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Chorus Voice Matching (not blend!)

6. Dezember 2017 - 18:45

This is the third article in a series for chorus directors and music teams. It is a companion to a video that HU produced in 2016 and a previous article on riser spacing.

Avoid the fight

A natural tendency in choral singing is to compete with the surrounding voices, a tendency called the Lombard Effect. This can be problematic if someone with a “smaller” singing voice stands next to someone with a “larger” voice. Two types of responses are common in this situation:

  1. The singer with a smaller voice will try to compete with the larger, usually resulting in pressed singing.
  2. Conversely, a singer with a larger voice may unconsciously pull their voice back.

Effortful singing like this can open a singer up to vocal fatigue and vocal trauma. Neither scenario are what a chorus director wants, which is the best vocal production from each singer.

Various research studies attempted to articulate the most acoustically efficient riser placement (mixed vs sectional, etc.); unfortunately, due to the complex nature of such studies, data from theses studies are tough to rely on.1 There are just too many variables to make these studies replicable. Book chapters with this topic seem to be anecdotal.

So how to place singers on the risers to get the best chorus sound? A safe bet it to use the principles of vocal health and vocal efficiency as a guide. This leads to the concept of voice-matching strategies.

Voice Matching

The first principle to understand behind voice matching is that everyone has a unique and valuable voice. Make sure all understand that no one voice is better than another and the best place to stand on the risers is on the risers.

The second principle is that chorus singers tend to make better vocal choices when surrounded by like-sized, like-timbred voices. There is less competition (Lombard Effect) this way . Many directors have strategies for voice matching, but generally consider:

  • vocal fold thickness (check out this video to hear the difference in speech)
  • natural larynx height (low laryngeal singing has a generally fuller sound)
  • vocal fold closure tendencies (breathy vs. not breathy)
  • tongue position tendencies (vowels sung with flatter tongues usually have a duller sound)
Active Listening

A suggestion is to match voices first by section. Line up singers and have them sing something simple enough that they don’t have to think about the notes or the words. For English speakers, the round “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” is easy to use, although really any simple song is fine. (In Sweden I used “Vem kan segla förutan vind” and in Germany I used “Alle meine Entchen.”)

Listen for the unique characteristics of each voice. Begin sorting, pairing, and grouping voices according to the criteria above. The goal is to have a spectrum of voices in the section ordered, generally, light and bright to big and dark. An easy way to do this is number from 1-XX. Then repeat this experience with the whole chorus.

To the risers!

Organizing singers on risers, again, is not an exact science. Generally, use the principles of vocal health and vocal efficiency as a guide. Follow the formula:

  • higher-numbered voices should stand behind lower-numbered voices, and
  • higher numbers should tend to stand toward the middle.

Listen to the ensemble and verify there are no “hot spots,” meaning a voice or a part that sticks out of the sound. This can be done by placing singers by someone of a different voice part as much as possible. 

Voice placement of a a 30-singer chorus on risers might look like this Blend

The word blend has been used for generations as a way to homogenize a chorus sound. The responsibility to blend fell upon the chorus singer. This is problematic because when singers are instructed to “blend,” most assimilate or compromise their voice and make it less efficient acoustically and less efficient in production (affecting the tissues, introducing fatigue).

Directors want their singers to sing with their most efficient, beautiful voice. But asking for blend sends a mixed signal to chorus singers that they can’t use their best vocal production or they will stick out. Therefore, the responsibility of chorus blend is the job of the director and the music team, not the individual singer. This is accomplished through voice matching and riser placement.

Employ voice matching strategies to allow them to sing with their fullest, easiest, and most resonant sound surrounded by voices of similar size to achieve balance in the ensemble sound. Increased inter-singer spacing can also reduce the likelihood of pressed singing or competition. It is my recommendation that principles of inter-spacing and voice matching should replace the word blend in our vocabularies.

Other Factors

This article does not suggest that acoustic or physiological factors are the only reasons for riser placement. Music and performance teams should consider how to balance the look of the chorus and performance demands with spacing and riser placement. Additionally, psychological or sociological considerations must be made. For example, some singers feel like they are more efficient when a more experienced voice is guiding them.

Another important factor to consider is the venue in which the chorus sings. For example, the degree to which singers can hear themselves in a given venue can affect their intonation.2 Further, singers have a tendency to raise their larynges (thinner sound) in more absorbent venues.3

Find What Works For Your Chorus

Experiment with your chorus to find the perfect balance of inter-singer spacing and riser placement in a given venue. Remember the goal is to encourage each singer to sing with their healthiest, most resonant singing. These principles reinforce the importance of the Lombard Effect and the Self-to-Other Ratio in choral acoustics.

Enjoy this video of 2017 5th place bronze medal chorus Parkside Harmony, who use a variation of voice matching and riser placement.

Happy, healthy singing, my friends!

1 To understand a scope of available research, see Aspaas, C., McCrea, C.R., Morris, R. J., & Fowler, L. (2004). Select acoustic and perceptual measures of choir formation. International Journal of Research in Choral Singing 2 (1), 11-26.; Daugherty, J.F. (1999). Spacing, formation, and choral sound: Preferences and perceptions of auditors and choristers. Journal of Research in Music Education, 47 (3), 224-238.; Lambson, A.R. (1961). An evaluation of various seating plans used in choral singing. Journal of Research in Music Education, 9 (1), 47-54.; also Tocheff, R.D. (1990). Acoustical placement of voices in choral formations. Ph.D. dissertation, Ohio State University. 2 Sundberg, J. (1987). The science of the singing voice. Dekalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press. 3 See Ternström S (1989). Acoustical Aspects of Choir Singing. PhD thesis, Dept of Speech, Music & Hearing, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. The raising of the larynx has the perceptual effect of thinning out the sound or causing it to be more strident. Singers usually raise the larynx by engaging swallowing muscles. These muscles are not required for singing and their use in the same can introduce fatigue into the voice.






Quartet Resource Project, Phase II: Building a Directory of Resources

1. Dezember 2017 - 18:13


When we surveyed our existing quartets for the development of the Guidebook for Performing Quartets, many responses mentioned the need for resources and help in marketing, technology, and coaching. So, with the help of our volunteer project coordinator, Walt Lammert, we are developing a searchable, on-line directory of coaching, marketing, and technology Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) that are available to assist quartets and/or choruses. Although we can identify many other subjects where experts might be of use, this phase of the project is focusing on the areas that were identified as our most immediate need. 

We are now gathering names of potential resources and . . . we need your help, again! We hope you’ll supply us with some information to identify as many resources as possible for these directories. If you are aware of qualified individuals with experience serving musical groups, please provide us with their contact information via this link by December 15th.

We are particularly interested in the following areas:

  • Performance, music, or singing coaches
  • Individuals who can help quartets with marketing activities – press kit, website, social media, etc. 
  • Individuals who can consult on or provide live sound and recording technology expertise 

We will send out a qualifying survey to identified individuals, review the collected data, and reach out to potential resources as appropriate for more qualifying information. We’ll also send this request directly to chapter leaders soon for the additional SMEs they know. 

This will establish the groundwork to develop a directory of coaching, marketing, and technology resources that are available to assist performing quartets and choruses, which future projects might build upon.

Harmony University 2018 General Registration Opens December 1, 2017

30. November 2017 - 19:00

General registration for Harmony University 2018 opens Friday, December 1, 2017. Join us in Nashville, TN on July 22 – 29 on the beautiful Belmont University campus. Follow your own barbershop dreams with more than 600 classes taught by world-class faculty!

Need a gift idea for a loved one this holiday season? Your Chorus Director? Maybe an up-and-coming barbershop star? Give the gift of a Harmony University registration to someone for the holidays. As a special bonus, those who purchase a registration for someone or register in the month of December will receive an additional $50.00 off a registration to attend!

Ready to register?



Your tuition payment in from December 1, 2017 to February 14, 2018 holds your spot at HU 2018. On or about February 15th, you will be able to select your individual classes, electives, and even bus shuttle pick up.

Scholarship applications also open online and can be found here:

Choose from six curriculum tracks in one all-inclusive event!
  • Mix classes to meet your needs:
    • Core classes (Monday-Friday) meet every day at 10:30 am, 2 pm, 3:15 pm and 4:30 pm
    • Elective classes meet only one time during the week and are offered at 1 pm and 7:30 pm
    • Optional Early Bird classes (Monday-Friday) meet every day at 8 am
  • Private instruction in arranging, conducting, performing, and voice available

For an example schedule of HU, click here:


Guide to BHS Ethics Procedures and Youth Policy

27. November 2017 - 16:00

As a part of our commitment to provide a positive environment to support activities that engage with members, associates, and all people interested in barbershop, the Barbershop Harmony Society has a Society Code of Ethics and Youth Policy that all members and associates must affirm and agree to abide by when joining or renewing membership. These policies are in place to ensure that every person who engages with BHS at any level, and in any activity, may do so with full confidence that they are in a safe environment. Refer to the resources below for specific information. 

Assessment of these policies is a continual process. In early 2017, we created a dedicated internal team to review our policies, standard best practice recommendations, and educational offerings. A thorough review of our policies was completed in 2015 and again in 2017, resulting in ongoing work to redesign our training initiatives in an effort to provide better documentation processes for those who are sponsoring youth activities and events within the organization.

Society Code
of Ethics



Society Youth



Youth Policy

We encourage members, chapters, and districts to review the complete Society youth policy statement as well as the updated forms provided on our website. As always, if a member, chapter, or district has questions about the policy statement or procedures, they should contact [email protected] or [email protected].

Resources Available for Youth Protection

The Barbershop Harmony Society offers to all of its chapters and districts access to our online Sexual Harassment Awareness training at no additional cost. This can be utilized for designated supervisors, chorus directors, chapter or district officers, or anyone who has regular contact with youth members or guests. To request access to the online training videos, please send a list of names and email addresses to [email protected], to be assigned the training.

More training and resources are being developed by our internal team with guidance from other non-profit and youth program based organizations.

Ethics Reporting Procedures

If at any time, any individual (member or non-member) experiences any form of harassment, abuse, or inappropriate contact from a member or associate, they should contact the appropriate local authorities immediately. The Society takes these types of situations very seriously and the safety of individuals is our first priority. Formal investigations of any alleged illegal activity should be conducted by local law enforcement and the Society will fully cooperate with any legal authorities.

The Barbershop Harmony Society has a formal ethics complaint reporting procedure through the Society Ethics Committee. If a member or associate is alleged to have violated a Canon of the Code of Ethics or the policies of BHS, the formal ethics complaint procedures must be followed to initiate action by the Ethics Committee, who will determine if a violation has occurred and what, if any, action should be taken.

The ethics complaint form is available online or can be requested to be mailed to you by emailing [email protected]. Please Note: Emailing [email protected] without properly completing a form does not result in a formal complaint.

Forms and supporting documentation should be mailed to:

Barbershop Harmony Society
℅ Ethics Committee Chair (please forward without opening)
110 7th Avenue N
Nashville, TN 37203

View Ethics Complaint Procedures


View Here


Download Ethics Violation Report Form


Download Here




Gourmet burgers and barbershop

20. November 2017 - 23:30

Spotted: the origins of Red Robin restaurants’ name — a barbershop quartet!

While waiting for supper, BHS Associate/Harmony Hall staffer Michele Niec spotted this on the wall:

The official company chronology notes that in the 1940s, “Sam’s Tavern opens near the University of Washington. Sam, the owner, is known to sing ‘When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along)’ with his barbershop quartet. He loves the song so much that he changes the name to Sam’s Red Robin.”

Wonder if you can get a free burger if you sing it for them?

Bonus: Just happened to have this lovely performance by Signature handy, so… enjoy!  

International Chorus Contest Order of Appearance

19. November 2017 - 4:20

Learn more about the 2018 International Convention and Contests 

Official Order of Appearance
  1. The Downeasters
  2. Sound of Illinois
  3. Harbourtown Sound
  4. Brothers in Harmony
  5. Alexandria Harmonizers
  6. Great Lakes Chorus
  7. Big Orange Chorus
  8. Fog City Singers
  9. Westminster Chorus
  10. Voices Incorporated
  11. Vocal Majority
  12. Pathfinder Chorus
  13. Vocal FX
  14. The Alliance
  15. Carolina Vocal Express
  16. Sound of the Rockies
  17. Great Plains Harmony
  18. Smorgaschorus
  19. Space City Sound
  20. Saltaires
  21. Harmonic Collective
  22. Thoroughbreds
  23. The EntertainMen
  24. Heralds of Harmony
  25. Marcsmen
  26. Great Western Chorus
  27. Music City Chorus
  28. Men of Independence
  29. Southern Gateway Chorus
  30. Parkside Harmony

Intro to Barbershop: Everyone in Harmony

17. November 2017 - 20:59

Way back in the infancy of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, our original and still-official legal name, our founders instituted a Code of Ethics, whose preamble begins:

The Society aspires to preserve for its members and for all future generations of prospective members, the sacred right of men to seek haven from the burden of their daily cares through indulgence in old-fashioned vocal quartet harmony….

Eight decades later, that spirit still pervades the Barbershop Harmony Society, and week by week, we experience that joy in thousands of chapter meetings, chorus rehearsals, quartet gigs, shows and contests. You can walk into any barbershop group in the world and be greeted with that same attitude of “forget today, let’s sing tonight!” That continuity of experience, that shared pursuit of unifying harmony, characterizes our entire organization and gives us purpose.

Note that first clause: “to preserve for its members and for all future generations….” Extending beyond our own individual, immediate interest is a vision larger than self-preservation — it is a glimpse of Everyone in Harmony.

Men who belong to the Barbershop Harmony Society are not alone in this mission. Associates of the Society, plus the tens of thousands of women in Sweet Adelines International and Harmony, Inc., the two North American female barbershop associations, plus the tens of thousands of barbershop singers in societies around the world, constitute a global movement.

What you do in your own barbershop life connects you to this network. Let’s explore just how big it really is.

Side by side with Sweet Adelines International and Harmony, Inc. and mixed harmony

Although separate organizations, the three North American barbershop associations overlap significantly. With 22,000 members in Sweet Adelines, and 2,000 in Harmony Inc,., the total number of women barbershop singers is comparable to the men. Unsurprisingly, many barbershop families are represented in all combinations of the three. It’s common to see women directing men’s choruses and vice versa, arrangers creating music for all styles, teachers and coaches sharing knowledge at events presented by each, and top performers in demand on all barbershop stages.  What had once been fairly isolated, standalone cultures has been evolving into a much broader shared experience.

One interesting effect of the emerging barbershop culture has been increased participation in mixed voice harmony, particularly among younger singers. In part, this reflects societal expectations that few activities are gender-separated these days. From an education standpoint, BHS youth outreach programming responds to educator needs for inclusive activities that can encompass all students in the choral music program, and mixed harmony makes barbershop more accessible.

The BHS music publishing program now releases all its new titles in voicings for men, women, and mixed, to expand the marketplace and provide more customer choice.

World wide reach

Although barbershop’s origins are in African-American communities in New Orleans in the late 19th century, its appeal is widespread. Starting with Great Britain in the early 1960s, a dozen separate organizations have grown and flourished outside North America.

The past decade has seen a surge in the size and musical accomplishments of the affiliate organizations, witnessed in the international quartet championships of  Ringmasters (SNOBS, the Swedish society) and  Musical Island Boys (Barbershop Harmony New Zealand), and top ten chorus finishes by zero8 (SNOBS) and VocalFX  (BHNZ.) Offshore organizations have been hotbeds of innovation and expansion, and are must-see destinations for the growing number of barbershop global citizens who are equally likely to find themselves taking in a school or contest in Holland or Australia as they are in the U.S. and Canada. That’s only among the “official” groups; more than 25 countries have reported some kind of barbershop activity, thanks in part to encouragement from the  World Harmony Council, a coalition of men’s, women’s and mixed organizations.

The generosity of donors

Much of the growth and success of the Barbershop Harmony Society comes from the generosity of forward-looking donors through Harmony Foundation International. As discussed earlier in this series, Harmony Foundation program support for the Healthy Chapter Initiative helps expand resources for your growth, and for our Outreach activities to bring barbershop to the next generation of singers. To learn more about the Foundation, visit   

Everyone in Harmony

In 2017, a multiyear strategic planning process brought forward a new vision for the Barbershop Harmony Society: Everyone In Harmony. It recognizes that harmony is a gift we’ve been entrusted with, and it’s too wonderful to keep to ourselves. We must share it with young and old, with people of every color and every background, with our neighbors and perfect strangers and everyone in between, because the world needs what we have.”

What does that mean to you, who has joined an organization built around men’s barbershop singing?

First and foremost, it means you should do what makes you happiest in barbershop. Keep singing, keep having fun, keep feeling fulfillment, keep connecting with other hearts. For some people, that will mean a male-only experience or a women’s-only experience. For others, it will mean pursuing a mixed-voice experience, in programs not yet even sketched.

The coming years will see change, growth, and new ways to be involved in barbershop harmony. One constant, though, will be the right of everyone “to seek haven from the burden of their daily cares” in barbershop harmony. That’s a privilege that’s been unchanged across eight decades.


So You Think You Know Barbershop?

13. November 2017 - 21:49

This regular series is intended for music educators and others interested in knowing more about this unique vocal style. Most importantly, our goal is to provide support for musicians and constructive solutions for singers.

So you think you know barbershop?

Admit it: the go-to image in your mind of barbershop music is four guys in striped vests and boater hats. From the Dapper Dans serenading Disney World park attendees to Jimmy Fallon’s Ragtime Gals juxtaposing off-color pop songs with the squeaky-clean image of the barbershop quartet, the notion of the barbershop singers certainly is iconic. But barbershop is so much more than that!

African American Roots, Jazz Flavorings

Barbershop is an American form of a cappella singing that has African American roots and jazz flavorings. It includes turn-of-the-century Americana melodies, the Tin Pan Alley oeuvre, and jazz standards. But barbershop singers have always sung the music of their day, so it shouldn’t surprise you to hear tunes like Maroon 5’s “Sugar” or Estelle’s “American Boy” covered in this fun, accessible style.

Rewarding Art Form

Barbershop is a rewarding genre of music that is accessible for beginning students, but can also provide a enjoyable challenge for accomplished singers, notwithstanding the combination of voice parts in your vocal groups. Barbershop singing emphasizes proper vocal technique; in fact, there is no barbershop-specific singing technique. Good singing is good singing, and barbershop asks for that.

Barbershop can help you build strong musicians. It teaches ear training, sight singing, harmonization, and ensemble skills like balance and tuning.  Try teaching a tag during your classroom warm-ups. A tag is the term used in jazz and barbershop that means the coda of a song; it typically is just a few measures and has a flourish of chord changes. This opportunity allows one to focus on vowel unification and intervallic relationships found in just intonation.

For a challenge, give an accessible song like Auld Lang Syne or Love Me Tender (Aura Lee) to a foursome and let them teach themselves. These free charts also work great as Solo and Ensemble pieces (check your local state requirements). One important emphasis that barbershop teaches is the art of heartfelt performance, as this quartet demonstrates.

There are many opportunities for your students to become involved. Check out the many resources for youth outreach available: quartet contests, chorus festivals, camps, educational resources, scholarships, and more!

Barbershop Singing Is For All

Listen to men sing in a quartet or in a chorus; experience women singing excellent barbershop in a quartet or in a chorus. Barbershop singing is also for mixed quartets and choruses. If you haven’t taken a look at barbershop recently, take a look it now!





For questions about how to effectively use barbershop in your music classrooms, contact Steve Scott, Music Education Specialist for the Barbershop Harmony Society: [email protected].




Picture 1: Dapper Dans of Main Street, USA and Ragtime Gals.

Picture 2: New Zealand’s Musical Island Boys, BHS 2014 international quartet champion

Picture 3: youth from the NextGen Chorus under the direction of Dr. Chris Peterson

Picture 4: The Ladies, SAI 2016 Rising Star Champions and Pratt Street Power BHS 2016 international youth quartet champion.

Building Musicians: Resources for Learning Musicianship

13. November 2017 - 18:54

This regular series will examine different facets of building musicians in which we hope to dispel myths and inaccuracies. Most importantly, our goal is to provide support for music teams provide constructive solutions for singers.

Personal Musicianship 

Singers join our chapters for many reasons, but all share the love of singing barbershop chords. Some singers come to us with years of singing experience and they can hop on the risers with no problem at all. Some singers come to us with nothing but earnestness and a love of singing and camaraderie. All should be welcome.

Joining a chapter and singing in a chorus can be intimidating, especially if you don’t feel secure in your singing voice or in your musicianship. Perhaps someone made a joke about your singing voice at one time (see a previous blog post to find out what we think of that!). Perhaps you feel self conscious about your music reading abilities.

In Good Company

Would it surprise you to know that some of our early quartet champs could not sight read music? A research study by choral professor and 1991 gold medal champion bass of The Ritz, Dr. Ben Ayling, showed interesting survey data results of the music literacy of early quartet champs. Of those surveyed, 26.7% indicated that they could not read music upon joining their quartet. Further, 96.5% of respondents indicated that singing barbershop music their ability to read music. How glad we are that they stuck to their desire to sing, despite their perception of their personal musicianship abilities!


Resources To Help

Singers join our chapters for many reasons, but all share the love of singing barbershop chords. Some come to us with years of singing experience and they can hop on the risers with no problem at all. Some singers come to us with nothing but earnestness and a love of singing and camaraderie. All should be welcome.

Joining a chapter and singing in a chorus can be intimidating, especially if you don’t feel secure in your singing voice or in your musicianship.

There are a variety of sources for you to use on your musical journey. Try these free resources:

  • Did you know we created a free, online musicianship tutorial? It is divided into 4 sections, each with 7 parts. Most of the examples use excerpts from barbershop songs.
  • This website has many free exercises to help you build your skills learning. You can go as fast or slow as you want.
  • A great site to learn music notation and even work on ear training (identifying intervals and chords).
  • A neat site that can help you learn to read rhythms.
  • This is a great resource for ear training. Of particular interest was their chord identification section.
  • This website has a several free exercises to download.
  • Eyes and Ears – An Anthology of Melodies for Sight-singing: This free, downloadable book is a great resource to sequentially build musicianship.

If you know of a resource that should be on our list, let us know: [email protected].

Practice Patience
No one is born with the ability to sight read music. The process of learning to sight read is often compared to learning a new language. Please exercise patience with your fellow singers, as we are all at different places on our musical journey.

A Place In the Chorus
There is a place for everyone in barbershop. James Howe wrote a clever book in 2013, called Horace and Morris Join the Chorus (But What About Dolores?), (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). Here is a portion of the book description:

Horace and Morris, but mostly Dolores, are back again for another uproarious adventure. When the three best friends decide to try out for the school chorus together, they’re shocked when Dolores (who can only sing notes that no one has ever heard before) is the only one who doesn’t make the cut. After all, they’ve always done everything together.

In an especially poignant moment, Dolores tried not to feel hurt or angry for being left out of the chorus, particularly as her friends are now too busy with rehearsal to play with her. But she felt both of those things. She finally decides to write “Moustro Provolone” a letter and declares, “Who tells a bird she shouldn’t be heard? Singing is just what birds do! So please take my word – I’m a lot like a bird. I have to sing out loud and true!” Her impassioned pleas convince the director to let her in the chorus and Dolores agrees to take extra lessons with the director in preparation for the final concert.

One of the loveliest moment in this book is the care Dolores’ teacher took to personally teach her. By the end of the book, Dolores most of the time “sang notes in the concert that everyone had heard before.” Is there a Dolores that wants to join your chapter, but is worried about how they are perceived? Is there a Dolores now in your chorus that you can help? 

Happy, healthy singing, my friends!


Meaningful Gestures, no.2: Riser Placement

9. November 2017 - 23:30
This is the second article in a series for chorus directors and music teams. This article is a companion to a video that HU produced in 2016.   Barbershop chorus singing has two variables that have great effect on acoustic output: riser placement and venue. This article discusses the science behind riser placement. I make a distinction between formation (mixed parts vs. sectional) and placement (how close you stand to other singers).   Physics of Choral Singing

Two key factors should be in mind when placing singers on risers:

  • The Lombard Effect: the tendency for speakers to increase the pitch and volume of their speech as the ambient noise increases.
  • Self-to-Other Ratio notes that the closer choristers stand to each other, the less of an ability they have to monitor their own personal singing output.

The closer you stand to another singer, the less you hear yourself (Self-to-Other Ratio), and the louder you are  likely to sing as a result (Lombard Effect). Most singers in this environment respond by singing with a pressed sound to an increase in loudness – which, in turn, can affect intonation .

Riser Placement: It’s About the Space

Dr. James Daugherty at the University of Kansas conducted a series of riser studies, including two featuring barbershop choruses. He found no statistically significant differences in the acoustics between standing in a mixed formation over a sectional formation. However, these studies do point to an acoustic benefit for inter-singer spacing on risers. That is, it makes an acoustic difference how close you stand to your fellow singers. Dr. Daugherty tested three types of spacing:

  • Close spacing: singers standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Visually represented:
  • Lateral spacing: singers standing with a two foot space measured at the shoulder. Visually represented:
  • Circumambient spacing: Lateral spacing plus second and fourth riser step are unoccupied. Visually represented:

The acoustic result of Circumambient and Lateral spacings is, in many cases, a 2-3 decibel change in the aggregate energy in overtones over Close spacing. The effect was particularly noticeable in the frequency range of overtones sensitive to the human ear, called the singer’s formant region. Human ears can detect a change of 1 decibel, thus the change in acoustic energy is noteworthy. This decibel change occurs in choruses of all compositions: men’s, women’s, and mixed choruses.

Inter-singer spacing greater than 2-ft appears to decrease the quantity of decibel change, thus losing some of the benefits of space. This might be due to reverse Lombard Effect where singers feel isolated and unwilling to sing with full energy of tone.

Participating singers reported in the increased spacing more efficient vocal production (due to decreased Lombard Effect) and the ability to hear and monitor themselves singing (Self-to-Other Ratio). Expert listeners reported that choral ensembles with more spacing appeared to sing more in tune. 

Putting Inter-singer Spacing Into Practice

To implement the Lateral spacing, place the left hand on the right shoulder of the next singer with no bent elbows. Note that the front row may need to stand slightly closer than two feet, and the back row may be slightly more than two feet apart.  

Your chorus size and/or riser availability can affect the degree to which you can implement these strategies. Certainly a 140-singer chorus will not be able to achieve the 2-ft spacing in either the Circumambient or Lateral spacing techniques. Variations can include having a double row of singers on the floor, extending singers on either side off the risers, adding additional steps to the risers, and experimenting with varying widths of inter-singer spacing.

Work with the singers to find the optimal spacing. Some singers may feel like they are singing alone; move that singer closer to the next person. Another singer may feel like they are competing with the next singer; move them slightly farther apart.

Changing the way singers have been accustomed to standing for decades can be challenging, even daunting. Have patience as singers and directors experiment.

Inter-singer Spacing In Action

Enjoy this video of Central Standard singing with increased inter-singer spacing:

Happy, healthy singing, my friends!


Reminder on Reporting Death of a Member

9. November 2017 - 15:36

In the case of a member who dies, it is important to report to the Barbershop Harmony Society to ensure the member is recognized and honored. The primary responsibility for reporting falls to chapter secretaries and in general, chapter officers. But, any member may report the information. 

To report a member’s death, email the BHS Customer Service Team ([email protected]) or call 800.876.7464. We ask that you share the following information: 

  • Name of Member
  • Member ID#
  • Date of Death (if known) 
  • Name of Next of Kin (spouse or relative’s name)
  • Your relationship to the Member (quartet-mate, chapter officer, friend, family, etc.) 

Upon receipt of notice of the death, the Society Executive Director will send a personal condolence letter to the next of kin, and all Society mailings to the member will be discontinued, except for The Harmonizer, which, at the option of the next of kin, will be mailed until the deceased member’s regular membership expiration date. There will be no refund of dues or fees.

Note: It is essential that information sent to the Society office regarding a member’s death be accurate to ensure that the Society’s response to the next of kin is appropriate.

Please remember to contact us if a member of your chapter or quartet passes on. This is not limited to current members. If a former member passes on, it’s important that the Society knows. Not only will the member be recognized in the “Chapter Eternal” in our Harmonizer magazine, but further, our districts recognize members during House of Delegate meetings. 


Antonio Lombardi honored in Nashville Business Journal “Employee of the Year” awards

8. November 2017 - 21:44

It’s nice when your co-workers say nice things about you behind your back. It’s even nicer when those nice words turn into citywide recognition.

An anonymous tip from a co-worker led to Manager of Chapter Leadership and Education Antonio Lombardi being honored in the inaugural class of Employee of the Year awards from the Nashville Business Journal. Antonio was recognized in the category of Best Support, alongside professionals in the health care, media, public administration, and financial sectors. 

The adjudication panel particularly praised Antonio’s willingness to step forward to help wherever and whenever needed, regardless of job titles and lines, and were excited to see this level of responsibility and savvy in a worker in his mid-20s.

A Barbershopper since age 15, Antonio joined the Society staff in 2016 after many years in leadership of the Northeastern District, as District Secretary, organizer of youth camps, and as an active quartet singer in youth and open divisions. His main focus in the education department is supporting the Healthy Chapter Initiative with resources, leadership training, and liaison to development activities of the Leadership Operations Project Team, plus ongoing support of Harmony University.

With typical humility, Antonio reflects the praise back onto his co-workers at Harmony Hall and the Society as an organization. Earlier this year, the Society received recognition as a “Best Place To Work” by both The Nashville Business Journal and by The Tennesseean. “It says a lot about the Society that we’re recognized as a great place to work, but it comes down to having a great group of employees.” Being one of the few nonprofits honored reflects the quality of the work we’re doing for the greater good, he says. “If we can continue to be of service not only to our colleagues and members, but to the great community as a whole, we’ll be going in the right direction.”

Antonio is particularly grateful to his barbershop mentors growing up. “I started at age 15, and it hasn’t been just about the music, but about becoming a better person, becoming a more career-focused individual, and I owe a lot of that to people within the organization.”

An awards luncheon hosted by the Nashville Business Journal is planned. We’d bet Antonio recruits some singers before it’s finished.


Vocal Health Series, no. 1: Vocal Health Perceptions

8. November 2017 - 21:21

This regular series will examine  facets of vocal health by which we hope to dispel myths and inaccuracies. Most importantly, our goal is to provide support for those who have experienced vocal concerns and provide constructive solutions for singers.


First, an understanding


Vocal health has been a hot topic recently, thanks to high-visibility performers such as Adele, Sam Smith and Michael Buble and others being forced to cancel shows dues to damage to their voices. Some observers exercise kindness and a measure of understanding when discussing someone else’s voice and health. Others, perhaps even those with good intentions, are less than kind.

Singers are more prone to vocal trauma than other kinds of voice users. That is a simple statement of fact. The sheer quantity of voice use exposes us to greater risk. Barbershop singers and other choral singers are at additional jeopardy as individual singers rarely use personal amplification. If someone experiences an interruption in vocal health, it is our opportunity to be compassionate, rather than judgmental. Healthy dialogue around vocal care is an important part of our experience as singers (and directors and coaches and judges, etc.).

Understand that voices come in all shapes and sizes. Many factors influence phonation (speaking and singing): genetics, upbringing, regional diction, general health, and voice use and type. Phonation is also affected by hormone levels, external and internal stress, and allergens in the environment. Any number of reasons exist for an interruption in someone’s vocal health.

Exercise compassion

Have a care when discussing someone’s singing! Each human voice is unique and, whether consciously perceived, is linked to an individual’s identity. Sometimes our comments about another’s voice can be taken as a value judgement of the person themselves. These types of remarks can do lasting damage. How many been people in choir were admonished to “just stand in back and mouth the words” or asked, “shouldn’t you let (insert singer here) sing this song instead?” How many singers were encouraged not to sing by someone who thought they were being funny (or just cruel)?  How many of you have wished you would have found barbershop at an earlier age, but were perhaps afraid or shy about your  voice?

Vocal health and barbershop

The article cited above does a good job at bringing to light something that was considered taboo: talking about vocal injury. It explains what happens and why singers sometimes are at risk. Think about the hundreds of thousands of microcollisions that the vocal folds experience during a concert, and the cumulative effect on the vocal mechanisms and structures. What the article doesn’t really do is talk about preventative maintenance nor what to do to recover from a vocal injury.

Subsequent articles in the Vocal Health Series will address a variety of topics, including preventative measures and recovery processes and topics related to the lifespan of the singer, including the aging voice and the developing or changing voice.

Barbershop singing doesn’t normally use instruments, so attention to vocal health needs to be correspondingly higher. The BHS recently announced its efforts to contribute to the vocal success of its members by offering voice lessons and coaching. If you would like to have a vocal assessment, contact [email protected].

Happy, healthy singing, my friends!



Intro to barbershop: Building a habitat for harmony

7. November 2017 - 18:28

In your first year of barbershopping, you’ve been absorbing a tremendous volume of information. You’ve been learning the musical style, the nuances of performance, the many acronyms, and a few dozen baritone jokes. You may have had a chance to attend a convention, or sing in a major show, or even form a quartet.

Many of the resources of the Barbershop Harmony Society are aimed at supporting you as an individual. The education programs, vocal instruction, merchandise, even online performance videos, all support your desire and ability to learn, grow, and enjoy the actual moment you open your mouth and make music.

Beyond that, though, lies an extensive portfolio of activity in the Society that exists to create the environment in which harmony takes place. These support systems extend from your chapter through the geographic districts and onto the international barbershop harmony movement. Our pooled financial resources drive the work of thousands of talented volunteers and paid headquarters staff to support all facets of your chapter life and barbershop career.

Thriving, busy chapters are the ecosystem of barbershop — the habitat for harmony, if you will, where generations of singers find a continuous experience of friendship, musical satisfaction, and service to the community. If you and your chapter are not tapping these resources, you’re depriving yourself of a deeper, more enriching barbershop experience.

Creating leaders to build healthy chapters

Like every volunteer organization, a chapter runs on the volunteered strength and brains of its members. Rarely can a chapter afford to hire all the brains and labor hours needed to operate. The painful volunteer paradox is that those who are most active as performers, teachers and singers also end up being drafted into administrative roles — the classic problem of asking the busiest people to do still more, at the risk of burnout. Admittedly, more people join for singing than for leading/managing, but a deeper bench of leaders and project team members would almost certainly lead to better, more vibrant chapters.

That said, skills developed while leading a barbershop chapter can prove valuable in careers and life. Many younger Barbershoppers find that the lessons of collaboration, peer leadership and administrative willpower make them better employees, entrepreneurs and professional colleagues. Presenting chapter leadership as career development might encourage more early-career members to take a more active role. Leadership development resources via the Healthy Chapter Initiative help all leaders respond to chapter needs with effective programming and goal-setting.

Support for your chapter from the Healthy Chapter Initiative

Good leaders need a knowledge base to draw on. The Healthy Chapter Initiative organizes many  tools for Chapter Assessment, and a portfolio of Chapter Solutions for weekly programming, recruiting and promoting your chapter. A full-time staffer at Society headquarters can help guide you to further answers and nearby resources.

The Healthy Chapter Initiative also presents the Leadership College instructional track at the annual week-long Harmony University event in Nashville.

Help from barbershop talents in your neighborhood

Volunteer leadership in the Society’s 17 geographic districts forms the backbone of accessible, face-to-face education experiences. These vary in schedule and timing, but are generally 2-3 days long and located centrally to each district.   

District conventions are typically the largest regional gatherings. In addition to chorus and quartet contests, these often include educational activities, seminars, shows and leadership meetings.

Leadership Academies, held in many districts during the Fall and Winter months, teach the marketing, management and leadership aspects of chapter life. Spring and summer bring more music-intensive schools, with the emphasis primarily on coaching for quartets and choruses as well as personal musical development.  These schools often feature faculty consisting of championship caliber directors, coaches and quartets. For current schedules, see the Map of District Schools.

Direct support from district leaders

While much of the work of the Society’s Districts is delivered at their schools and conventions, many districts also provide direct personalized support to their chapters.

Resource people known under various titles of chapter counselors, chapter advocates, and chapter coaches, are available to help chapters find their way.

Standing Ovation evaluators provide direct feedback on chapter show performances and suggestions for improvement. Chorus Director Workshop Intensive events an be arranged by your district to help train your directors in your local area on a Saturday.

Most districts are also deeply involved in staging youth harmony camps that expand awareness of the style and Society to educators and students.

If you don’t know…ASK!

Eager new members have millions of ideas on how to share and extend barbershop. If you have a great idea, and want to find a way to make it happen, talk with your chapter leadership, and your district leadership. Energy, brainpower and “can-do” spirit propel the entire Society.

BHS Moving Towards Direct Deposit of Chapter and District Dues Payments

7. November 2017 - 0:27

The Barbershop Harmony Society has been working towards a new system of payment for chapter and district dues.  Some of you may be familiar with these efforts that we started over a year ago described as the ACH Transition Project.  As you may know, the current traditional system we use consists of mailing dues checks quarterly. Then, the recipient has to take it upon themselves to deposit the check, assuming the check made it safely. Or, when checks are lost or sent to past Treasurers, BHS reissues the check and the process starts over.

With our new process, not only will we almost completely eliminate the risk of losing the payment, but also it provides direct deposit into the chapter or district’s bank account, taking any burden of depositing off the recipient.

We are hoping to switch entirely to processing payments via ACH (Automated Clearing House). For those not familiar with ACH, it is a network that processes electronic financial transactions. Specifically, the Barbershop Harmony Society would use it for direct deposit of your chapter/district dues payments.  The processing currently applies to just U.S. chapters/districts but we hope to identify a solution for our Canadian chapters to provide options since we currently do not collect Canadian chapter dues.

Not only will you be helping your chapter and district by receiving your payments faster and reducing the risk of lost checks, you will be helping streamline payment processes for the Society as a whole.

By providing your bank account the information, the Barbershop Harmony Society will only have the ability to deposit payments into your bank account. We will not see any of your chapter’s transactions, balances or related financial information.

Chapters/Districts Who Have Already Provided Information

There are a number of chapters and districts who have already provided us the necessary information to move forward with testing this new system. The president, secretary, and treasurer of those entities should have received an email summarizing next steps. If you didn’t receive that email, please contact us at [email protected]

Add Your Chapter or District to the Program

If your chapter or district has not provided the necessary information, treasurers, please submit through this secure form by CLICKING HERE. If you’re uncomfortable providing this information electronically, you may call Finance Department at 615.673.4119 to provide the information over the phone.

The information that is needed to facilitate the ACH deposits is:

  • Bank Name
  • Bank Routing Number
  • Bank Account Number
  • Bank Account Type (i.e. Checking or Savings)

Please submit the information through the secure form above. Do NOT email the above information.


For a list of FAQ’s about the BHS Chapter & District Direct Deposit program, please CLICK HERE.

For questions or concerns, please contact [email protected]

Best seats at the best prices: Early Bird sales open November 1

31. Oktober 2017 - 17:47

Be the first to claim awesome seats for the 2018 International Contests — and the AIC Show! Registration opens Wednesday, November 1, 2017
12:00pm Central Daylight Time

You get first chance at in-demand seats!

When online sales open on Starting November 1, you can register for some of the most desirable seats on the first day!

Early Bird pricing saves $60 per person

Beginning November 1, get the best deal on the best week of the year. Make your plans now, and save hundreds over regular pricing.

Members and Associates save additional $30 on each registration

Being a part of the Society means additional savings on our biggest events. Enter your membership number at checkout to get our best rate.

Special rates for younger guests

Bring your younger kids for just $99 each. Make it a family affair! Plus, we’ve made it affordable for adults age 18-25 with a special rate with valid ID.

New! Get your seats on November 1 for
“Pitch Perfected: The 2018 AIC Show”


Make your vacation plans now to include the champs you love in a show that continues to top itself in creativity, fun and sheer musical awesomeness. (Did someone say… The Gas House Gang?)

Now you won’t have to wait — you can get the best seats right now! We’ve designed a floor plan with great seats at all price points — including some main floor seats under $40!

It starts on Wednesday, November 1, at

Spread the word about Next Generation events – download the posters

27. Oktober 2017 - 17:43

The energy and interest are starting to build for the Next Generation Barbershop Festival and Contests.  Full registrations are now open for 2018’s  Varsity Quartet Contest and Varsity Chorus Invitational, and 2019’s Junior Quartet Contest and Junior Chorus Invitational.

Trying to get something started in your school? Download these handy posters, print and hang.

Download the Varsity poster (PDF)

Download the Junior poster (PDF)

Think You Can’t Sing? Science Doesn’t Believe You

26. Oktober 2017 - 0:07

These words break our hearts every time we hear them: “I’m tone deaf. I can’t sing.” It’s usually accompanied by a smile or laugh, but the message is both clear and absolute. And wrong.

A great story on Toronto’s classical music site delves into the widely-held misconception that most people cannot sing.  

“That’s a blatant lie.”

Of all creative endeavours, singing is perhaps the most poorly understood. To the chagrin of vocal teachers everywhere, singing is the one pursuit where you will be told, you can’t sing, so don’t bother. Parents will readily pony up the resources for acting lessons, or soccer, but when it comes to the ability to sing, many people are still under the impression that it’s something magical – you either have it, or you don’t.

A study of undergrads at Queen’s University, found that about 17 percent reported themselves as being tone deaf. It’s such a common fallacy in our society that it has led to a world of singers — the small minority — and non-singers — the vast majority. But is that really based in reality? Science — and those vocal teachers —  say no.

Sean Hutchings is the Director of Research at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music. His lab looks into how music affects the mind, and how the mind affects music, in essence. He calls singing a “structured coordination of vocal muscles” at its most basic level. “Just like any type of muscular activity, it’s amenable to practice. We know that practising motor control can help. You can certainly learn to be better.” As he points out, speaking is already a form of muscle control. So, why is it that our society has put singing into such a rarefied category?

“Part of the reason that there has been a source of anxiety over singing is inadequate music education.” He points out that in older generations, in particular, the sole emphasis was on performance. When school children who couldn’t naturally hit the right notes, rather than training them, they would simply be told to mouth the words, and not sing at all. “There’s no better way to make sure someone is bad at something than to tell them they can’t do it.”

Read –and share — the entire story at Think You Can’t Sing? Science Doesn’t Believe You.

See generosity change lives in Foundation Annual Report

24. Oktober 2017 - 23:51

Donor dollars power the future of barbershop, and you can see how in the new Annual Report of Harmony Foundation International. You can gain insight into the breadth of programming supported by the generosity of donors, ranging from leadership education through the Healthy Chapter Initiative, to director scholarships to Harmony University, to our youth activities and Festivals.

Take a minute to browse around the Foundation’s refreshed web site, and see other stories of lives changed — both as recipients and as donors.

Apple Boys brings barbershop to Broadway in November

20. Oktober 2017 - 23:19

Nearly forty years after The Buffalo Bills made barbershop history in the stage premiere of The Music Man, a new show featuring a quartet has scheduled its night on Broadway.

The Apple Boys: A New Barbershop Quartet Musical will premiere on Wednesday, November 8th at Ars Nova, a midtown theater known for presenting new work. (Sorry, both performances are already sold out!) Featuring an original score, the story is set at the turn of the twentieth century in Coney Island, where a strongman, a hotdog vendor, a roller coaster operator and an apple delivery man meet and discover the magic of barbershop harmony.

The cast of four includes Tony-nominated actress Emily Skeggs (Fun Home.) You can view some highlights from the show on YouTube.

We’re always excited to see artists expanding the range of ways that barbershop harmony can be incorporated into new works. Recent years have seen multiple regional theater productions of a contemporary show about race, identity, and yes, barbershop harmony. As with many new theatrical works, the development budget for The Apple Boys is slight, and the producers would of course welcome your interest in the project.