Simply A Cappella

Simply A Cappella: Do What Scares You Most

On the surface, a cappella might seem like one of the simplest forms of music—there are no instruments required, and it’s an art frequently practiced by non-professional groups. But then there’s tuning, song selection, vocal percussion, choreography, transitions, choices in attire--when did a cappella get so convoluted? In Simply A Cappella, we discuss ways of stripping down complications and getting back to the core of a cappella. This is not advice for winning competitions or perfecting recordings; it’s advice for reminding yourself why you love to sing in the first place.

When so many of us reflect on our lives, we find that the choices we've made, the actions we've taken have been dictated less by what we want and desire, and more by what we fear and seek to avoid. Whether it's fear of failure, fear of the unknown, or fear of heights, we let these feelings keep us from experimenting or from reaching our full potential.

Simply A Cappella: Don’t Overbook Your Group

One of the most common mistakes that good a cappella groups make is to over-extend themselves. They start with an end of semester show. Fair enough. They decide to compete as well. OK. They decide to sing at the campus Relay for Life Event. Then Multicultural Night. Then the Take Back the Night March. Then as a guest group at a neighboring school. So the snowball builds, rolling downhill.

Simply A Cappella: Figure Out How to Make Your Whole Group Want to be a Bunch of Workaholics

A simple principle applies to how people work, and more specifically to how people work in groups. If people are motivated—if they actively want to do a good job, then they will, in general, work harder, longer, and/or smarter to get the job done well.

In terms of a cappella, think about when your group was most successful over the course of the last year. For most groups, this will probably be a time when the group most enjoyed one another’s company, and most enjoyed making music—and, not so coincidentally, it probably overlapped with a time of great success for the group.

Simply A Cappella: Ask the Right Questions

Over the years, the audition process for collegiate a cappella has evolved wildly. There was a time when the norm was for hopefuls to just walk into a room and sing a minute of a solo; maybe do a couple tuning exercises, then leave and hope for a callback. Nowadays, it’s not unusual for groups to use questionnaires and interviews; to have mixers where they try potential members on for size; to have hopefuls sing with segments of the group to test blend.

On the whole, it’s good that groups are more careful and more selective, and it’s good that groups are looking beyond a few tests of vocal prowess and considering how a new member will affect group dynamics. There is also, however, merit in boiling the process back down to what a group most values.

Simply A Cappella: Find Your Group’s Home

Most of people have some place that they would call home. It may be the small town in which they grew up. It may be the big city with which they most identify. Regardless, home tends to be a place that’s relaxed, that matches a person’s ideals, that offers any range of familiar comforts.

The concept of home might sound like a funny one for a collegiate a cappella group to consider. After all, college tends to mark a transitory time between leaving a childhood home, and choosing where to build the home that will follow. Nonetheless, members of an a cappella group will typically be together for at least one year—often longer than that. It’s worth thinking about laying some roots.

Simply A Cappella: Arrange a Song from Your Childhood

There’s no purer fan of music than a child. When you’re young, you love music unconditionally. You don’t think about historical context, or a song’s back story, or how the music is derivative of something else, or how not every lyric is really coherent. Take away these considerations and add the youthful exuberance that comes with just discovering music and have the opportunity for someone to develop personal favorites that will transcend time and logic; sentimental favorites tend to stick with you.

Simply A Cappella: Silence Your Inner Critic

On the surface, a cappella might seem like one of the simplest forms of music—there are no instruments required, and it’s an art frequently practiced by non-professional groups. But then there’s tuning, song selection, vocal percussion, choreography, transitions, choices in attire--when did a cappella get so convoluted? In Simply A Cappella, we discuss ways of stripping down complications and getting back to the core of a cappella. This is not advice for winning competitions or perfecting recordings; it’s advice for reminding yourself why you love to sing in the first place.

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