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I teach in Oregon City and online videochat. I work with all ages and levels and a variety of styles. I specialize in creative exploration, the psychology of music, and conscious music practices. Visit the lessons page to learn more.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Copying Is Not Theft: Barbershop Arrangement pt2

see part 1 to check out the original song and the context that inspired my version

Announcing my first published barbershop arrangement:
Copying Is Not Theft by Nina Paley

The song is licensed Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 (as is my entire website). This means I have full legal right to do anything I want with it as long as I credit Nina and I license my version the same way. Lots of people have already made tons of variations of the song from jazz to punk rock versions.

I made my barbershop arrangement using the free open-source music notation software Musescore. This software not only produces great looking results, but it supports fine tuning of pitch. I adjusted all the pitches to match just intonation tuning to 1-cent accuracy. If you play the file in Musescore, the harmonies are all well tuned to get nice pure barbershop harmonies (though the sound is a saxophone sample). [side note: to play back with swing rhythm in Musescore, go to the menu display>Play Panel]

Download the Musescore file. Or Download a PDF.

I made a quick audio recording by overdubbing my own singing and created fast-paced and slightly slower versions, an old-timey mix with virtual vinyl record crackles and such, and dedicated learning tracks for each part (with select part on one side of stereo and the other three on the other side).

Here's an embedded audio player:

All the files are available to download at the best free, non-profit media sharing website: automatically creates many file formats, so you can download any format you like of the audio and do whatever you want with it (just include the CC-BY-SA license and credit both me and Nina if you release any modified version).

I really hope some talented animator is up for creating an old-timey cartoon, maybe inspired by Nina's original cartoon but with a quartet singing… And I hope barbershop quartets out there choose to learn the song and perform it and perhaps make new recordings.

Whether for a video version or for live performance, I have some ideas about choreography. The way I arranged the song, the idea is: the lead sings the first phrase alone, but the baritone jumps in and cuts off the lead for the second phrase. Then they copy each other and sing the third phrase together, splitting into harmony at the end, and then the whole quartet joins in.

Overall, the arrangement follows very traditional barbershop harmony, full of all the little embellishments and with a new tag at the end. I added a decent amount of complexity that makes it more advanced than the most basic arrangement might have been, but in the end I stuck with mostly accessible stuff.

So go copy this! Have fun! Change it! Perform it! Whatever! I'd love to be notified when anyone does something with this, but there's no legal requirement to do so.

In harmony,

P.S. I added just the "Copying Is Fun" tag to the wonderful barbershop tag collection at


  1. This is wonderful! I love barbershop quartet singing anyway (sometimes sing bass in pickup quartets myself), and of course was already a fan of the song. Thank you for doing such a thorough posting too: recordings, score, Internet Archive link, etc.

    -Karl Fogel

  2. Thanks, Nina!! So glad to get your comment!

    It just needs an updated quartet-focused old-timey animation now… ;)

    (although a live performance video from a quartet would be great too! I don't know if I'll soon be able to make that happen, but we'll see. I hope other singers don't wait for me to do it first…)

  3. Oh man, the idea for the barbershop arrangement is perfect! I assume each voice is your own as well? Love it dude.

  4. Yes, perfect!! Just what I was looking for - some example of using JI for barbershop. And a lyrical subject matter near and dear to my own heart! Thanks.

    (And, perhaps Nina even remembers me from the Summer School for Designing a Society 1994 and a couple of social visits the subsequent autumn in San Francisco? Well, even if not, it's always a pleasure to run across Nina's work in unexpected places!)