200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Adapting To The Environment

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #155: Adapting To The Environment

It’s a reality for any artist who travels to perform live: you will encounter different stages, different auditoriums, different audiences. While it’s an easy choice (and, in some cases, the only choice) to maintain your act as originally planned and make it work within the space permitted, it can be all the more impressive to see a group demonstrate the adaptability, improvisational talent, or sheer research to come prepared to do something different with a different performance space.

One of my favorite examples of this is groups breaking the fourth wall and entering the audience—it can be a risky proposition with consideration to the house lighting and how sound is set up, but if the stars align, breaking free from a small stage and literally engaging with the audience can be a spectacular way of drawing the audience into the energy of a performance and making them feel like a part of the act.

I love it!

Embedded Solos

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #154: Embedded Solos

Offering individual singers short solos within a larger piece is nothing new to the world of choral music, but in the contemporary a cappella world, in which the default set up is to have one soloist with the rest of the group providing the instrumentation, harmonies, and backup, it can be particularly refreshing to hear additional soloists rise from the mix for just a few short moments to offer the song a different texture—to make the narrative of the performance feel more like a dialogue or as though the story is traveling through time or space.

This is a dynamic that I felt Pentatonix nailed, particularly on their Sing-Off run, when Scott Hoying handled most of the solos, but Mitch Grassi would chime in periodically with his sterling tenor to offer the song just a hint of a different flavor. Pentatonix is far from the only group using this device, though, with countless others weaving in additional leads to spice up their sound at key moments. Just one such example appears below—the 2007 36 Madison Avenue group out of Drew University on Seal’s “Future Love Paradise,” in which the song culminates with plenty of guys getting their shot on the lead.

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Personal Style

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #153: Personal Style

With thousands of a cappella groups plying their trade today, it can be tough to stand out. Being good, being innovative, and being entertaining are all well and good, but one of the most surefire ways for a group to really stand out, and one of the great joys for an a cappella spectator is to see a group with its own clear, distinctive style. 

Whether it’s bass heavy intensity of The Northeastern University Nor’easters; the horror a cappella stylings of University of Maryland Faux Paz; the raw intensity of The Florida State AcaBelles; the accessible pop sound of Baylor University VirtuOSO; or the breathy, off-beat, intrinsically bohemian sound of The NYU N’Harmonics, some of the very best and most memorable groups singing in the last decade have anchored their identity around a unique aesthetic.

 Yes, some groups do thrive via their range, but groups that can cultivate their own personal style hold a special place for honing in on their spots as can’t-miss acts that can’t be duplicated.

I love it!

The Robot

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #152: The Robot

When it comes to over-the-top, cheesy dance moves, we’ve all seen The Sprinkler, The Shopping Cart, or The Running Man. All these moves pale in comparison, however, to the most immediately recognizable, oft-used, and sure to amuse Robot.

The Robot fits a cappella well.
Each are forms of entertainment that are superficially nerdy and that folks
might feel a little self-conscious about performing. When performed well, each
are infectiously fun.

More than comic relief, though,
as groups have made advances in aca-choreography, we’ve more often seen the
deathly serious robot—movements woven into otherwise more austere and
complicated motions, or infused into songs to enhance a moment of slowing the
tempo or switching to a more electronic style.

The Robot isn’t for everyone, or
every performance, but when applied adeptly it can offer up one of the most
amusing, impressive, or otherwise entertaining moments in an a cappella
performance.

I love it!

Front Row Seats

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #151: Front Row Seats

In the preceding edition of 200 Reasons To Love A Cappella, I referenced the pleasure of sitting in balcony seats to take in a the full picture of a performance. Little less appealing are seats in the opposite extreme—up close to the stage, or even so far as the front row.

Sitting up close at an a cappella performance affords an audience member the chance to take in every part of the performance in detail. For un-mic’ed performances, it gives the listener a chance to hear everything directly without the sound being diluted by the chatter of onlookers. And even for performances on a more formal stage, it allows a spectator to get a keener look at how the group operates—who’s giving the cues, how is the group configuring itself. Without being in the group, a spectator can’t know exactly what it’s like to be performing with them, but sitting up close offers one of the closest vicarious experiences a fan get, seeing and hearing every aspect of the performance from close proximity, and sitting close enough to really feel the energy of the performance.

I love it!

Balcony Seats

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #150: Balcony Seats

Conventional wisdom suggests that front row seats to a show are the best seats in the house. Others may seek out the acoustic sweet spot, often closer to the middle of the auditorium. But, particularly for a collegiate a cappella show, I’ve often found that nothing beats a good balcony seat.

As a cappella sound engineers continue to refine their craft and more groups move toward individual mic-ing, taking a balcony seat doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing sound quality. Moreover, from a visual perspective, I’ve tended to observe that a bird’s eye view affords an audience member the greatest potential to see everything that’s going on with a groups staging and choreography, which is increasingly on par with groups’ aural accomplishments. As such, good balcony seat can be one of the surest tickets to appreciating the bigger picture of an a cappella performance.

Naz

I love it!

Next Page
Adapting To The Environment
Embedded Solos
Personal Style
The Robot
Front Row Seats
Balcony Seats
Transitions on Your Playlist
Law School Groups
Incorporating Foreign Languages
Raw Solos
Connecting With a Song
BOSS
A Well-Executed Choral Arrangement
When a Group Defies What You’d Expect By Looking at Them
Breath as a Sound Effect
Seniors’ Last Show
Small Groups
Super-Sized Groups
Singing in a Round
A Radical Arrangement
When the Staging Emulates the Music Video
Remembering How You Know a Song
Seeing a Group Transform On Stage and Off
When a Group Squeezes an Extra Song Into Its Competition Set
The First Time You Hear a Song After You’ve Heard It A Cappella
Watching the Crowd Grow at a Public Show
Hearing a Song That Just Came Out on the Radio
A Sold-Out Crowd
Simulating Sounds
Clean Sound