Woodshedding - An Introduction(Part 1 of 5 in a series) --provided to PROBE by Toban Dvoretzky, President of AHSOW
"Authentic woodshedding" is the way our Society began -- a tenor, bari and bass harmonizing to a lead's melody without referring to a printed or familiar arrangement. Authentic woodshedding is one of the most productive and fulfilling activities that barbershoppers could choose to do.
The question has arisen: "Is woodshedding an art that one has to be born with, or can it be learned?"
As with most other skills, effective woodshedding is -- and can indeed be -- learned. A basic sense of circle-of-fifths (barbershop) chord-progressions is necessary. Barbershoppers can gain this sense in several ways. Folks with jazz or piano backgrounds have a beginning advantage, as should anyone with a year or two of college-level music theory. Barbershoppers who have sung more than one voice part in their chorus or quartet also have an initial advantage.
Barbershoppers who don't read music, or those whose first or only musical experience began when they entered barbershopping, can also most definitely learn to woodshed. The prerequisite is an understanding of scales and intervals (the space between one note and the next). AHSOW strongly recommends that prospective woodshedders invest in the voice-part-predominant Barberpole Cat tapes produced by the Society. The Barberpole Cat songs are especially strong, pure barbershop, and listening to them intently and repeatedly will impart a strong sense of the *patterns* typical of each of the barbershop voice-parts.
Another brand-new resource is the Barbershop Multimedia CD-ROM, recorded by the Studio One quartet (http://www.studioonequartet.com/CDs_and_Software/recordframe.htm). Studio One has recorded all 65 songs in the Heritage of Harmony Songbook, with four-part separation. Each recorded song is available for playback from CD-ROM software. Go to the web address above, or contact Dave Warkentin (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information. This sounds like a wonderful way for barbershoppers of all levels to learn more about the various barbershop voice parts and the patterns most common to each.
Feel free to contact AHSOW, Inc. at any time with inquiries about woodshedding.