About Barbershop


What is Barbershop Music?

Barbershop is a unique vocal musical form.  It is characterized by four-part harmonies sung without accompaniment in a pop/jazz style.  It is really fun to sing.  The four parts are called by the same names regardless of whether they refer to men's or women's groups.  The melody is sung by the Leads while Tenors sing clear, light harmony above the Leads.  Basses sing the rich low notes at the bottom of the chord, and the Baritones do vocal gymnastics to sing whatever note is needed to complete the chord.  All parts lean into and harmonize with the Leads. 

What distinguishes Barbershop from other harmonies is its "ringing chords."  These chords, also known as the angel's voice or the fifth voice, result when individual voice notes and frequencies combine in such a way that a fifth sound can be heard above the blended sound of the four parts, even though no one is actually singing it.  It is exciting to hit upon these chords while singing, and it is one of the reasons audiences are so drawn to barbershop harmony.


Sweet Adelines is open to women of any age who love to sing.  While it is uncommon to have young girls in a chorus, Serena was the youngest member we have had..


Barbershop is a uniquely American musical form.  It gained popularity around the mid-1800's culminating in the formation of  the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing (SPEBSQSA) which later became the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS) still in existence today.  Barbershoppers were featured in minstrel shows and amateurs spontaneously broke out in song at picnics and parties, in barbershops, and on street corners.

Barbershop Singing for Women

After WW II--with its rationing, grieving, sacrifices, and labor--people in the United States wanted to live again.  Barbershop experienced a resurgence, and this time women wanted to sing, too.  That's when Edna Mae Anderson in Tulsa, Oklahoma invited some ladies to her home on Friday the 13th, 1945 to sing barbershop.  The group grew in number to 85 women and named itself Atomaton.  This, president Anderson explained, was because they had an "atom of an idea and a ton of energy."   Women's barbershop caught on, and within four years the organization could boast 1,500 members, 35 chapters, and 60 quartets singing in 14 states.  They adopted bylaws, elected national officers, and created a system of adjudication for annual national competitions.  It was thus that Sweet Adelines was born.

Contemporary barbershop singing has become more stylized than in the past.  Today's groups are vibrant, calling forth their gospel, blues, and jazz roots.  Choreography has been added--from simple gestures and steps to elaborate stage performances--along with glittering costumes.  The extent to which these elements are added varies greatly from group to group, but Sweet Adelines are known for their sparkle. 

On October 24, 2009, at the 63rd annual National Convention in Nashville, Sweet Adeline singers from all over the U.S. and around the world set a Guinness Book of World Records when 6,651 singers joined for the "World's Largest Singing Lesson."

Today there are approximately 25,000 members of Sweet Adelines International whose mission is to advance the musical art form of barbershop harmony through education and performance.  Their goal is to "Harmonize the World."  See this Sweet Adelines International video to find out more! http://www.sweetadelineintl.org/

Capital City Sound is a Sweet Adelines International Chorus.  We have written our Chorus Standing Rules and By-Laws, we collect dues, and grow our membership.  As an officially recognized chapter, we qualify to compete in Regional competition against other choruses.