Cracking the Code: What Makes “Good” A Cappella?

“The question is so broad that I’m almost afraid I’m going to give you more than you bargained for,” said Alex Green of the Tufts University Amalgamates.

Though the question is undoubtedly broad, there are factors which can make a cappella music unique and interesting – factors that contribute to making undeniably “good” a cappella.

For Green, arrangements are the backbone of an effective a cappella performance, particularly those that cater to the unique abilities of the human voice as an instrument.

“You could have a guitar hit a huge chord at the end of a song, but guitars can’t scream a big giant ‘ah’ like three girls and two guys in the top of their chest voice,” he explained. “I always strive to show off the human voice as an instrument itself, not as the voice trying to imitate something else.”

Katie Boeck and Joanna Jones of Awaken A Cappella, from the University of California at Los Angeles, have a simultaneously broader and more personal approach.

“(We) attribute our success to writing challenging arrangements but balancing that out with simple songs that we can just have fun singing, and never forgetting its all about the music,” they said. “It’s (also) important to spend time together outside of rehearsal so that our enjoyment of each other (shows during) performance(s).”

Creating a successful a cappella group takes time and effort, on both technical and personal levels. It’s more than “just singing” for groups that seek to reside on the proverbial next level – customized arrangements that feature a group’s unique qualities, creative use of individual talent and reverence for the power of the collective…it’s all part of the tapestry that makes an a cappella performance memorable, and “good.”

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