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Essential Benefits Of Barbershop Singing

Updated on June 14, 2010

About five years ago I started singing barbershop harmony with a local barbershop chorus in the UK. I had wanted an outlet for my distinctly average musical talent for several years but had struggled to find the right organisation, choir or chorus whatever you want to call it, to sing with. I had briefly been a member of a choir in Nottingham but it was very dominated by the ladies. This was extremely pleasant in some ways, but the few men that sang were not the sort of men I would normally socialise with, for whatever reason.

I'm pleased to say, however, that a few years later I saw an advertisement for the Grand Central Chorus, a successful male barbershop chorus based just outside Nottingham so I went along with a little apprehension. Would I make a fool of myself? Could I sing at anywhere near the standard required? What was barbershop harmony anyway?

Without going into all the detail, I am pleased to say that my fears were unfounded. I couldn't have hoped to meet a more ordinary cross section of everyday men who enjoyed singing. I discovered that barbershop is unaccompanied four-part close harmony and the repertoire included classic songs from the shows, spiritual songs, romantic ballads, and lighthearted up-tunes – to name a few. I'm pleased to say with a little hard work and determination I did make the grade, and as I said have now been singing just short of five years.

What's more I'm now convinced that every man who can more or less sing in tune should seriously consider this hobby, for the following reasons

Barbershop Singing Stimulates The Brain

Barbershop singers do not perform like dummies holding the score in front of them and reading the words. We perform to entertain and draw the audience in to the performance. It could be a tear jerking ballad or an inspirational anthem, but all the words have to be learned. And if there is choreography involved, there are moves to be remembered as well. All this stimulates the brain. It can be hard work learning words, and of course the right notes, especially for the harmony parts but with repetition it's possible to learn and remember many songs. I think I now know anywhere between forty and fifty songs. And my brain is stimulated during the learning process, and indeed by the adrenalin produced during performances

Barbershop Singing Is Good For Men's Health

The foundation of all good singing in any style is correct breathing and posture. So when we sing barbershop we have to learn how to breath correctly and stand correctly. By breath correctly I mean learn to use the full capacity of the lungs to produce a good supported sound through what are some very long notes. The natural action of most people if you ask them to take a deep breath is to lift their shoulders. This in fact restricts the capacity of the lungs. All trained singers will push their stomachs out when taking a breath. This pushes out the diaphragm muscle that controls our breathing and maximises the capacity of our lungs.

So barbershop singers learn to breath deeply and correctly. This transfers across to other physical activity, such as swimming, as singers have greater lung capacity. Singers can generally exercise for longer due to their better breathing technique. It is claimed that singers live longer due to this better breathing, which may or may not be true, but there are undoubted health benefits to singing regularly.

Barbershop Singing Creates Team Spirit

By definition, harmony singing cannot be performed alone. It takes at least two, and in the case of barbershop harmony singing, it takes four – tenor, lead, baritone and bass. These are the singing parts that make up the classic barbershop quartet, but the vast majority of barbershop singers do not sing in quartets. They sing in choruses. These could number as few as ten to fifteen singers, are more usually thirty to fifty in number, and sometimes exceed one hundred singers. The Grand Central Chorus, who I sing with typically numbers thirty to forty at a concert, and within that group there is great team spirit. Of course there are differences of opinion from time to time, but there is also first class team spirit, especially if we are taking place in a singing competition with medals to be won.

It's not all hard work though. After rehearsal, we all carry on to a typically English pub for a pint of beer or two, good conversation and a little more singing. Many barbershop singers become lifelong friends such is the depth of friendship between men who sing barbershop harmony

Barbershop Singing Touches The Soul

First class singing of any description touches the soul. What do I mean by that? I mean that first class singing affects the singer deeply. It reaches down into the soul, or spirit if you prefer, and stimulates or soothes something deep within. There have been times when we have sung a romantic ballad especially well and as the last chord dies away nobody, either singer or member of the audience, wants the moment to end. There is some sort of magic in the air. It is a truly spiritual moment which everybody wants to hang on to. There have been times when we have sung something very poignant, and I have felt every hair on the back of my neck stand up and tingle. Dare I say it – it's almost like making love. These amazing experiences are open to all men who take up barbershop singing.

Barbershop Singing Is Entertaining

This may seem obvious because it's why most of us sing – to entertain an audience. To make them smile, make them laugh and even make them weep. And few things compare with hearing the roar of applause. Sometimes before the last chord has ended, if it's a gripping up-tune with a tremendous sequence of last chords. Other times, at the end of a balled, there will be that moment of silence, that moment of something electric, before the applause breaks out. Either way the audience have been entertained and it's a great feeling to be part of a chorus of men who entertain an audience again and again.

I didn't know that when I started barbershop singing that there would be so many benefits. But now I understand how good it is for mind, body and spirit, I think it's something all men should consider!

Watch the video to see how amazing it can be....

Barbershop Singing At The Highest Level


Submit a Comment

  • bigmikeh profile image

    bigmikeh 7 years ago from UK

    Thanks dearabbysmom. Pleased to hear you sing in quartet. Something I don't have time for, yet.

  • dearabbysmom profile image

    dearabbysmom 7 years ago from Indiana

    What a great hub, I would love to hear your Grand Central Chorus live! Congratulations on being a part of such an uplifting, fun group. I'm part of a female barbershop quartet, and we have noticed through the years just how happy this kind of music makes people.

  • bigmikeh profile image

    bigmikeh 8 years ago from UK

    Thank you trinaruth

  • trinaruth profile image

    trinaruth 8 years ago