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10 Tips for Nailing Your A Cappella Audition

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Valerie J. Wilson is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about marketing, health and wellness, education, and the arts. She teaches writing classes at Syracuse University and also owns and operations her own freelance writing business.

The audition is coming up, and you're dusting off the pre-performance jitters. Take the following tips into consideration.

1. Choose the right song. Easier said than done, isn’t it? But this choice is of paramount importance. Consider the venue and its acoustics, and be sure to choose a song that showcases your entire vocal range, as well as your style, personality, and stage presence.

2. Get coached. It’s not always about hitting every note with perfection. It’s about making a connection with your listeners. If you can afford it, a professional voice coach can and will help you with everything from consistency to allowing your emotions to come out while you sing to stretching your range. If you can’t work with a professional, seek out people singing a cappella at your school or in your community and ask for their honest opinion of what you’re bringing to your audition.

3. Consciously decide how you are going to stand out above the rest. Competition is tough, but you already know this. You need to be true to yourself and let your best self make a mark. Is it going to be that one note that completely blows them away? Is it going to be the one dramatic moment that isn't under or overdone?

If you’re singing in a group, the chemistry between all of you is extremely important. The people evaluating your audition are looking for that, almost as much as they are looking for voice and talent.

4. Be prepared to answer some questions before you start to sing. This is actually done as a favor to you, in hopes that you'll get your breathing regulated and become comfortable in the environment.

By all means, be sure to check out your own online reputation before sharing your social media links. You never know whether the group you hope to be a part of may be scouting you online.

5. Pitch pipes are fine. If you're not comfortable with that idea, do a little homework before the audition to see if a piano will be available for you to just strike the one note. If both of these options fall short for you, the back-up plan is to quietly, or even in your head, hit the highest note of the song. It's entirely rare to have a perfect pitch; your judges will know this and won’t be bothered at all by the need to check your pitch.

6. Morning, noon, and night: practice. There’s no fall-back. You have to be ready for the unexpected, and if you’re seasoned and confident with your choice of songs, you’ll be in a better position to handle the stress of something going a bit wrong during the performance.

7. Quiet your head. A few minutes before you walk into your audition, find a quiet space, and focus on your breathing. Shut the entire world out. Become quiet. Just be. Get centered. And get ready to nail it.

8. Picking an audition piece. Know the group’s repertoire and pick something that complements the group’s identity, or pushes boundaries in a way that won’t offend the existing members’ sensibilities.

You should also pick a song you know very well because, let's face it: you're going to be nervous. Let it show off one or two big notes in your voice, but beyond those big moments, take care to show them you're nimble around phrasing and volume. That kind of self-editing shows that you put musicality before your own spotlight.

9. Stay loose! You’ll be much more engaging to watch if you're relaxed and loose. Be yourself. Do what you love to do. And show that you're truly enjoying yourself. That alone will make you appear confident and comfortable, and that’s what they are looking for.

10. Do your homework. Who is evaluating your audition? What are their backgrounds? Is it a completely blind audition? If not, it’s your job to find out what they’ve done, what their style is, what they are looking for -- and ultimately what it’s going to take to impress them.

Cliché or not, focus on enjoying yourself. When you do, they will, too. Get out there, own it, and break a leg!

A Cappella Albums You Must Have In Your Collection

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Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer, business owner and music enthusiast. Living in Southern California provides her with several opportunities to discover, see and hear new music from all kinds of genres. Follow her on Facebook> and Twitter today!

When it comes to music, no genre can really compare with the excitement and joy that a great a cappella group can bring us. A cappella is so much fun to listen to, as you can really hear the tone and ability of each of the singers' voices in the group, therefore, it is only natural that the more albums you can listen to, the better.

However, no matter how many albums our collections are comprised of, we’ll always find room for one or two more. Many albums out there are absolutely essential to complete an a cappella fan’s collection. Here, we share a list of those albums that any true fan should own.

1) No Frills by The Persuasions
This soulful album is amazingly well done, and some have said that it was the group's best ever. First released in 1984, this album includes a medley of “Under the Boardwalk” and “Sand in My Shoes.”

It has been called nostalgic, as it seems to take a look at the past and what The Persuasions have done before. This album is a great addition to any collection.

2) Say You Love Me by Vox One
Surprisingly enough, this album was actually first released in Japan! Seven of the songs on here were never released in the United States, which makes it even more appealing for American fans to own.

Vox one has won many awards for their unique style of music, setting them apart from all other a cappella groups.

3) The Sing Series

Even for those who are not as in tune, shall we say, with a cappella and its many facets, you can still have a deep enjoyment for this particular album. Within this series, the goal was to give artists the chance to grow their talent and be heard by a much bigger audience than ever before.

Up-and-coming a cappella artists get to share an album with more well-known artists, which is always exciting and allows for greater publicity. The Sing albums are quite fun and exciting to listen to!

4) The Women Gather by Sweet Honey in the Rock

Sweet Honey in the Rock is different from any other a cappella group out there. Each song is a story, drawing its listeners in and making them want to stay to hear the end. Many of their songs have been written and themed after the Civil Rights Movement, and the women truly showcase their talent in each and every song.

This particular album is their 30th anniversary album, making it extra special. The material is new and refreshing for listeners.

5) Watch Me Fly by Talisman A Cappella

Talisman A Cappella has been called “one of the most significant a cappella groups to come” (Sherry Winston), and this is evident on their album Watch Me Fly. They say that they wanted this album to be one that everyone could relate to, and they certainly surpass this goal, as evidenced by the amount of people who purchased this album.

Watch Me Fly takes its listeners on a journey through the struggles of life, some that we may overcome and others in which the outcome is unknown. It is a classic in any collection.

These albums span a wide variety of talents, subjects and emotions. They were hits when first released, and they continue to be hits today. It’s time to make your collection complete.

The Best Apps for Tracking Your Pitch

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Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from the Los Angeles area. As the founder of Gryffin Media, her writing covers everything from marketing and the music industry to the latest in mobile technology and social media.

Want to be pitch-perfect? Nowadays, technology has made it possible to make sure your voice pitch is on point. Apps, for instance, are a great way to track your voice and pitch, and below is a list of some of those that you can choose from:

VoiceCoach

Celebrity vocal coach, Bret Manning, makes sure you stay on pitch with the VoiceCoach app. Exercises can be adjusted based on your voice type and range. This app also helps your improve your tone, technique and control to increase your range and endurance--all at your own pace.

VoiceTutor

Your own personal voice instructor at a reasonable price, VoiceTutor is a must-have for those who want to better their voice. Like a real-life voice instructor, the app first provides you with a diagnostic to determine what areas in your singing style need to be improved.

With the data gathered from the diagnostic in mind, the app goes on to provide specialized lessons for your voice. From the fundamentals of singing theory to vocal chord strengthening exercises, VoiceTutor is a valuable tool for beginning and expert singers alike.

Pitch Pipe+

Pitch Pipe+ is an application for both singers and those who want to tune instruments. Some useful features include chromatic pitch pipes, of which you can choose between C-C and F-F pipes. It also enables you to playback six octaves worth of pitches. The guitar tuner view is helpful if you want to tune to Standard, Dropped D, DADGAD, Open D, Open G or Open A.

Do Re Mi Ear Training

Having the ability to hear notes correctly is essential to singing in pitch. Do Re Mi Ear Training, the portable Solfège app, is an advantageous resource for pitch recognition, interval training and an overall understanding of music theory. The app also provides a plethora of exercises and customizable settings.

Singer’s Friend

Another app for helping to properly warm up and develop your voice is Singer’s Friend. You can tweak settings based on your range, allowing you to choose from 15 distinct scale patterns. Proper voice exercises are important for improving technique and staying on pitch.

Sing Harmonies

Want to work on your harmonies? This unique app is for you! It consists of three songs (“Lean on Me”, “Proud Mary” and “Teach Your Children”), each with four-part harmony presented by experienced singers.

The beauty of this app is that it allows you to adjust settings, such as muting certain voices, to practice harmonies by yourself or with other singers. Additional four-part harmony songs are in the works.

Vocalize

If you want to get even more serious with developing and tracking your voice and pitch, Vocalize is the most comprehensive app (and most expensive of these featured apps) for vocal training. Along with numerous other features, this app provides advice on topics such as songwriting and interviews from professionals, such as ENT (ears, nose, and throat) doctors.

Along with using these apps, it would be beneficial to use aromatherapy as a means of preserving and soothing your voice. For instance, a vaporizer with aromatherapy leaves would be great to use during vocal exercises. Caring for your voice in this way as well as with any of these apps will ensure you keep your pipes in tip-top shape.

How Important Is Wardrobe for Competition

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Sarah Boisvert is a writer who covers a variety of topics including business, offices, and how to liquidate office furniture. She is a pianist and singer and has particular interest in musical theatre and jazz.

A music performance should be an auditory contest. But we do not listen to music with our eyes closed at competitions. Since we see the performers as part of the show, it makes sense for the participants to consider visual impact as part of the competition.

Music is an expressive art form that conveys emotion or tells a story, and wardrobe is an essential part of that story. Bess singing Gershwin’s “I Loves You, Porky” from Porky and Bess in a religious habit would not fit with the lyrics, “if you can keep me, I wants to stay here.”

Whether a soloist or a group, wardrobe can help sell a song to the audience. Of course, a cappella groups should follow a few guidelines.

Reflect the Music’s Message
As mentioned before, choose costumes that convey the message of your repertoire. Try not to clash with the overall theme.

If you’re singing a set of all-American tunes by George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Richard Rodgers, then red, white, and blue is a nice color scheme.

While each song may be unique, group the overall concepts into two groups, as there is usually time for a costume change. Perhaps try a fun, upbeat section in bright colors, followed by a sophisticated finale in black and white formal attire.

Don’t Go Too Far
Yes, it’s important to tie wardrobe into the theme, but don’t get carried away. Tasteful red, white, and blue colors suggest American music – hint, hint. While red sequined tops with matching blue and white hats scream tacky. Enhance the music; don’t take away from it!

Sex Sells – or NOT!
The advertising adage “sex sells” may be true in some circumstances, but not in an a cappella competition. Music judges watch American Idol and all the other TV reality shows, and have by now seen it all. Literally. But you don’t know their personal feelings about dress or their religious beliefs. So it’s better to play it safe. A girl can never go wrong with tasteful clothing. Again, something that merely suggests sexy is more provocative than being naked.

In this day and age of musical spectaculars, it’s easy to get pulled into thinking sets and costumes are all important. And yes, they do help convey the message of a song. But first and foremost, let the music come through and speak, for it is the universal language.

10 Pointers for Choosing the Best Songs for Your Group

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Erin Steiner is a freelance writer from Portland, Oregon, who writes on a variety of topics.

The very last thing you want to do is open up your Reputation.com account and find out that people have panned your group’s latest performance. Thankfully there are plenty of things that you can do that will keep that from happening, and it all starts with making sure you choose the right songs.

Wouldn’t it be great if everybody had the same favorite song and its arrangement perfectly matched your group’s requirements? In the event that this isn’t the case for your group, here are some things that will make choosing your next song easier.

1. A good a cappella song is one in which your vocalists can comfortably and easily form “chords.”

2. The best songs are those that are tuned to your group’s existing register. Instead of trying to find a way to “soprano-ize” a baritone line, simply choose songs that are in a higher register (or a lower register if your group is light on sopranos).

3. Choose songs that will showcase your entire ensemble. This means that the song has parts outside of the melody line that are worth highlighting and letting stand on their own. If the supporting “instrumentation” is boring, find a better song.

4. A good song, particularly for an a cappella group, is one in which voices in other ranges can take over the melody line. Typically it is the higher voice or the sopranos who focus on the melody line, but a good song is one in which even the baritones can take over the melody without making the song sound weird.

5. To earn extra points with your audience, choose a song that has varied beats and rhythms. Something that stays in the same time signature with the same repeated beat progression is easier to sing, but they won’t be fun to sing and won’t wow your listeners.

6. Find a song with a melody that lends itself nicely to harmonizing. This way you can have a vocally layered lyrics as well as “supporting” vocals. This makes the sound more layered and interesting to listen to.

7. Use songs that are easy to mash up to create something new. Mash-ups are all the rage right now, and they can be really fun and interesting to sing.

8. There are certain songs that should be avoided at all costs—you know them because you’ll groan when you hear them and, for some reason, they seem to be the favorites of karaoke singers. Stay away from the songs that karaoke singers love to sing.

9. Balance is important: It’s hard to do a song as an a cappella group when it has an extended instrumental break in it (you can simply cut it off if it happens at the end of the song). Sure, you can beat box and do scat vocal versions of the instruments used in the song, but that stops being interesting and turns into an awkward cliché pretty quickly. Choose songs in which the vocals are the focal point.

10. Choose songs that you love! If you’re having fun singing, the audience will have fun listening. It’s that easy.

Why do British groups travel to America?

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All The King’s Men is an all-male a cappella group out of King’s College in London. Members of the group compiled this article based on their experiences touring in the United States.

All the King's Men are in the middle of their third USA tour and this is their fourth visit to the states in two years. More and more British groups are travelling to the states every year to visit colleges and meet with an average of twenty a cappella groups per trip to find out how different the two national scenes are. All the King's Men have visited colleges on both the west coast and east coast and have met groups from around the country at the ICCA Finals in 2012. All these experiences have helped All the King's Men to find their own unique style which enabled them to have such successes in 2012 such as becoming Voice Festival UK University Champions and arriving in Singapore and Hong Kong made the group the first British collegiate a cappella group to tour in Asia. To end the year, the group's “Hide and Seek” track from their latest album, It's Reigning Men, was voted #1 British collegiate a cappella track of 2012.

The importance of travelling around America and meeting and performing with such fantastic groups is vital, not only to the musical directors who look for ideas to take away and adapt, but also for the group as a whole who really get to know each other better and, by performing every day for two weeks, bring out the best in their sound.

Managing a tour to the USA is no easy task but Cameron Carr, the manager of All the King's Men, is now practiced at sorting these things out after a successful trip to California last year. For him, “Organizing a tour is a colossal amount of work, especially in a country as vast as America but as the home of collegiate a cappella we have always deemed it important to travel there. We have a great deal to learn from some of the groups but hope that our distinct style also teaches them a thing or two. The groups are so hospitable and helpful when it comes to organizing gigs and hosting us. They always deliver great venues, funny sketches and aca-maxing performances (and parties!). With everything in place after months of planning it is great to be able to see everything come to fruition and enjoy other aspects of American culture.

Jonathan Stewart, Musical Director since October, has lasting memories of previous tours and has taken inspiration from other groups. “The fantastic voices, energy and presence of the renowned UC Men’s Octet and eventual ICCA winners, The SoCal VoCals from USC, made a lasting impression on us and served as an inspiration going into the Voice Festival UK Final. As well as learning from others, I feel we can also improve our own performances and develop as the tour goes on, and our songs will only get better with regular performances.”

The collegiate a cappella tradition in the USA is obviously much more established than in the UK, with numerous groups at each university. Establishing good relationships with other groups and universities is intrinsic to being part of a collegiate a cappella group. While we already have close links with a number of UK groups, developing the reputation of All the King's Men is a key part of our long-term strategy, and America is an obvious place for us to tour in that respect. Friends of mine reminisce about the time that the Princeton Tigertones came to their junior school, and it would be fantastic to get a similar reaction from our trip here! What's particularly special about this tour is that we're returning to places we've been before, and strengthening the existing bonds that we have with US groups such as The Johns Hopkins Mental Notes and The Cornell Hangovers. Clearly we must have done something right two years ago!

In addition to the huge respect we have for a cappella in the US, there's a certain competitive element to it. We come to America each year because we feel groups from the UK are more than able to compete on the same playing field as older groups, and the success that both we and Oxford's Out of the Blue have had in the ICCAs goes some way towards justifying that. Performing on the same bill with some big names on the US collegiate scene will be a good indicator of where we are, as well as putting down a marker that collegiate groups from the UK are here to be taken seriously.

Henry Southern, who founded the group in 2009 as a freshman at King's College London, relinquished his role at the helm of the organization after graduating as a music major. For him, “A tour to the US is a big project for any UK a cappella group to undertake. Is it worth it? Absolutely! Wherever we went the reception was always very welcoming and the hospitality that was extended to us was extremely generous. We were so fortunate to have had these experiences. It seems that the combination of being an a cappella singer and being British creates quite a buzz! Our trips to the US were certainly some of the highlights of my experiences with All the King's Men.”

Fifth year medical student, Tom Hindmarch, takes time out of his busy schedule to make sure that he can join the group in America. “It’s safe to say touring in the US is always both a privilege and a pleasure. As a group we really enjoy taking in the American culture and lifestyle, but this is just the beginning… Every time we join up with US groups, we always gain a wealth of experience both as a group and as individuals. The range of styles and sheer breadth of creativity is astounding and we relish the chance to feast our eyes and ears on all we encounter. However, the factor that makes the US stand out is the level of hospitality we always receive–it’s truly overwhelming and will continue to draw us back ‘across the pond’ for many years to come.”

Finally, as Jonny notes, “In essence, All the King's Men is twelve young British men who joined an a cappella group to make good music and lasting memories. Our tour of the West Coast was one of the highlights of my life, both musically and personally--doing a music video on a California beach in February, singing to packed theatres, and of course the aca-parties.”

Clearly All the King's Men have had such great success in their past three years since being established due to their vision of pushing boundaries and the great voices the group attracts. However, it is evident that so much has been learnt from four invaluable visits to the USA and the generosity of all the groups All the King's Men have encountered has made the trips more than memorable.

You can follow All the King’s Men’s progress on their tour blog, as well as on their Facebook page and Twitter.

10 Tips for Nailing Your A Cappella Audition
A Cappella Albums You Must Have In Your Collection
The Best Apps for Tracking Your Pitch
How Important Is Wardrobe for Competition
10 Pointers for Choosing the Best Songs for Your Group
Why do British groups travel to America?
10 Tips for Staying Safe and Secure When Traveling for Competitions
Could Your Group's Reputation Hurt Your Chances of Winning?
7 Tips for Booking Out-of-Town Competitions
Combining A Cappella and Flash Mobs
8 Unique Ways to Raise Money for Your A Cappella Group
5 College A Cappella Performances that Rock
A cappella and the Importance of Finding an Artistic Community in College
College A Cappella Groups Are Increasingly in Popularity
Food and Nutrition for A Cappella
5 Tips on How to Succeed at a College A Cappella Audition
Making the Case for A cappella and Bobby McFerrin
Sweet Serenade: A Rehearsal with The Buffalo Chips
ACB Review: Awaken A Cappella's Cee Lo Green Cover
Ten Things I’m Sick Of Seeing In Collegiate A Cappella
The ICCA Finals Through the Eyes of a Competitor
A Case for the ICCA