200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Breath as a Sound Effect

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #141: Breath as a Sound Effect

If a cappella is rooted in making the most of the human voice, one of the greatest gifts of the contemporary style over the last decade is creative use of other parts of the human body to make music. Whether it’s stomping or chest-thumping body percussion, a full-range of vocal percussion techniques, or Bill Hare famously having a member of the Tufts Beelzebubs tap his teeth into a microphone, the human body has revealed itself as a remarkably diverse musical instrument.

And how about breathing?

More and more groups have combined microphone technique with the simple act of breathing to result in a very dramatic, very cool effect, whether it’s any number of groups mimicking Imagine Dragons on the “breathin the chemicals” line of “Radioactive,” groups like Lafayette College Cadence punctuating each chorus of Maroon 5’s “Harder to Breathe” with staccato exhales, or The Cornell Chordials’ masterful take on someone running out of breath to punch up the drama in a magnificent interpretation of Tori Amos’s “Precious Things.”

I love it!

Seniors’ Last Show

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #140: Seniors’ Last Show

One of the sad inevitabilities of scholastic a cappella group is that the group will, in time, separate. Graduation happens and senior send off shows are among the most bittersweet parts of our world, simultaneously marking a tearful farewell, while it also commemorates and celebrates a singer’s tenure with a group. While the world might watch most readily in a competition setting, and it’s always fun to watch newer group members have their breakout moments, there’s still nothing quite like the experience of watching a loyal group member sing his or her final solo.

I love it!

Small Groups

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #139: Small Groups

In reason number 138, we took a look at super-sized groups. This time we turn to the opposite extreme. Small groups have cemented themselves, particularly at the professional or semi-pro level as some of the most compelling acts in a cappella, whether we’re talking about Pentatonix, Arora, The Boxettes, GQ, Musae, or any other number of elite groups with a half dozen members or fewer.

Having fewer members can present some very real strengths. The fewer the voices, the less complex a problem it is to make voices blend, and the more opportunity there are for individual personalities to shine. Fewer group members can make visual presentation simpler, both for fewer bodies to move in synch, and on the principle that a smaller group can more readily connect with an audience on an individual level without choreographing at all, per se, but rather just focusing on a few key movements and letting stage presence and charisma do the heavy lifting.

Smaller groups allow for stars to be made, delivering some of the most captivating a cappella in the world.

I love it!

Super-Sized Groups

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #138: Super-Sized Groups

While a cappella groups with a small number of members can certainly command an audience’s attention and feature distinctive personalities, there’s also something to be said for very large groups. Ensembles with twenty-plus members have the unique capacity to stage less like a traditional singing group, more like the cast of a full-scale musical production. From elaborately choreographed crowd scenes, complete with townspeople in the background, to a deep pool of rotating soloists, super-sized groups can deliver unparalleled power, range, and pure spectacle.

I love it!

Singing in a Round

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #137: Singing in a Round

Who among us doesn’t reflect fondly upon childhood sing-alongs of “Row, Row, Row Your Boa?.” It’s a simple, feel-good song, perfect for young people just beginning to learn about music and the world around them.

Coolest of all is the way in which the song lends itself to being sung in a round—and how cool is it the first time you experience music in a round?—that the absence of synchronicity can actually be complex, captivating, haunting, and beautiful.

Such is the feeling when a cappella groups reproduce this effect in the appropriate contemporary song choice, such as the treatment a number of groups gave to Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Chain.”

Singing in a round takes us back to the roots of our love for music, besides rewarding the careful listener with an enchanting experience.

I love it!

A Radical Arrangement

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #136: A Radical Arrangement

The last decade has seen the a cappella palate multiply several times over. While industrial rock and hip-hop performances were groundbreaking at one time, it’s no longer particularly novel to hear covers of music by Muse or Usher at a college a cappella show. In an era when very few song choices are shocking in and of themselves, groups have still found ways to dazzle, surprise, and impress audiences via genuinely creative takes on existing art.

Consider Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.” A song most longstanding a cappella fans have heard covered ad infinitum. The kind of song selection we tend to roll our eyes at not out of any malice toward the group itself, but because, well, we’re a little bored.

Then, consider what The Stanford Harmonics did with the song in 2009:

or Cherry Hill High School East’s re-interpretation in 2013:

Through creative arrangement and performance, these groups made a classic song their own and reinvented it for their audiences resulting in something that may have been even cooler than a creative song choice, but rather turning every listener’s expectations on their head to find innovation within tradition.

I love it!

Next Page
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
Hearing the Story Behind a Song
Intro Videos
Wild Transitions Between Songs
Buying a Group's CD After the Show
Wild Transitions Between Songs
Meeting a Group After the Show
Distinctive Syllables
One Group Inspiring Another
The Remix to Ignition
When Over the Top Costuming Works
Aca-Wedding Proposals
The Sound of a Pitch Pipe
Hearing a Song Evolve
Seeing a Second Group Sing the Same Song—And Do It Better