Have you ever been captivated by the rich, harmonious sound of a barbershop quartet? This unique musical genre, characterised by its close, consonant harmonies and a cappella style, has a storied history dating back to the late 19th century. Whether you’re a seasoned singer or a beginner looking to explore a new musical avenue, starting a barbershop quartet can be a fulfilling and enjoyable experience. Here’s how you can get started.

The Basics of Barbershop Harmony

In a barbershop quartet, each singer has a specific role: the Lead sings the melody, the Tenor harmonises above the lead, the Baritone adds intricate inner harmonies, and the Bass provides the foundation with the lowest harmonies. Barbershop music is renowned for its “ringing” chords, particularly the “barbershop seventh chord,” achieved through precise tuning and vocal blending.

Finding Members and Rehearsing

Finding the right singers is crucial. Look for individuals who can sing the different parts and blend well together. You might start by reaching out to local music schools, community choirs, or vocal performance groups. If you’re auditioning potential members, consider their vocal range, musicality, and ability to blend. It’s also important to find people who are committed and enthusiastic about the genre.

Utilise local music groups, online forums, and social media platforms to connect with singers who share your passion for barbershop harmony. Once you have your group, set a regular rehearsal schedule to ensure steady progress. Begin each rehearsal with vocal warm-ups to prepare your voices. Simple exercises like scales, lip trills, and humming can help. Choose songs that fit the barbershop style and match your group’s skill level, starting with classics and gradually expanding your repertoire. Practise both individually and together to solidify the harmonies.

Where to find music

Learning track producers have extensive repositories of barbershop music. Here are some links to get you started.

Developing Your Sound and Preparing for Performances

Achieving a unified sound requires careful attention to blend and balance. Focus on matching vowels and dynamics to create a cohesive sound. Dynamics and facial expressions can greatly enhance your performance, adding emotion and variety to your music. Staying in tune is essential, so work on listening to each other and making small adjustments to ensure your harmonies are perfectly in tune.

When preparing for performances, engage with your audience by practising your stage presence. Simple, tasteful movements or gestures can add visual interest to your performance.

Getting Gigs and Joining the Community

Start by performing at local events, community centres, and festivals to gain experience and build a following. Participating in barbershop quartet competitions can provide valuable feedback and expose you to a wider audience. Create a website and use social media to promote your quartet. Networking with other musicians and event organisers can also help you find performance opportunities.

See upcoming BABS competitions

Join organisations such as the Barbershop Harmony Society in the US, or one of their Global Alliance organisations to connect with other quartets, access valuable resources, and find coaches. There are many websites, forums, and YouTube channels dedicated to barbershop music that you can use to learn more and connect with the community. Attend workshops and conventions to improve your skills, learn new techniques, and network with other barbershop enthusiasts.


Starting a barbershop quartet is a rewarding journey that combines musicality, camaraderie, and performance. With dedication and passion, you can create beautiful harmonies and share the joy of barbershop music with others. So gather your singers, start practising, and let your voices ring!

Have you started your own barbershop quartet or are you thinking about it? Share your experiences or ask any questions in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!
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