Recording Recommendations

In this edition, our focus is on theme.

As more and more groups dive into the world of recorded a cappella, a sub-pattern has been espousing a theme around which to record—a love album, a futuristic album, an all-eighties album. Some of these themes are natural extensions of group identities, while some are more stand-alone representations of what interests the group at the time.

There are those groups reluctant to go the theme route. Indeed, embracing a theme can mean denying your creativity in other realms—not including or not even beginning to pursue an arrangement of a song that fits your group nicely but that doesn’talign with the theme, or feeling as though the final product of a theme album is contrived or forced.

The aforementioned concerns are not without merit, and I would not push a group to pursue a themed album at the expense of the group’s existing personality and preferences. There is a happy medium, though, at which point a theme is not constricting, but rather opens creative possibilities.

The theme can follow from existing songs. What patterns has your group already established and how can you tie them together? Alternatively, how many different ways can your group look at the same theme? Take advantage of the hive mind of your group membership to assemble a list of potential songs. Using a love theme? Yes, that album can include Bruno Mars’s “I Think I Want To Marry You.” You can also go retro with Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” get into familial love with Ed Sheeran’s “Afire Love,” apply a contemporary lens to imperfect romantic love with Muse’s “Madness,” and explore any number of other genres styles and philosophies on love.

The point is that a theme should give your album a coherent feel and facilitate the creative process, not limit your group. Start brainstorming and you may be surprised with the results.