Pocketappella

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #174: Pocketappella

Some friends and I started casually using the term “pocketappella” in the mid-2000s in reference to the bevy of a cappella performers—particularly male soloists—who had a tendency to put their hands in their pockets and assume a sort of aw shucks casual posture as they took the lead on a song.

Pocketappella is not necessarily good—there’s a very real argument that it undermines the soloist’s potential to really emote or otherwise perform a song. I’m not altogether disappointed to have seen the trope die down a bit in recent years. Just the same, it’s a distinctive piece of a cappella culture—a pattern that showed up often enough to emerge a recognizable part of the community, and to do so in a time before YouTube had really took hold and performers could be so directly influenced by one another on a large scale.

 It’s simple. It’s a little silly. But just the same…

I love it!

Lay Me Down

Tuesday Tubin'

This week, we present The Chapman University ChapTones performing Sam Smith's "Lay Me Down."

Off-Beat Openings

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #173: Off-Beat Openings

Though more and more a cappella groups have started performing and recording original music, covers remain a staple of the form. It can be particularly pleasing to the ear when a group doesn’t only settle for covering a popular song, but goes the extra step to make the song their own in the early going before launching into a more straightforward cover.

Off-beat openings—turning the intro or even whole first verse into a slow jam, or otherwise altering the tempo or texture—can provide a creative slant on a popular song, not to mention making it all the more satisfying when the more conventional cover takes hold, after the audience was struggling to try to place it, or just starting to want to hear the familiar tune. These openings surprise the audience, freshen song selections, and allow an a cappella group to show its personality.

I love it!

The One Person Rocking Out the Hardest

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #172: The One Person Rocking Out the Hardest

We’ve all seen it. At the dance club. In the children’s choir. On stage for the community theater musical. There are people who are grooving. People who look a little awkward. And that one person. That one person who may or may not be a great dancer, but who is clearly taking this party to the next level, animated, pumped, threatening to break the bounds of their body with their super-powered moves. 

A cappella does not escape this phenomenon, when there’s often times that one group member who appears a little more hyper or a little more emotionally invested, and through whatever confluence of these visual factors stands out from the pack—passionate, proud, and completely unable to contain her or his excitement on stage.

I’m not saying that having a group member stick out visually like this is the best idea for a competition, but in the context of an everyday performance, these special singers can elevate routine exhibition to engaging performance that’s more memorable, more exciting, and keeps people talking about it.

I love it!

Hush Hush

Tuesday Tubin'

This week we present The Bristol Suspensions performing The Pussycat Dolls' "Hush Hush."

Creating Moments

The Competitor's Edge

In this edition, the focus is on creating moments.

Be remembered.

In reviewing a cappella performances, and determining whether a set really worked, I rely most upon the dominant impression—the biggest thing I’ll take away from a given performance. Sometimes the dominant impression has to do with a group’s ability (or inability) to blend, to use dynamic variation, to choreograph, or to execute a complex arrangement. Other times it comes down to a moment.

A truly sublime moment in a cappella can go a long way toward making or breaking a set. It’s that moment that truly gives me chills. That makes me want to stand up and cheer. That makes me laugh out loud. These are the moments that stick with audience members and judges alike and that are disproportionately likely to shape everyone’s overall impression of your set.

Be organic.

You can’t force moments. I’ve seen groups go for dramatic bits of showmanship—inserting acrobatics or over-the-top choreography; belting for no clear reason—that are more confusing that vocally or visually stunning. Truly great moments feel like organic extensions of the set up to that moment—mashing songs together, building a upon movements or star players that were only hinted at earlier in the performance, or even something as seemingly simple as a fully realized climax to a crescendo. Groups that build upon the raw components of their set to result in a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts have a chance at achieving something truly remarkable on the competition stage.  

Get the timing right.

Ideally, a group wants for every song to be spectacular in its own way. When we talk about arriving at a defining moment, though, you need to be cautious about not peaking too early. Groups that arrive at their best moment in their first song run the risk of having the next eight minutes of their sets feel like a disappointment. Conversely, if a group can find a way to create the sensation they are continuing to build and build and build, arriving at spectacular point in the final song is a great way to give the set a feeling of wholeness and leave a memorable impression.

How have you seen groups make moments in competition? Let us know in the comments..

Next Page
Pocketappella
Lay Me Down
Off-Beat Openings
The One Person Rocking Out the Hardest
Hush Hush
Creating Moments
The End to Controversy on the Internet
Heavenly Father
Controversy on the Internet
Improvisation
Wake Up Everybody
Start-Up Groups
The Diversity of Acts In a Competition
Cocoa Butter Kisses
Mashups
Rediscovering an Album
Came Here For Love
Bringing Alumni on Stage
Big Crescendos
Big Crescendos
Halloween Mashup
Making the Most of Your Time
Fun Encores
Praying
Soloists Who Sound Like the Original Artist
The Wall of Sound
Hold On, We're Going Home
Engaging the Audience
When Someone Nails a Stevie Wonder Solo
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