Start-Up Groups

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #168: Start-Up Groups

We hear a lot about groups with long traditions, the likes of The Whiffenpoofs, Smiffenpoofs, and The Nassoons. Groups that have been around longer than some retired people have been alive. I have a lot of respect for these longstanding institutions in the a cappella world, but I also love it when we get to see new groups arise.

New groups can come and go, but it’s in those initial years when the energy can catch fire—before there are rules to break and when a group is just figuring out its identity on stage, not to mention how it operates behind the scenes.

Start-up groups have the potential to change the game, whether it’s Rutgers Casual Harmony that was bringing System of a Down and Muse to the stage in its first year of competition long before such acts were en vogue in a cappella, or CSUN Acasola innovative structure and goal-setting model. Plenty of new groups start more quietly, with less defined objectives, too, and that’s also great because that dynamic shares the same core factor of starting something new. As such, new groups have all manner of potential. They might do anything, and their potential has no limits, bounds, or pre-existing structures to fit into. 

I love it!

The Diversity of Acts In a Competition

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #167: The Diversity of Acts In a Competition

Watching an a cappella group perform a show can be entertaining and enriching for the opportunity to see everything a group has to offer—their whole repertoire, or at least a broad enough sampling to get the gist of everything they’re capable of. Just the same, I find myself drawing even more enjoyment from watching groups in competition.

That’s not to say that competition itself intrinsically good (or, at the least, that’s not an argument I intend to delve into here) but rather that I especially appreciate the opportunity to hear a variety of groups perform in the same sitting. Moreover, it’s particularly entertaining to hear them perform what they think of as their best ten-to-fifteen minutes of material—the material they feel is most likely to win the competition.

The past fifteen years have seen an outstanding proliferation of a cappella styles. Gone are the days when it was wacky for a group to perform a song by an original artist of another gender, or when it’s mind-blowing to hear progressive rock covered in contemporary a cappella. Sub-genres of electronic dance music, country, alternative, hip-hop, and (increasingly) originals are all equally as likely to have representation as top forty songs or classics. Moreover, it’s increasingly likely that you’ll hear all of these sub-genres—and all these sub-genres handled with different aesthetics and core sounds—within a single show.

Today’s a cappella shows allow attendees to tune into the diversity of music available in the world, and the diversity of what a cappella groups are up to.

 

I love it!

Cocoa Butter Kisses

Tuesday Tubin'

This week we present the UC Davis Liquid Hotplates performing Chance the Rapper's "Cocoa Butter Kisses."

Mashups

The Competitor's Edge

In this edition, the focus is mashups.

Mashups aren’t inherently good or innovative.

Mashups are en vogue in the music world. More and more DJs are producing them and advances in music software have made it increasingly easy for amateurs to get in on the game. Thus, it’s only natural that the a cappella world would hop on board.

Enter Pitch Perfect and The Sing-Off, each of which featured mashups prominently and all of a sudden a lot of a cappella groups are trying their hands at mashups.

Mashups are still both new and challenging enough that it’s easy for groups to assume that the very act of bringing a mashup to competition will come across as an innovative enough novelty to win the favor of audience members and judges. The fact of the matter is that with so many groups performing mashups, the novelty is all but gone. Don’t get me wrong—groups that can arrange and execute with excellence, or that can be truly creative about the choice of songs or how to combine them, can still make magic out of mashups. But a group shouldn’t think of mashups as inherently impressive to judges.

Think about connections.

When groups consider mashups, they need to consider how the songs will function together melodically, rhythmically, and thematically. If the songs don’t fit aurally, there’s a real risk of a group losing all sense of smooth transitions and the cool gestalt effect of songs coming together, instead winding up with cacophonous noise. Similarly, if listeners can’t understand why these two (or more) songs are being linked, it can lead to a moment of confusion—that moment breaks the illusion of your set. The goal is to make the audience take a journey with you and lose itself in your music. If the general audience member stops to think critically about your set while it’s happening, it usually means they’re distracted from your performance.

How have you seen mashups contribute to a group’s success? When have you seen them go wrong? Let us know in the comments.

Rediscovering an Album

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

b>Reason #166: Rediscovering an Album

You’re flipping through radio stations in the car, and you come upon a song you used to love. One you haven’t thought of, much less heard, for years. Maybe that song transports you back in time. Or maybe you write a new chapter, re-appropriating that song for the present moment.

For those of us with scores of a cappella on our hard drives and phones, it’s not unusual to have this very experience with vocal music. It can be all the more intriguing to take a stroll through a cappella memory lane for the changes in voices—particularly for scholastic groups that tend to have major turn over at least once every four years—in addition to changes in recording and production technology that have made it all the easier to earmark different eras in a group’s history.

Out of all of this, I take particular pleasure in rediscovering an old album. Time flies, and while discovering new music remains an ongoing, important process, taking a moment to indulge in something old can be a pleasure all its own.

I love it!

Came Here For Love

Tuesday Tubin'

This week we present Syracuse University Main Squeeze performing Ella Eyre's "Came Here for Love."

Next Page
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
1-800-237-8255
Building a Personal Connection to a Song
Dedications
Finesse
Vocal Percussion
Subtle Movement
You'll Be in My Heart
Adapting to the Audience
Adapting To The Environment
From Eden
Song Selection
Embedded Solos