part singers who helped support and showcase their talents.)

• RICH KNAPP-- 1980 International Champion Boston Common. Rich embodies the very best of singing naturally and believably from the heart. Listeners fall in love with his no-nonsense delivery. We can all learn from Rich to trust our feelings and emotions when we perform each and every song.

• KEN HATTON -- 1978 International Champion Bluegrass Student Union. Never before or since has there been a lead singer who commands the stage with more vocal energy and visual excitement than Kenny. His stage personality also evokes a positive rapport with any audience. We can all learn from Kenny to sing and perform every note with intensity and a commitment to be the best.

• BOB FRANKLIN --1961 International Champion Suntones. Bob is the consummate professional showman. He is always prepared and always disciplined in his performance. He is also extremely adept at singing harmony when called upon to do so. We can all learn from Bob to be aware of our vocal role in every tune we present to an audience, and to strive to perform it flawlessly.

Top Ten Habits of Highly Effective Lead Singers
• Learn basic barbershop chord structures to be aware of proper balance.
• Diligently study successful leads' strengths and adapt them to your own voice and personal style.
• Plan ahead for maximum mental focus in each rehearsal and performance.
• Be fully prepared in every aspect of your music.
• Be consistent -- sing each song the same way every time.
• Practice singing the melody against a continual fixed tonal center -- an electronic pitch pipe works great.
• Always rehearse as though in front of an audience.
• Develop a physical exercise plan that works for you.
• Drink a lot of water every day to keep your body and vocal cords hydrated.
• Find a great bass, baritone and tenor whom you trust musically, and who in
return, have faith in you to lead them onward and upward.

Additional resources
Click here to access the Lead Support Group

Baritone

The baritone sings above and below the lead, completing and filling out the consonant four-part chords.

How to be a great baritone
An oxymoron, perhaps... but it's worth exploring.
submitted by Ron Knickerbocker, The Regents, 1974 champion

There are only two things one must do to be a great baritone: use proper vocal production and understand (and obey) the baritone's job description. For purposes of this discussion, let's pretend we all produce sound correctly and focus on the job. A quartet baritone or baritone section in a chorus has three basic responsibilities: tuning chords, balancing chords, and staying out of the way. (Some people, mostly basses, feel that the bari has a fourth job -- making the bass sound good -- but I won't address the impossible here.)

In both tuning and balancing it is critical to know what part of the chord you are singing. For mathematical reasons, fifths should be sung a tad sharp, and minor (barbershop) sevenths need to be tuned a bit flat. Thirds should be sung sharp, because we habitually sing them way too flat). As a general rule, it is easier to tune to the bass than to the lead.

A bari's balance responsibility is dictated by two things. The first is where your note is with respect to the melody. Bari notes above the melody need to be sung somewhat softer (how much softer depends on how far above the melody your note is), while notes below the melody should be sung relatively louder. Some coaches maintain that balancing isn't necessary as long as your quality matches that of the lead. I agree that a bari can sing a bit more loudly if he matches the lead well, but the melody must still be predominant. Thus, balance is no less important than it used to be thought, just a little easier to do.

The second factor in balancing chords is the part of the chord you are singing. As a general rule, sing roots and fifths more loudly than other parts of the chord.

Staying out of the way means the bari must do whatever they can to enhance the musical flow. Maintain vowel integrity, energize singable consonants and soften hard consonants. Most of the time it is desirable to substitute softer consonants for the hard ones, like using d instead of t. The substitutions must be subtle, however. Don't hit the listener over the head with the fact that you are using a different consonant.

Most rules have exceptions, but if you adopt these general suggestions, you will be well on your way to becoming a great baritone. Now, if we could only find a bass that deserves you!

RON'S 10 TIPS FOR BETTER BARIS
• Produce sound correctly.

• Balance to the lead, but…

• Tune to the bass.

• Know what part of the chord you are singing.

• Sing thirds and fifths a little sharp, AND….

• Sing minor (barbershop) sevenths a bit flat.

• Balance to the melody.

• In general, roots and fifths should be a little louder than other notes in the chord.

• Extend the duration of vowels

And lastly, reduce the duration and percussiveness of consonants.

Bass

The bass sings the lowest harmonizing notes, serving as the foundation of the quartet.

How to be a great bass: Some bass singing tips from champ Bill Meyers.
Submitted by Bill Myers, bass of Revival, 1998 International Champions

The bass singer delivers the essence and character of the barbershop sound. I just love to sing along with recordings featuring good, quality bass singers - like Jim Henry, Don Barnick, or Rick Staab, and from there develop my own style of singing bass. It's fun and you learn a lot from the experts. You learn how to sing intervals with ease and accuracy, how to balance chords and how to sing with quality all up and down the scale. Why wouldn't any bass singer want to sing along every day with the best we have?

Bill's ten tips for better bass singing:
• Sing every note with a quality sound
• Sing with full face vowels
• Sing every day
• Vertical "Ahh" on the inside of every vowel
• Every five seconds, energize
• Get a coach
• Step into the picture the lyric creates
• Sing on top of the air
• Resonant, warm spin in the sound
• Always be working on a new song

Bill Myers teaches "How To Be A Great Bass" at Harmony College.

Additional resources
Here is a new, voice-specific discussion list for those most important Barbershop harmony singers, the 'foundation' folks, the Bass singers:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/...

This list is for information, techniques, assistance, and pointers that Basses can use to improve their performance and increase their fun quotient in Barbershop.