Close Harmony History

Music quartets remind us of days gone by and the genre of romantic songs that touched our hearts. Four-part vocal harmony has been a staple of the music scene since ancient times, which historically featured small madrigal groups and a’capella choruses.

By mid 19th century men’s, women’s and mixed chorale assemblies vocalized in the form of barbershop quartets, gospel choirs and popular music ensembles. The commonality of these diverse musical expressions was their presentation with or sans instrumental accompaniment.

During the 1940’s and 1950’s a close vocal harmony resurgence revived popular music, inspiring scores of melodic singing groups including the renowned Ames Brothers, Mills Brothers, Williams Brothers, Andrews Sisters, McGuire Sisters, Four Lads and Platters. This era’s harmonizing success utilized the classic format of selecting easily singable and recognizable melodies thus conspiring to inspire an unforgettable blend of diverse vocal parts.

Traditionally, larger family groups enjoy a harmonizing advantage due to possessing similar vocal timbres within various ranges. Everything from church choirs to school performances and street corner crooning encouraged what began as family entertainment gatherings before — and in spite of — TV’s attention consuming invention.

Early male quartets coveted a dominant moving baseline — evident in Elvis’ Jordanaires Singers–immortalized within Johnny Cash’s hit record “Daddy Sang Base.” Modern pop music harmonics emphasized a closer, tighter structure highlighting dissonance topped with elegant high notes.

The historical invention of close harmony, its traditional audience appreciation and progressive refinement through diverse music eras has reached its zenith within popular modern reprises.