Monday, January 09, 2023

5 reasons why every choir concert should include at least one a cappella song

Many choirs use instruments or backing tracks to accompany their singing.

photo by Andrea Pineda

But I believe that you should always programme at least one a cappella song in every concert. Here’s why.

I have only ever taught a cappella harmony singing. Sometimes participants in my singing workshops who are used to accompaniment of some kind struggle initially. However, almost always, they tell me that they’ve loved singing a cappella and have found their singing has improved in several ways.

That got me thinking about how singing a cappella can be of enormous benefit to any choir, even if it’s not something they do regularly.

Here are five reasons why you should include an a cappella song in every concert:

  1. singers need to do all the work – it’s often easy to let the pianist or backing track do the heavy lifting of emotional expression, mood creation, musical texture, etc. Singing a cappella means that you have to work that bit harder because you only have your voices available to do that work.
  2. it makes you listen more – taking away musical accompaniment can feel exposing at first. It can reveal all those moments when the tuning is slightly off, or the parts aren’t singing exactly in rhythm. Instruments and backing tracks can hide a multitude of singing sins! By singing a cappella you will have to really tune into each other to make those chords ring and keep those rhythms tight.
  3. audiences love variety – if your whole concert uses a pianist or backing tracks, slipping an a cappella song in can really make a difference. The audience will notice the change, the quality of sound will add variety, and your singers will get a chance to show their naked vocal skills.
  4. singing skills will improve – if you rehearse in a very dry acoustic, you need to put that much more effort in to nailing the harmonies. But then when you perform in a brighter acoustic, the songs will really ring out. In a similar way, if you get better at a cappella singing, when you go back to having accompaniment, you will notice a definite improvement.
  5. back to basics – singing a cappella doesn’t have to mean complex, difficult music. By going back to the basics of harmony singing using voices only, it means that you can tackle relatively simple material, but your singers will still find it a challenge. It’s a great opportunity to fine tune your choir’s harmony singing skills as well as focusing on blend, checking vocal ranges, moving parts around, etc. In short, a great training tool!

There are far more benefits of singing a cappella I’m sure, but I hope these few reasons will be enough to get you started. Good luck!


Chris Rowbury


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