What is Barbershop?

Fundamentally, Barbershop is a sound; the warm, full, resonant sound of four voice parts in close harmony. Barbershop arrangements exploit a special quality of unaccompanied music – that some combinations of sung notes reinforce each other to make a rich ringing chord. Hearing that ‘lock and ring’ can make the hairs stand up on your neck!

Drawing from a mixture African and European traditions, Barbershop emerged as a distinct musical style in 19th century America, where quartet singing was common on street corners and in the Barber-shops. After its heyday in the late 1800’s, Barbershop fell out of fashion and was becoming a lost form until a revival movement sprang up in the 1930’s. Early Barbershop revival had a very nostalgic focus and adhered rigidly to tradition, but the modern barbershop scene is evolving and vibrant, with a huge range of repertoire, slick arrangements and dynamic performances.

Barbershop Harmony New ZealandMen’s barbershop is supported by a global organisation which coordinates a program of competitions, assessment and development, and boasts a huge membership.  Globally there are over 30,000 members actively involved in rehearsals, performance and the simple joy of singing together as friends.

Yes, the music is an important part of it, but this huge world-wide community of barbershoppers also share an amazing comeraderie. Listen here to what some singers from Indiana and Kentucky have to say about that. 


Barbershop in NZ.

Barbershop enjoys an active following here in New Zealand, with the Barbershop Harmony New Zealand (BHNZ) boasting 15 chapters.

We’re also very proud NZ’s own ‘Musical Island Boys’ are the 2014 Barbershop Harmony Society international quartet champions.

Technical Stuff

‘Barbershop 7ths’, ‘Ringing Chords’, ‘Resonant Space’, ‘Just Intonation’, ‘Polecats’ …  yes Barbershop has its jargon and it’s technical side. It’s a big subject which we can’t do justice to here, but we can recommend the following links as a starting point.

Barbershop Wiki

Sweet Adelines International

We also recommend learning-in-action, and we believe the best way to learn about singing is to sing!  Visit or join us so we can share our knowledge and love of this wonderful musical style.

Visit a Rehearsal

If you’re looking for a singing group to join or to book, please drop in to audition us!  We love to share our craft, and visitors are always welcome.

Rehearsals are often boisterous, fun affairs but we also work hard.  Depending on when you visit we may be focussing on core techniques, learning songs, or polishing performance, so if we’re all hooting or humming weirdly please bear with us – something more musical will be along shortly.

We rehearse almost every Monday from 7:15pm until 9:45, at Brake Street Methodist Church, Church Corner. See it on Google Maps

If you’d prefer to talk with someone before you come, please call Rob Grieve on (03 3832239 or 021 1599231