Should You Record Individually or as a Whole Group?

Measure for Measure

In Measure for Measure, A Cappella Blog contributor takes a look at both sides of a controversial issue in collegiate a cappella. Please note that the views expressed by columnists do not necessarily represent those of The ACB as an organization, nor do they necessarily represent the view of individual columnists. The purpose of this piece is to explore issues and further civil, intellectual debate.

Traditionally, much of recorded a cappella has been compiled piecemeal, with individual singers or small subsections of the group singing their parts so that producers and mixers could assemble tracks in a balanced fashion. With advances in recording technology and technique, more and more studios are now offering groups the option of recording as ensembles. In this edition of Measure for Measure we take a look at the statement:

A cappella groups should record as a whole group.

True: The very essence of contemporary a cappella, barbershop, and many other forms of all-vocal music is that way in which voices complement one another. The harmony. The blend. The x-factor that synergizes when musicians who have worked together assemble to create a group sound that is distinctively their own. Singers can’t feed off one another when they’re singing in isolation. The truest way to capture the energy, spirit, and gestalt of a group is to record that group singing as a unit.

False: The world of people who make a living recording, mixing, and mastering a cappella has grown exponentially over the last few years. When you walk into a studio, you need to be prepared to trust the professionals you’ve chosen to work with. Many of those professionals will tell you that the only way to be sure they can balance your sound, ensure that no parts get lost, and clean all of your blemishes is to record your parts separately. Doing so may seem unnatural to your group at first blush, but in recorded a cappella, the ends justify the means, and, in this competitive a cappella marketplace, you have to prioritize a final product that sounds as clean as possible.