A cappella group performing on stage
The A Cappella Blog

Learning a Song in One Day

Absurdist A Cappella

This time we discuss how to arrange, learn and choreograph a song for a big show in one day.

Setting the Stage: Most of us who have watched Hollywoodized versions of choirs and performance groups know that it’s not only possible but beneficial to prepare for your big performance with as little time as possible. It will make you looser, fresher, and you’ll have that whole plucky underdog thing going for you that audiences and judges just can’t resist. Therefore, it’s imperative for any successful a cappella group to know how to arrange, learn and choreograph a song in a day or less.

Song Selection: On a practical level, you’re going to want to pick something easy to arrange here—ideally, something that will translate well to big block chords and/or that has a similar structure to another song you already have in your repertoire. (Already do “Ice, Ice Baby?” Consider taking on “Under Pressure.”) Aside from ease of arrangement, you’re going to want to think about a song that will match your inspirational underdog story—something that will get the crowd clapping along; a song that is, itself, inspirational; something familiar that fans will actively want to like. Think along the lines of Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten.”

Setting: The bigger the show, the better. There’s nothing quite like high stakes for an improbable success story.

Choreography: You want to focus as much of your limited time and energy as possible on choreography. You have an a cappella group—clearly you can sing. As long as you’re remotely in tune, most of your audience won’t have a nuanced enough knowledge of a cappella to recognize a bunch of technical flaws—they’ll just assume you’re good. Crank up the choreography, though, and you’re really cooking—this is something everyone can notice, and when you couple adequate musicianship with good choreography it makes you look like a pro—especially when you do it within a brief window of time.

Other Notes: Your group’s leadership may insist that you hold the course with songs the group knows well and has practiced to no end. It’s this brand of small thinking that has kept your group from reaching its full potential. Grab control, toss out the sheet music, and start from scratch. You’re sure to like the results.

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