In this edition, our focus is on working with professionals.
The last decade has seen a radical proliferation in the number of, scope of , and abilities of professionals who manage a cappella recording and various stages of production. From ACappellaPsych to The Vocal Company to Liquid 5th to Plaid Productions to Bill Hare Productions to A Cappella Productions to Vocal Mastering and dozens more, there are an unprecedentedly high number of very talented people who have decided to make a cappella a professional endeavor. Better yet, the passage of time has afforded them better and better tools and equipment to ply their trade at a high level.
But with recording software, microphones, and other tools of the trade increasingly accessible and affordable, does a group need to call in professionals? Or are they just as well off handling things in house, and, in the process, cultivating those skills within the group?
The answer is: maybe.
The decision of whether and to what extent a group should work with professionals varies depending on what a group hopes to accomplish. If your intention is to record a traditional “yearbook” album that documents a group’s repertoire for the year and gives every group member a solo, and you don’t intend to sell that CD beyond your local community, then you really may not need or be able to financially justify contracting with pros.
That said, if your intention is to break out—to sell your new EP nationally, to vie for Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards, and to ultimately pursue great critical acclaim, fame, or monetary gain, then you do need to be more careful. Studios and productions companies dedicated to a cappella know the tricks of the trade. How to effectively record multiple group members at once, and when to isolate. How to adjust levels to make the most of your group’s sound. How to apply production effects tastefully, judiciously, and in a way that best enhances what your group sings. From there, the mastering process can make all the difference in the world in creating a polished final product—subjecting your work to an objective ear, and letting a professional tinker, refine, and truly perfect your work.
Groups that decide to move toward professional recording should do their homework. They should shop around and take the time to talk to the professionals from different a cappella production companies to figure out what they’re getting, how the process will work and, sure, how much they’re paying and what exactly they’re getting for their money. Work with the right professionals and you may be surprised at just how much higher your group can soar.