My experience with a cappella

I was involved in my campus’s a cappella group in college. Before they accepted me as a singer, I did some arranging for the group. Once I was a real member, I gradually grew into a major leadership role. I lead rehearsals and did a large chunk of our arranging.

Singing group Pentatonix

I personally have never had much interest in a cappella music as a culture. I never listened to Pentatonix or watched Pitch Perfect.* Some of the other members of my group did enjoy some a cappella music, but I don’t think they were in the majority.

Because of this, I think we had a different approach to the genre than most groups. We kind of stayed away from the showy glee club vibe. We never went to conferences or entered competitions. For the most part, we just focused on picking whichever songs we liked and performing them in concerts around campus.

For my part, my arranging was not really based on reference to the a cappella style. I usually started by trying to transcribe the instrument sounds and reproduce them with voices, which is pretty standard. But after that, I would often just try whatever original ideas I wanted to throw in. I like jazz harmony, so a lot of times I would add it to songs that were not originally in that style.

A really fun part of the group was that I could trust the other members to tell me if something didn’t work. That gave me a lot of freedom to experiment and fail, with a short feedback loop. The end result was that we had a fairly unique style that felt less like “a cappella” and more like “people getting together and singing songs they like with just their voices”. I liked that, because it meant the possibilities were a lot wider than just a specific genre.

Let me know your thoughts at my Ctrl-C email: gome ​@ ​

* But I do enjoy The Blenders’ Christmas music, as a childhood favorite.