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The Essentials of Great A Capella Music: Ten great vocal groups in the music industry

Updated on September 26, 2012
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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!


A Gregorian Chant
A Gregorian Chant | Source

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
Straight No Chaser | Source

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.

Naturally 7
Naturally 7 | Source

Naturally Seven

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

Rockapella
Rockapella | Source

Rockapella

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
On The Rocks | Source

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
Awaken A Capella | Source

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

Beelzebubs
Beelzebubs | Source

Beelzebubs

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

42 Five
42 Five | Source

42 Five

A versatile musical group adept at vocal percussion, 42Five started as a barbershop quartet. They perform anything from rock to modern classics these days.


42 Five

Mosiac
Mosiac | Source

Mosiac

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
So Cal Vo Cals | Source

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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    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for coming back, Paula!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      I'm back....to listen to the great A Capella again.......Tweet and Pin!! I can never tire of hearing this music.....

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      AcappellaLover 3 years ago

      I love those groups!! Though mostly they only have live videos.

      And Pentatonix is awesome too, so is Home Free

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for the compliment, dub makers! Glad to share a little acapella!

    • dubmakers profile image

      dubmakers 4 years ago

      Brilliant, a lot of work you put into this, obviously! Good job, I've got my work cut out for me to check out these groups (In a good way, of course.)

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Deltachord, I'm glad you like this! I love anything with a good dose of harmony, particularly acapella, of course. Thanks for sharing!

    • Deltachord profile image

      Deltachord 4 years ago from United States

      Thanks for this informative article. Music is one of my favorite things. I like chant, Barbershop quartets... A Capella is a great musical treasure.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Indeed, Lisa! I so much agree and am so glad to connect with a fellow music teacher and lover!! A pleasure to share music that I feel is a bit underrated and should be better appreciated. The groups today have taken on a new dimension indeed, like Naturally 7, with their use of vocal percussion and beatboxing......that lends a zing to Acapella, doesn't it? Thanks for sharing!!

    • Rusticliving profile image

      Elizabeth Rayen 4 years ago from California

      This is such a fabulous article! I grew up in a house of music, have sung in a capella groups, have taught and directed vocal groups as well and still teach and direct today. The professional groups today have taken on an amazing sophistication that is unsurpassed. The techniques that they can do with their voices give me goose bumps every time I hear them. I am so pleased to see a hub like this and you did a great job! Thumbs up and across and very much shared! ♥

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi, fpher, thanks for spending over an hour here! Wow!!!! It's so nice being able to grow up with all these lovely musicians....acapella has got to be the most natural form of music there is!! I am so glad you love these groups too. Will review them singly! Thanks for the visit and these lovely insights, and I am glad that the hub has made your day!! Really appreciated!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Acapella is a beautiful, Mary, the most natural musical form there is. I love it too!! Thanks for coming by!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      midget.....I have been with HP approx 16 months....I suppose there's a tally listed somewhere of the number of hubs I've read. I wouldn't even attempt a guess.

      To this point, if I had to choose my MOST favorite, number ONE hub of all....It would most assuredly be this one. WOW! I am mesmerized.....A Capella harmony is my heart and soul....since a baby sitting upon my Dad's knee, as he and his brothers sang songs from the '40's, A Capella....through the years....in my Grandparent's kitchen, at family get-togethers anywhere....always, they entertained us all.

      My sister and I literally grew up surrounded by musicians, A Capella singing, learning to appreciate harmony. There was music in our life, all the time....especially A Cappela harmony.

      I have just been BOWLED over by the groups you've presented here in the fabulous videos. I've been on this hub for over an hour!.....coming back to listen again and again.

      My response is always the same. This type of music affects me, spiritually, emotionally....even gives me goose bumps....seriously. It brings me back and fills me with happiness and such warm, loving feelings.

      I cannot thank you enough for this hub......For the music, the introduction to these outrageously fabulous A Capella groups and the sheer pleasure it gave me..........SHARING!!!!!!!!!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      I must confess: I am not familiar with any of these groups, but I will say that in my church and school growing up, we sang A Capella and I loved it. I still enjoy listening to it.

      Voted UP, etc.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Acapella music can't do without a deep bass, indeed, Martie! Too true, that. I have always admired negro spirituals. Their musical sense is strong indeed! Thanks for coming by!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 4 years ago from South Africa

      I love listening to A Capella Music, and especially when the bass is deep and solid. The black people in our country are natural and excellent a capella singers, winning International awards by the hundreds, and so are the Welshmen.

      I enjoyed this hub of yours, midget, and the videos.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Love Straight No Chaser too, Daisy, and what is great about them is that they share the music of other good a paella groups as well! you've enjoyed it and thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Doc! Naturally Seven's specialty is in vocal percussion.....so that's why the name creating sounds with vocals! Thanks, Doc, for coming by!

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Michelle,

      Thanks for all the work you put into creating this Hub. I was very happy to see Straight No Chaser included. I've used their singing as accompaniment in a number of my videos.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 4 years ago from UK

      Fantastic Michelle. I love the theme, the info, the design of this hub and the list of acapella groups. I watched Naturally seven here in Manchester when they toured with Michael Buble. They blew me away with their vocalisation of instruments as well as harmonic blends of vocals. voted up/tweeted.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi epiman!! Wow, now that's a world class comment on it's own! Thank you very much for it and would very much love to connect too. Any group that does A Capella well is a great group by me, and will definitely check those out!! Thanks for posting this to your group and do give me the link so that I can pay it a visit!!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      ......love your passion and your homework - this is a world class hub all of the way BUT the epi-man is a musicologist and he must ask you to check out the Persuasions, one of the all time great groups, the Nylons from Canada, the Golden Gate Quartet or the Swan Silvertones from gospel music and the Tallis Scholars in the classical genre - lake erie time ontario canada 12:57am sending you warm wishes and good energy and posting this great hub to my FB group Let's just talk music or cinema with a direct link back here and you are invited to join - that would be wonderful

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Fellow music teacher here says hope it helps, Dianne. I know how it feels when the kids can't hack the notes to begin with, not to mention sing acapella!! Glad this helps. Do use the vids!! And you're most welcome!!

    • dianetrotter profile image

      G. Diane Nelson Trotter 5 years ago from Fontana

      OMG! What I wouldn't give to have my students sing a capella. I'm going to have to do it during lunch but I'm really inspired by these groups. Now to do my downloads so I can show them in class. Thank you midget38!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks Mary. It's so true! If you don't need any accompaniment to back you up, you can really sing, as these groups show. So glad you like this!! Thanks for coming by!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      A Capella is great....anyone (or group) who can sing A Capella can really sing. You picked some really good singers and I like the way you gave a nutshell description of each band.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      umberoolan, indeed they are!! And yes, I love it as a former music teacher that young people are embracing this form more and more. It deserves the attention!! Thanks so much for the visit!!

    • umbertoobrian profile image

      umbertoobrian 5 years ago from Speedway, Indiana

      University a capella groups are becoming more common. I know several fine young men in an acapella group at Xavier University. Harmon-X has garnered support and a following via YouTube. It is fun to see young people embrace this time honored vocal form.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      LOL! It's still you, Hatter!! Thanks so much for coming by!!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Good work! That was me many, many... moons ago

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Carly!! Glad to share about one of my favorite topics, anytime. ACapella music is a wonderful genre and I'm so glad that you've come by to listen!! Thanks so much!!

    • CarlySullens profile image

      CarlySullens 5 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Midget what a wonderfully organized hub, filled with images, words and music. This took a lot of work, but comes across effortlessly. I enjoyed learning about A Capella and learning more about the music groups you mentioned.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      I can imagine, Alecia!! LOL! it must've been so exciting!! And all the giggling and screaming too. It is indeed difficult to produce music with the only natural instrument we have.....takes a lot of guts and talent!! Thanks for coming by!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Suzette!! Straight No Chaser is a fantastic group, dynamic and they'll be on tour this October on a cruse, sailing from Miami. I will leave Josh to furnish the details!! Thanks for coming by!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Josh, you'll have to do a follow up with more information on Straight No Chaser, etc! Waiting for your next feature!!

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I takes special talent to produce the sound of great music without instruments. I loved going to acapella concerts in college. And since my college was mostly female- it was like a boy band concert. Great hub with an interesting history!

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 5 years ago from Taos, NM

      I saw and heard Straight No Chaser this spring in Naples, FL. They are so dynamic. The blending of their voices is superb. I love A Capella - I think it is the purist form of singing and you have to be really good to sing it! Thanks for an entertaining and informative hub- both of you!

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Michelle,

      Awesome hub! a capella music is amazing and relaxing to listen to. This was a very informative hub showcasing what makes a capella music stick out in comparison to other types of music. You have mentioned some amazing groups here as well, especially Straight No Chaser. That is one of my favorite a capella groups. Awesome job here Michelle, I am passing it on!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      I love Take 6, Jools!! WIll ask Josh to give them a feature. Glad you've enjoyed the acapella selection here though and thanks for stopping by!!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      What agreat hub Michelle, I love accapella. There used to be a really great US band a few years ago called Take 6 who did gospel music in accapella style and they were great. I think you can catch them on You Tube. Loved all of your choices though.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for dropping in, Keith, my friend! Yes. We can do the most amazing things with our voices....as these groups show!! Really appreciate you dropping in!!

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      KDuBarry03 5 years ago

      It is absolutely stunning what we can do with our voices. I absolutely love the list you gave and all the information you gave!

      You presented this well and informative, and interesting as always, Michelle :)

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      I'm a BJ fan too! Especially the song I've posted here. I love Rockapella...sang with them when they came here once as a member of the audience. They love to do audience interaction. Was an experience!! Thanks, my dear, for coming by!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for coming by, Richard!! Yup, songs for religious worship were the very first forms of A Capella music, like the Gregorian Chant and so on. These groups are lesser known, so just giving them a boost, like Josh does with his tributes!! Thanks for coming by!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Music is something we cannot do without, Sunshine, at least I know I can't !! Thanks for coming by!!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Ignugent, yes, it's awesome the way the human voice can be utilized!! We can do wonders with it. Thanks a million, Ignugent!

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      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Excellent hub Michelle! I appreciate a-capella music, that's a musical gift. Boyz 2 Men, Keith Urban, Rob Thomas...I could go on, but you get my point. I enjoyed your groups also! :)

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      ignugent17 5 years ago

      Great hub! I really like to listen A Capella. I think it is awesome for humans to sing without instrument and soundlikes they have. Very interesting. :-)

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 5 years ago from New York, New York

      Michelle, I totally forgot that Billy Joel did a bit of a capella with his Uptown Girl song. I am huge Billy Joel fan and love that you included him in this one though. You and Josh totally do this topic justice by the way. I think my favorite group you covered was Rockapella, because I just so enjoyed their cover of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". Have voted and shared too!!

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Michelle -

      Never would have thought chanting as A Capella. Interesting! As much as I'm obsessed with music, this is definitely an area of weakness with me. I haven't heard of any of these groups. Nice stuff, though, and I'll have to try some more of their offerings out!

      Very well presented and very informative! Great Job!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      A Capella is an expressive musical form that makes use of the most natural musical instrument of all- the human voice. Here are 10 of the best A Capella groups around.