2019 Student Research Conference:
32nd Annual Student Research Conference

The Characteristic Timbre of the Male Barbershop Quartet

Colin D. Drown
Dr. James Cottingham (Coe College) and Dr. Vayujeet Gokhale, Faculty Mentors

We research the overtone structure and intonation unique to the barbershop sound as a vocal ensemble style. The principal resource for this investigation is the library of online recordings of the 2016 and 2017 international competitions sponsored by the Barbershop Harmony Society. These recordings include hundreds of quartets in uniform recording conditions alongside rankings by judges who serve as expert listeners. From each recording, we obtain a sample of a loud major chord sung on an open vowel, investigate its tuning, and construct a spectral contour with amplitudes normalized to simplify comparisons. From the consistency of these spectral contours, we qualify the timbral feature distinguishing the barbershop sound. In addition, we find strong correlations between small differences in spectral envelope and ranking by contest judges.

Keywords: acoustics, physics, music, barbershop


Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 209-4
Location: MC 210
Time: 11:00

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