Lessons from Recordings

The Recording Rant

Eric Talley is an alumnus of The Appalachian State University Lost in Sound, and is currently an a cappella recording producer. Talley writes The Recording Rant on a recurring basis for The A Cappella Blog.

Another year has passed, and another round of excellent albums have released. It cannot be stated enough that the quality of a cappella music continues to get better and better. We witnessed some truly stellar albums in 2009, and without mentioning names, here are a few things that we can learn from what we have heard:

1) Song originality is HUGE! How many versions of “Apologize” have we heard now? I lost count a while back, but it is far too many. In working with groups now, I stress finding songs that have not been released by five other groups in the last six months, as well songs that showcase their talents. Want to record a Coldplay song? Great idea! Do us all a favor….don’t sing Viva La Vida or The Scientist, because we have been there and done that. If you insist, make it your own and don’t cover the original exactly as we hear it.

2) Your soloist is still the biggest part of the song. Arrangements are blowing me away time and time again with creativity and simple WOW factor, but at the end of the day, your soloist better be able to keep up. I have heard far too many a cappella songs ruined by a mediocre, or just bad, soloist. Your guys group may not be able to sing a Stevie Wonder song. Play to your strengths, no matter how great your arsenal may be. The last thing any of us want to hear is one of our favorite songs murdered by somebody unfit to sing the solo. With that being said….

3) Push the envelope. Most of us read RARB on a regular basis. Great production and simply background chords aren’t cutting it anymore. You have to have the entire package to be considered a top-tier group. This is not to say that I want to see fifty Bubs albums released with different group titles this year, nor do I want every coed group in the nation copying OTB syllables. Just do something different, because do’s and aah’s aren’t selling too many albums these days. Use the top groups to inspire, but there is more than enough potential in the a cappella world to go around.

4) Finally, keep singing! Your album got panned in a review? Only sold half of your copies that you ordered? Had a bad experience with a producer? Persevere. The world wants to hear the best of what you have to offer, and declining to produce an album is the perfect way to NOT give it to them.