SmarterGuide to A Cappella: Harmonies in Small Groups

A great many songs you’ll run into have prominent harmony parts in them, and larger groups have the luxury of being able to spin off a single singer from any given part who will step up to the front with a microphone and harmonize away. Sadly, our example group has only 7 members: 2 basses, […]

SmarterGuide to A Cappella: Bell Chords to Embellish

As arranger, you have free reign over what your singers will do — this can mean inserting a bell chord into the work when there’s no particular associated thing going on in the original. In this sense, it’s a useful technique (gimmick) to pull out of your Bag Of Tricks, and use at will. You […]

SmarterGuide to Arranging: Bell Chords in Transcriptions

Now that we’ve looked at some fundamentals of bell chords, it’s time to look a little more closely at how this technique can play a role in an arrangement. Certainly in the case of Clocks, the bell chord is crucial to recognizing the song — in these cases, a direct transcription is probably necessary. Other […]

SmarterGuide to A Cappella: Vocal Ranges

To begin, take the time to read the Wikipedia article on vocal ranges. It’s a good introduction to what is going on — especially if you’re not terribly well-versed in the ways of the dark arts of vocalism. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Welcome back. Hopefully you’ve learned a bit about where the voices fall; do […]

Bell Chords in A Cappella

This expands far beyond “Clocks” by Coldplay — thank goodness. Bell chords are used by all kinds of groups in all kinds of different situations, and are not limited to those in which a pop piano accompaniment must be imitated. Let’s take a good look at the different ways these can turn out, and when […]

Arranging for Women’s Voices Stepwise

FAQ Style, everyone’s favorite! How do I get started? Figure out the key, time signature, and how many staves you want. Listen to the general structure of the song so you get a feel for the arc of the entire song, as well as the important themes. Jot that down, be you at a keyboard […]

Using Basslines in A Cappella

If you were to imagine the simplest arrangement possible for an accompaniment to a soloist, what would you think of? Well, let’s say it’s one other person — that’s simple. What would they sing? Harmony? Backup vocals? Some combination of all of these? What if you lived in a world such as ours where chords […]

Arranging for Small Groups 2: Consovowels and Suggestion

“Wait, what?  What’s a Consovowel?  What are you suggesting?” Well, a consovowel is a syllable, quite simply.  Or perhaps it’s every sound you hear at any given point.  Or perhaps it’s the sum total of the arrangement.  Really, I’m trying to make the point that consonants and vowels are fundamentally different beasts (we’re ignoring nasals […]

Arranging for Small Groups 1: Introduction

If history is any indicator, a great many new aspiring arrangers are members of newer groups with fewer members than the large swaggering a cappella groups that resemble a small construction team on a government contract, only slower-moving.  In fact, I would wager there’s a reasonable chance that you personally are a member of one […]

Before You Arrange All-Female A Cappella

While arranging music for any a cappella group requires  musical sensibility–not necessarily training, but sensibility–arranging music for an all-female group requires particular dexterity. It is a socially challenging activity, especially at an 18% Greek liberal arts school when you’re asking hot, cool girls to sing nonsense syllables. More often than not, collegiate a cappella groups […]