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The Essentials of Great A Capella Music: Ten great vocal groups in the music industry
Having been a member of various school and college based A Capella groups, I have to say that A Capella is my favorite musical genre; it showcases the beauty of the human voice. In no other musical form can the human voice be fully utilized and allowed a free rein of expression. A Capella is music in its most natural form.
What is A Capella music?
A Capella is vocal music without accompaniment; essentially, the only instrument that is being utilized throughout is the human voice. There is usually more than one voice, and these voices usually unite to create a perfect harmonic blend - all parts of a chord of music come together when it is sung. A Capella is one of the most versatile of musical styles - it can be performed by a Classical Choir or the less formal Barber Shop Quartet. Multiply each voice by two, and you can have a group of eight singers!
Gregorian Chant Ave Maria
The history of A Capella Music
“A Capella” is an Italian word that literally means From the Chapel. A Capella singing has its history in early religious music. It is the mainstay of Christian chants and Jewish music as well. Music had to be A Capella for a start; instruments were not introduced until 670 A.D.
Then came the development of Barbershop music, which started as negro gospel tunes sung in four part harmonies. Groups like the Mills Brothers made A Capella popular; in 1954 made the musical form wildly popular with “Mr. Sandman.”
What makes good A Capella Music and a successful A Capella group?
A good song sung Acapella should feature a complete musical chord.
A complete chord of music should be utilized and featured in a song that is sung A Capella. It would be strange, for example, if the melody of the song is featured and another supporting voice or the bass is missing. In a word, it would be incomplete.
An A Capella group should have singers who cover the low, mid and high vocal ranges.
In musical terms, these would be the Soprano, who sings the high vocal range, the Alto (a higher mid range voice) a tenor (a lower mid range voice) and a bass ( the really low voice who supplies the bass notes and rhythms of the music).
If any of these elements are missing, we would, again, strange sounding song indeed. The musicality of the song would not be done full justice to.
Showcase the vocal abilities of the entire group.
Many successful songs sung A Capella have in them elements where the vocal abilities of the entire group are show cased. Traditionally, the high voice or Soprano tends to carry the melody of many pieces of music; however, in a good A Capella number, each part can almost stand alone and be sung on its own. The bass of the song, for example, can become a catchy feature of the piece of music as well. Other voices can also carry the melody at different points of the song; ideally, counter melodies utilizing mid range voices can become features of the song.
This make the piece of music truly unified, divine and singable!
Work with lyrics when arranging a song to be sung A Capella.
The way words are arranged and harmonized are an important element of A Capella music. Working with lyrics first allows for the proper integration of melodies and rhythms.
An example of a good song arranged A Capella is Billy Joel’s For The Longest Time, which has lyrics, rhythm, melodies and counter melodies beautifully merged.
Utilize the bass of the song and create movement!
Create a counter melody using the bass notes of the song for the singer to create vocal movement and rhythm. A good example of this is Stand By Me, where the bass notes are the first to be sung; these provide a good lead in to the main melody of the song and are a perfect counter melody on their own.
For The Longest TIme
Ten great A Capella groups in the music industry
In my opinion, these are ten great A Capella groups to get everyone singing and toes tapping. This being the start of a short series on A Capella music, these ten great groups will be introduced; my good friend and music reviewer, Joshua Zerbini (josh3418) will furnish more details on some of the groups and their accomplishments. Here they are for a start!
Straight No Chaser
This group started as a typical college Do Wop Acapella group. This group of ten fine young men have performed in numerous TV shows, and have a huge fan base. They are known for their version of the 12 Days of Christmas.
Originally started by two brothers, this group is famous for vocal percussion, or using their voices to create natural sounding rhythms.They also create perfect harmonic blends with their voices. With a large fan base, they travel extensively for performances.
Naturally 7 Wall of Sound
This group rose to fame on a PBS show called Do It Acapella. The show, hosted by Spike Lee, was so successful that the network hired them for more work! They have also performed for HBO.
When the group came to Singapore, I was so excited to be part of the performance and getting the chance to harmonize a few lines with them during a part of the show.
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
On the Rocks
Another college based A Capella group, this one was started in the University of Oregon in 1999.It is one of the top college based A Capella groups, which, in 2003, ranked second in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella. Famous for cutting loose on stage, this group has recently risen to fame on the internet.
On The Rocks Bad Romance
Awaken A Capella
The first Co Ed group in Southern California, Awaken has now developed a large fan base and enjoyed much success. The group consists of famous Alumni such as Sarah Barielles and Lady Danville.
Awaken A Capella
A male A Capella group from Tufts University, this group competed in the NBC show the Sing Off. They love performing current hits as well as re hashed numbers from the sixties.
Beelzebubs on the Sing Off
A versatile musical group adept at vocal percussion, 42Five started as a barbershop quartet. They perform anything from rock to modern classics these days.
An accomplished vocal band, this group has been named the Best Vocal Band out there by accomplished vocalists. Another versatile group, they sing everything from rock to even Opera!
Mosaic - Barbershop Quartet
So Cal Vo Cals
This vocally sound Co Ed A Capella group has won the International Championship of Collegiate Acapella twice; the only group ever to do so. It has participated in the NBC show the Sing Off.
A Capella, indeed, is a form of music that showcases a natural instrument that all of us have - the human voice. Like these great people, we should utilize it and keep singing!
So Cal Vo Cals
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