Hypebot's 3 C's to Effectively Branding Your Music Group
Hypebot recently posted a great article about how to effectively brand your music group. Author Hisham Dahud explains the ‘3 Cs of effective branding’: Clarity, Consistency and Constancy. I love this part:
You don’t want to be all things to all people, especially when you’re just starting out. You do want to be the leader a particular tribe based on what you believe individually, and thus express artistically … So ask yourself: “What makes me distinctive? And how do I communicate that?”
Branding and marketing is something that a cappella groups (especially collegiate groups) don’t think about either because they think it’s unimportant, or that it’s something icky, but from our experience, it really can make all the difference between obscurity and getting your music out there.
Which a cappella group best exemplifies the three Cs?
what do the dorms generally look like? And what are your choices as far as rooming?
Every residential college has a distinct architectural style, which means that there’s an incredible amount of variation in the look of the dorms. For example, there’s Saybrook College, which looks like a straight-up stone castle:
And there’s also Morse College, which has a more angular, modern feel:
Almost all freshman live on Old Campus, and the different Freshman Halls have their own characteristics. In general, dorms are grouped into suites. Depending on which residential college you were placed in, you could have anywhere from zero to eight other people with whom you share a large suite.
If you receive just one suitemate or none at all, you will likely have one large room to yourself or to share between the two of you. If you have multiple suitemates, however, then there’ll likely be two people per room, and your bedrooms will be connected by a large central Common Room (similar to a living room) where you’ll all be able to do work, throw parties and just generally hang out.
Do you have suitemates?
No —> You have a room all to yourself!
Yes —> How many?
1 —> You and your suitemate have a room all to yourselves!
2 or more—> You probably have a Common Room and several private bedrooms.
my question is regarding my assignment. so i had no names next to my letter. all it said was ldub and D52. am i even in a suite??? or am i completely secluded in one room :(
Hey! The fifth floor of LDub is arranged differently from most other freshman dorms. You’re likely in a single that is connected to the main hallway, but don’t be worried about being secluded! From what we hear, the 5th floor is actually the nicest place to live in LDub, especially if you’re into all-floor parties :D!
Completely Biased Highlights from ICCA Finals 2012
OOTB hangs out with Amy from Delilah after the show
…as written by someone who competed, after consulting with other biased people.
1. Titanium by UChicago Voices in Your Head. I cannot wait until they record this—their soloist sat on those top notes for eons. Their sound filled the room and they knew exactly how to use the mic system. Actually, just watch the whole set. They have a compelling story arc and make great artistic decisions. Fantastic.
2. Oluwasegun Oluwadele from the SoCal VoCals. His rendition of Tightrope drove the audience wild. And he belted the top notes (falsetto? who needs it!). He scampered all over the stage, and it was just adorable.
3. Vocal Rush, the ICHSA Champions. These girls used to have three additional male members, but the boys couldn’t make it to finals. The girls just rearranged some parts and killed it. They’re like mini-Delilah and had more balls than many of the all-male groups I know.
4. Delilah. They shook the room. Enough said. (Also, the photo at the top of this post is a personal highlight).
OOTB had a great time competing, making new friends, and seeing phenomenal a cappella at the ICCA Finals. Also, the show was across the street from the Broadway production of Anything Goes—I was completely overwhelmed by the talent all around! Anyone we met this weekend has an open invitation to come down to Yale. We’ll set you up with a performance venue, hosting, and a party! Congratulations to the SoCal VoCals on their third ICCA Championship, the Scattertones on their first runner up, and the charming gentlemen of All the King’s Men on their third-place finish!
After a successful year, OOTB is proud to announce the fearless leadership who will bring us to new heights in the upcoming academic year!
Pitch: Fiona Vella, Davenport ‘14. Fiona is originally from Ireland, and now comes to us from Maine. With a long history of musical addiction, of which humming in her sleep has thus far been the severest symptom, she joins Dre in the traditional OOTB/Glee Club contingent that has existed for aeons and in pitch lineage.
Assistant Pitch: Sana Sharma, Davenport ‘14. When she isn’t singing in OOTB, Sana can usually be found painting, playing the ukulele, and performing controlled explosions in the name of science. She is an avid aficionado of all things astrophysics, and will attempt to turn you into one too, if given a tin can, a laser, and half a chance.
Business Manager, Fall Term: Back by popular demand, Tom Dec, Jonathan Edwards ‘13. Tom’s enthusiasm for OOTB is only matched by his passion for politics (of the Democratic flavor) and he can often be found reading, writing, or talking about it when he’s not singing. He is also an avid twitter user, Meat Loaf fan, and vanilla ice cream aficionado.
Business Manager, Academic Year: Allison Bryant, Morse ‘14. Your friendly neighborhood OOTBlogger loves primates, lemons, hiking in the mountains, the American West, stories, my family, and OOTB. I’m from Idaho, but I don’t care much about potatoes, unless they’re ice cream potatoes.
Rush Managers: Harry VanDusen, Morse ‘14, will be leading the OOTB flagship into next year’s rush! He will be joined by Kate Mighty, Pierson ‘15, Johnny Shively, Ezra Stiles ‘15, and Carter Michael, Calhoun ‘15 in OOTB’s quest to find its newest members.
We can’t wait to see what awesome surprises next year brings!
We’re so excited to announce that OOTB is producing our first ever EP! The album will feature our set from ICCA Semifinals - three songs that have defined an incredible year - and will be recorded over the next two weeks at Bristol Recording Studios in Boston, MA. OOTB usually records an album every other year, most recently releasing 16 Edgewood in 2011, but this year we decided to capture our award-winning ICCA set in an EP.
I’m really excited about the way that we’re producing the EP as well, and it’s appropriate that it comes on the heels of our Kickstarter post yesterday. We’re preselling the CD for $5, but there are so many ways to get involved with the production!
For a donation of $5 or more, we’ll email you a digital copy of the OOTB EP as soon as it is complete.
For a donation of $15 or more, you’ll get a CD recording of the EP, mailed to you!
For a donation of $25 or more, you’ll get a CD copy of 16 Edgewood or Getting Wise (your choice), a commemorative photo of the group from the ICCAs, and we’ll sign your copy of our EP.
For a donation of $50 or more, you’ll be recognized as an EP Sponsor on the album and on our website.
For a donation of $100 or more, we’ll record a personalized YouTube video of any song in our repertoire to a person of your choice (including you)!
Check out our awesome EP website(designed by OOTAlum Nathan Griffith) to send a donation! We’ll be liveblogging the recording process and might even put up some bonus material online! Keep following our progress—this EP is going to rock your socks.
How to Use Kickstarter to Fund Your A Cappella Album: Lessons from the Starving Artists and OOTB
Looking for alternative ways to fund your next a cappella album?
OOTB has noticed that a cappella groups are increasingly turning to Kickstarter, the “world’s largest funding platform for creative projects,” to fund their albums. Kickstarter allows anyone to set up a donation page, set a target amount of money to be raised, and get donations via Amazon Payments. There’s also a safety mechanism in place—if the target amount isn’t raised, Kickstarter refunds all donations, so your money won’t be wasted.
We talked to Abby Armstrong, Business Manager of the Brandeis Starving Artists, about their experience with Kickstarter. She and OOTB have compiled some great advice for a cappella groups who want to make the most out of the Kickstarter experience!
1. Bring up your Kickstarter account to friends and family in a personal way, not just by sharing the link. Most of the Starving Artists’ donations came from people they knew personally. Every person in the group wrote “personalized emails, letters, [and] made phone calls” to share their funding search with people they cared about. Reach out to alumni as well! Your alums are one of your biggest markets for your CD, and if you give them a way to finance the CD, they can feel even more connected to the process.
2. Set a realistic goal. Remember, if you don’t meet your goal, you don’t get any of the money! You can think of your Kickstarter project as part of a series of installment payments for your CD. The Starving Artists used Kickstarter to raise a large block of money to record their CD the first time around, but they’re shifting to a more staggered recording experience. Kickstarter can be the way you fund recording or mixing—it doesn’t have to be your sole source of money for the whole CD! However, if you’re worried about not making your goal, try out indiegogo.com. It’s basically Kickstarter, but even if you don’t make your goal, you get all of the donations contriubuted to your project. Some friends of ours at Brown, the Bear Necessities, are using indiegogo to fund their latest CD, Eat the Beach.
3. Use Kickstarter as a way to presell your CD. People are much more willing to donate money if they know they’ll get a good return. Advertise your Kickstarter as a way to get in the door early.
4. Create awesome incentives for your donation amounts. One of the coolest projects on Kickstarter are the Double Fine adventure games. I talked to a friend who enjoys adventure games about the incentives on Double Fine’s Kickstarter page, and he had this to say:
"Double Fine’s Kickstarter project is awesome because you get to see the whole process from start to finish. They send out a really well-done documentary video every month (seriously, Tim Schafer is hilarious), so I get to experience the most exciting and interesting parts of building the game without actually having to do any of the work. Pretty sweet deal, if you ask me.”
Double Fine is using incentives that get people excited about the finished product and reminds them that their money is being well-used. OOTB is no stranger to prerelease videos (remember the OOTB Recording Project, which took you behind the scenes of 16 Edgwood?) and we think they’re a great way to engage your Kickstarter donors. Try using traditional incentives, like signed CDs or T-shirts, but here are some other ideas we thought up:
Sneak peeks of songs before they’ve been released. Everyone likes to have early access to cool stuff!
Blooper tracks. Every so often, recording just doesn’t go quite right the first time. I have some “less than perfect” but hilarious takes from 16 Edgewood in my iTunes right now. These are especially wonderful for alumni and family members.
Interviews with pitches, business managers, and professionals mixing the CD. Other a cappella groups are interested in how you record and how to save time and money! Let them know what you’re up to from a technical standpoint.
Personalized recordings for big donors. The Starving Artists offered private performances to people within 100 miles of their school. You can offer live performances to donors close to you, or record a quick birthday greeting, hello, or thank you to those farther away.
5. Publicize your CD after it’s done. Try to get as much information as possible to your donors after your project is complete. If possible, send a thank-you email to each individual. After all, if they donated, they’re probably interested in your group, and you want them to associate you with quality CDs and friendly people.
A cappella groups are utilizing Kickstarter to create exciting new CDs! Kickstarter is convenient, and also levels the playing field a bit for new a cappella groups with less alumni support than others. OOTB encourages you to check it out (not just for a cappella CDs, but other awesome projects like An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, which is readings of Neil Gaiman’s work live and set to music!).
P.S. Check out the Starving Artist’s latest CD produced with help from Kickstater, Order Up!
Check out Kate Mighty on our arrangement of “Something’s Got a Hold on Me/Candyman” (opb Etta James/Christina Aguilara, arr. Andre Shomorony and David Ottenheimer)! Dre and David won Best Arrangement at our ICCA Semifinal last week.
We’re so excited to announce that OOTB won First Place in the Northeast Semis and will be competing in the ICCA Finals in New York City with the best that collegiate a cappella has to offer! In addition, Andre Shomorony and David Ottenheimer won Best Arrangement for their mashup of “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” by Etta James and “Candyman” by Christina Aguilara.
We’re so pleased to be singing at the Finals! You can check out the Facebook event or buy tickets here. They’re selling out fast, so get moving if you want a seat! And in the meantime, enjoy our Semifinals recording of “Bottom of the River,” opb. Delta Rae, solo Aviva Musicus ‘13.
Welcome to the second installment of Tom and Aviva’s Fruit Review! Although the Grapple is technically not native to Asia, it’s still a new fruit that we tried. Plus I think it’s pretty ridiculous, so I’m reviewing it!
The Grapple (pronounced “Grape-L”) is a Washington Fuji apple that has been soaked in a bath of artificial grape flavoring, so that it looks like an apple but tastes like a grape. Sounds delicious, no? Mmmm natural and artificial flavors!
You eat it just like an apple, because it is an apple.
The grapple surprisingly tastes quite good. The artificial grape flavoring tastes more like grape candy/grape medicine than actual grapes, but the natural flavor of the apple dulls it so that it’s just vaguely sweet and grape-y. After eating around half of the apple, my tongue became immune to the grape flavor and it just tasted like a normal Fuji apple. Which is yummy. Tom thinks it tastes artificial—“like an apple that has been injected with Juicy Juice.” I personally like Juicy Juice.
I actually really like the texture of the grapple—it’s quite crisp and satisfying to bite into.
The website claims that “eating healthy has never been this much fun!” I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some really stupendous times eating healthy, so the grapple doesn’t really live up to its reputation for me. The grape flavor doesn’t add/take away any nutrients or sugars from the apple though, so the nutritive value of a grapple is exactly the same as the nutritive value of an apple—lots of dietary fiber and vitamin C.
Although it’s pronounced “grape-L,” I think it should be pronounced grapple. Like the way it’s spelled. If they wanted to pronounce it “grape-L,” they should have spelled it “graple.” Plus grapple is a more accurate description of the fruit—a lot of apple, not a lot of grape.
Eh. Probably towards the bottom, but only because apples aren’t very new or exciting.
Welcome to the first installment of Tom and Aviva’s Fruit Review. We’ve tried eight new fruits while we’ve been in Singapore (so far) and as the fruit aficionados of the group we’ll be posting reviews of each new fruit over the next few days.
I’ve never had dragon fruit before coming to Singapore, but this stuff is great. It’s a fruit that grows on a cactus vine. Compared to other fruits, it can be somewhat bland, but it has a variety of health benefits. Though the fruit is native to Mexico, Central and South America, it is grown throughout Asia and a popular choice in Singapore (Vietnam is the main supplier in the region).
The dragon fruit I’ve had here has been peeled (you can’t eat the skin) and sliced.
Aviva described it as a “bland honeydew melon,” but I think it has a bit of sweet tart to it that makes it interesting. Think kiwi. The pink-fleshed fruit tastes about the same as the white-fleshed fruit.
Like the taste, dragon fruit has a texture similar to kiwis, but it has seeds dispersed throughout it that adds a dimension that makes the fruit superior to its popular cousin. The fruit is also more dense than most kiwis I’ve eaten, a la apples or pears. Combined with the texture provided by the seeds, it’s a good eating experience.
These things are great for you! Livestrong tells me that they help prevent cancer and help to improve memory and blood pressure levels.
The fruit is also called “pitaya.”
Of the new fruits, Aviva and I both agree that dragon fruit is at the bottom of the pack. Its texture is its best feature, but compared to the other new fruits we’ve tried it is too bland to break into the top tier.
This Saturday and Sunday, OOTB hosted the Brandeis Starving Artists at Yale! We had a great party on Saturday night, and this Sunday we heard their amazing sound in Sudler Hall in a joint concert. The Starving Artists were ending their first tour in a while at Yale, and we had a fantastic time hanging out and singing together! Check out their rendition of This Time Around on Youtube from last year’s ICCAs.
One of our freshmen, Ned Dana, is in a band called Runaway Youth! They’re competing for the chance to perform in some great venues. Check them out on their original song “The Sun Will Rise Again” and if you like them, help them out by voting. Thanks and happy listening!
Great advice from Dylan Bell on how to move towards perfection using Autotune tech, but keep the sound of imperfect human voices. I’ve always been saddened by the lack of great live a cappella albums—let’s bring it back y’all!
In an otherwise pretty standard “I hate Auto-tune” article on CASA.org from 2010, Dylan Bell actually has some really useful things to say about how to *use* Auto-tune to “get it right” without sounding like there are no people actually singing. Check it out:
Go for “plausible perfection”. This is my mantra. I love it when a vocal part sounds like a perfect performance, but some something that actually could have been performed, rather than 100% pure/sterile. This means a few things:
1. Most of the time, skip the automatic mode. Or, at the very least, use very broad settings that only catch the worst notes. You can always go back and fine-tune if a chord still doesn’t sit just right.
2. Use your ears, not your eyes. This seems obvious, but I often find myself doing this too. Tune by listening, not by watching the lines/blobs/whatever graphic representation tells you what’s what. Put it this way… if you’re listening to a soloed voice under the microscope and a you let a few notes slip by that are within, say, 20 cents of “perfect”, what are the chances that your listeners are going to notice? Instead, these little imperfections will allow the track to still sound “hand-made” rather than factory-made.
3. Different Tuning Tolerances for different parts. A good rule of thumb: the more chordal and instrumental the part, the tighter it should be tuned.
- For basses, I usually use an automatic mode with fairly tight settings and tweak as needed.
- For guitar-y parts, sometimes automatic but with looser settings.
- For lyrical/stringy parts, I tune manually, and especially allow them more “drift”: it’s the synth-like drone of an absolutely-unwavering long note that causes a lot of the “over-tuned” sound.
- For lead vocals I try to use the least tuning of all: if you’ve taken enough lead takes and you make a good comp, 90% of the tuning will be taken care of, and you can manually tune the rest.
4. Different Tuning Tolerances within parts. For the Wibi album “In the Pocket”, we had an average of 2-3 singers per part. I chose the strongest singer and spent some time making them sound next-to-perfect. The next singer was the “blender”: I let the part stay natural and tuned only the bad rubs. Ditto the 3rd singer. If someone was overall weak, I tuned them hard to avoid dissonance and mixed them in low. If you do this, your ensemble parts will stay in tune but still have that nice warm ensemble sound.
LoveNotes is back! You can click on the link and send a personalized note to your friends, family, significant (or insignificant) other, along with an Out of the Blue recording of Animal, You Belong With Me, Black and Gold, or Use Somebody. Send love y’all!
Great article—made me think of the language I use when I evaluate all-female a cappella groups. There are real musical differences between how male and female groups present themselves, but I’m sure I overuse words like “sweet” and “sassy” for female groups. Also, I tend to call groups ”all-male a cappella” or “girls groups.” Why am I calling women in a cappella “girls?”
This week, we’re showcasing another great blog, Paper and Salt, written by OOTAlum Nicole Villeneuve. Paper and Salt is Nicole’s discussion of recipes referenced by famous authors in their books and personal papers. Stop by Paper and Salt for great food and great thoughts!
1) What sort of work do you do?
I’m a book publicist for a university press by day. I also write about the favorite recipes of famous authors at Paper and Salt (www.paperandsalt.org).
2) What inspired you to start writing Paper and Salt?
I was reading a collection of Hemingway’s letters and was struck by how many of his experiences were mediated by food. From his earliest letters when he was writing home about making strawberry shortcake, to the cafe culture of his Paris years, to fishing in Cuba, food was everywhere in those letters. I was interested in having an “author dinner party” kind of thing, so I started looking into author writers’ letters and it was amazing how many thought or wrote seriously about food - and even about going into cooking as a second career! The stories got so interesting that I wanted to have a place to share them all. But I also wanted to try and make the recipes myself; I think it gives you a window into the world of that author that’s hard to replicate otherwise.
3) What’s your favorite recipe/fact about an author that you’ve come across so far?
There are so many! My favorite letter might be one that Zora Neale Hurston wrote to her grandmother, about becoming a “chicken specialist” and starting an amateur catering business all about chicken. She had it all planned out, to use all parts of the bird: make chicken soup with the bones, chicken salad with the breasts, and Chicken a la King with the thighs. It’s so wonderfully pragmatic. But I also love finding out when authors had unusual obsessions with certain ingredients. Norman Mailer really loved Haagen Dazs Raspberry Sorbet, for example. That kills me.
Check out Nicole’s latest post to read a never-published recipe for brownies by Elizabeth Bishop, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and short story writer!
We just got back from the Quarterfinal round of the ICCAs in Hartford. OOTB was the first runner up, and therefore will be competing in the Northeast Region Semifinals at MIT this March! We also won the award for Outstanding Choreography. You can check out the pictures on our Facebook album, and we’ll have video up soon.
Thanks so much to all of the alums and parents who came out to see us last night, and congratulations to the NYU N’Harmonics, who won the Quarterfinal. We can’t wait to see you again at Semis!
This week, we’re excited to bring you an interview with OOTB alum and journalist Rebekah Fraser about her work with peace activists, and her book in development, Everyday Peacemakers, which chronicles inspiring people Rebekah has interviewed and shares insight into how to live in harmony with others.
1) What sort of work have you done in the past?
In my years after Yale, I was: a pre-school teacher, an art store clerk, an intern in TV production at PBS and NBC, a homemaker, and a family photographer. In 2007, I wrote my first magazine article for FRESH CUP (a trade publication focusing on specialty coffee & tea). I also spearheaded the creation of an educational webzine for kids, teens, k-12 educators and parents. In November, the webzine, STEM matters, was nominated for a National Science Teacher’s Association science communicator award.
My most exciting and fulfilling job of all time, however, is and has been, raising my daughter MacKenzie. (God willing, she will be one of OOTB’s taps in 2016. This is slightly unrealistic, though, because she refuses to sing in front of people. Oh, well. God willing, she’ll be at Yale.)
2) In 2008, you founded Solstice Sing for Peace. Did that experience prompt you to begin writing Everyday Peacemakers?
Believe it or not: no. What inspired me to write Everyday Peacemakers were the people I was meeting as a journalist. I have met land mine removal specialists, educators, business people, artists, farmers… the list goes on. The other inspiration for the book was my friend, Mira Bartok. She authored a book that has been on the NYTimes Bestseller list twice in the last year, and was recently nominated for the National Book Critic’s award. She really wants me to write a memoir, knowing my story. But, until recently, I had no idea what kind of memoir I would write. With my experience as a journalist, I guess I felt more comfortable telling other people’s stories than I did telling my own story.
3) Can you share a bit of advice (from your book or otherwise) on how to create peaceful moments?
Honestly, I think taking time for silent reflection of some sort each day is key to creating and maintaining inner peace. Gratitude is also a biggie. I always hated that refrain “have an attitude of gratitude,” but it actually is very true. Also, EXERCISE!!!! I do yoga every single morning, but it is just a part of what I do. I also walk a few miles or go to the gym and row on the ergometer each day. And SPENDING TIME IN NATURE is like taking a chill pill. These are my three daily activities. Even if I’m sick, injured, busy, these activities keep me sane. (Chocolate also helps!)
Here’s an exercise: Take time to stare at a rock. I’m not kidding. Stare at it, meditate on it for a few minutes. Come back every day for a week and look at that same rock. Do you see anything different? It is astounding how such a simple (I’ll say it - banal) activity is a gateway to peace - if you allow it to be. You know that youtube video “Shit New Age Girls Say”? I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that that video describes me to a T, minus the feathered headband and poncho.
4) In your post on Kickstarter, you talk about your negative experience at a peace march. What kind of gatherings have you found most conducive to promoting peace?
The kinds of gatherings that have helped me foster my own inner peace are:
Singing events, whether formal Solstice Sing for Peace type things, or just family and friends singing together for fun.
Creative events. My local library recently held a solstice lantern making workshop. There were 10 or 12 people sitting around a table, making lanterns. It was simple, and fun, and community building, and peaceful.
Gatherings in nature - nature walks, guided hikes, etc.
Yoga classes, which I only take a couple of times a year. Usually, the yoga happens in my living room.
5) What is your favorite OOTB memory?
At this point, twenty years later, I have a feeling many of the memories are melded. One truly awesome memory - which I know happened as I recall - was gathering in Carla’s room to work out the arrangement for “Sweet Dreams.” It was Katie, Amy, Carla and I. And as we worked it out vocally, Carla wrote down the arrangement. It was the first time I had participated in creating a song, or in this case, a version of a song. Then, when we sang it at jam, the crowd went wild. At least I think they did. I remember feeling extra proud singing that song, because I had had a hand in putting it together.
If you’re interested in learning more about Everyday Peacemakers and donating to Rebekah's project, kindly check out the Kickstarter page.
Curious to know more about Yale Out of the Blue? Sign up for our mailing list or ask us a question!Bio: Rebekah L Fraser is a freelance journalist who has covered many aspects of peacekeeping, from landmine removal to domestic abuse prevention. As a consultant and volunteer, she has worked with heads of international organizations, the homeless, the war-wounded and other disenfranchised individuals. She is also the Founder of Solstice Sing for Peace, a global grassroots movement endorsed by legendary folk singer Pete Seeger. Everyday Peacemakers, a non-fiction book currently in progress, features the most inspiring people Rebekah has worked with or interviewed as a journalist and consultant. Learn more about her work at www.RebekahLFraser.com. Follow her on Twitter @RebekahLFraser.
Daniel’s version of Black and Gold (opb Sam Sparro) from our most recent album, 16 Edgewood, is nominated for the Best Mixed Collegiate Arrangement of 2012. You can listen to Black and Gold on Bandcamp for free, and find out more about the making of 16 Edgewood at the OOTB Recording Project website.
The Recording Project is a wonderful description of the work that went into creating 16 Edgewood, and you can hear Daniel talk about the influences that went into Black and Gold. Congrats, Daniel!
With competition season about to begin, here are some words of wisdom via an article by Jonathan Minkoff. His no-nonsense approach towards a cappella critique is invaluable to our community, as it (rather bluntly sometimes) urges us to continue reinventing ourselves and not grow too attached to the tried and true.
Much of his writings and coaching sessions on competitions admittedly come out of his annoyance as an adjudicator to see the same strategy used over and over and over again by every scholastic group he sees.
It has been almost six years since I first heard Jon go over several of these items in a workshop at a Michigan A Cappella Conference, and just within the last year have I started to see some of these unified performance aspects starting to creep in to scholastic competition sets.
Jonathan goes over on-stage professionalism, having the backs emote with the lead (where have we heard that before?), internalizing the starting pitch, making your music fit the voices singing it, and the importance of originality.
In addition to competitions, these tips are also vital for non-competitive performances, since, at the heart of an excellent competition set is a good SHOW.
Stop whatever you’re doing and read this right now. After picking up second and third place (as well as best soloist!) in two competitions last year, we’re definitely hungry for more. This is incredibly useful advice advice, what with ICCAs coming up. Good to know.
If you’re the business manager or president of an a cappella group, you know that running a successful group is only partly about making great music - it’s also about financing and marketing a small business. This is a series of posts highlighting our favorite music marketing resources.
How to Run a Band is a blog by musician Chris “Seth” Jackson, where he documents his band’s experiments in getting their music out there, growing their fan base and making a little money along the way.
I love this blog because of its emphasis on practical, immediately applicable tips. I can’t emphasize enough how plain useful a lot of his insights are. Although the blog is geared towards bands, lots of the suggestions are easily applicable to a cappella groups. Some great ones:
20 Easy Ways to Have FUN and Get More Fans!: It’s easy to get caught up in the BOCA-submitting and the ICCA-competing. How can you help your group maintain the same sense of joy that got them interested in singing in the first place?
Loved the Music That Matters post, good stuff. What would be your first tips to somebody looking to arrange a cappella?
Thanks! We asked our Musical Director, Andre Shomorony, to weigh in on tips for someone looking to arrange a cappella:
First Things First
The first step to arranging a song is to find out which type of acappella arrangement would be most compatible with the group’s style and voices. It’s important to determine how closely the arrangement will resemble the original song’s instrumentation, and how much and what kind of new material will be added. Being true to an original song is usually a safe bet, though a different spin, achieved through modified tempo, key, chord progression etc, can often make an arrangement much more exciting.
Sketch It Out
I’d recommend starting with an outline (even if just a mental one) of the different sections that an arrangement will have, focusing on the texture and general rhythmic patterns that each section will employ. Once that is clear, the arranger should use some kind of music composition software, such as Sibelius or Finale, to write individual voice parts, always paying attention to issues such as range and “singability” of individual lines.
Following some basic voice-leading rules is usually a good idea, even when writing modern pop arrangements. In terms of syllable choice, one shouldn’t necessarily try to exactly imitate real instrument sounds. A strong arrangement can usually be put together just with consonants such as “d”, “j”, “m” and “n” and with pure, straight vowels, forming syllables such as “dm”, “na”, or “jen”. For less active and/or slower sections, “oohs” and “aahs” can usually be held out to expose the solo and give it more weight.
Clean It Up
Homophony with the solo is another useful technique, which will often be used to create a “wall of sound” in the shoe while still emphasizing the lyrics and contour of the melody. The two B’s of any arrangement, balance and blend, always go hand-in-hand and are usually a result of good syllable choice and dynamics. Once all the notes are written, the arranger should go back and make sure each section has clear dynamics markings and any important comments on style.
Finally, one should never forget that an arrangement should be fun to sing: an acappella performance sounds much better when singers are having a good time.
Hope this helps! Feel free to shoot another note if you have any more questions!
Andre Shomorony Musical Director, Yale Out of the Blue
Kate, killing it on Adele’s “Chasing Pavements” during Parents Weekend Concert 2011.
Deke Sharon, considered the father of modern a cappella, has penned an earnest, moving piece over on the CASA blog that should be required reading for anyone with an interest in a cappella music. It’s partly a look back on how far we’ve come as a community, and a rallying cry for the future. This the part that gets me:
Much as I want to say “write original music,” that’s not exactly correct. It is correct to say “stop just doing covers of other people’s songs because you want to and you’re hoping people will notice you.” Clever and cute can be compelling, but if you want to draw long term fans, you have to make music that no one else can make, and ideally do it more than once. Through repetition, an audience begins to connect to an artist, and then a deeper level of communication can occur over time.
…What’s next? Rather than starting with the technology, I think we as a community need to start with something that we need to say. Just as songwriters are told “write what you know” I think singers need to sing what they know. Don’t just jump on the latest bandwagon, covering top 10 hits. That’s commerce. Dig down deep and make me care. That’s art.
Between the costumes and the funny syllables, it’s easy to forget that there is an artistry to this thing that we’re doing, and it is my hope that as a cappella continues to mature, we’ll see more examples of people who’re willing to take the leap, to experiment and “make music that no one else can make.”
I’m privileged to be able to work with people who’re doing exactly this. My favorite arranger of all time happens to be in my a cappella group. He’s Daniel Reardon, and I was thrilled to have him arrange the song that I soloed on for 16 Edgewood, Sam Sparro’s Black and Gold.
Even if you aren’t familiar with Sparro’s original version, there’s something about Daniel’s darker, haunting rendition that sends you spiraling down into an introspective place. There’s an intention and a motive here, as you can tell from when Daniel talks about the things that influenced his arrangement:
Loss and longing. This song was an experiment in distilling these two emotions, and by attempting it, Daniel was aspiring towards something more than mere music transcription. He was making something that was simultaneously deeply personal and universal. Yes, he was making art.
It takes courage to put yourself out there and attempt to make a real statement through song. Deke is waking us up to the fact that there has never been a better time to be daring. We should listen to the man.
How to Brand Your A Cappella Group: Lessons from Boston's Redline
Thanks to shows like Glee and The Sing Off, a cappella has finally (arguably) broken into the mainstream. As a cappella gains a greater profile, we’re going to need to work harder to distinguish ourselves in creative, memorable ways. Redline from Boston are an example of a group that is doing exactly this.
In less than 2 weeks we’ll be kicking off the new year with a performance at Boloco in Boston! We’re going to be performing a full jam set at their Berklee location, so you’ll get to hear everyone in the group and our newest arrangements, live!
After our first audition at Bristol Studios for A Cappella Armageddon, we stopped at Boloco for dinner. Harry, who is a Boston native and has been eating at Boloco since they opened in 1997, recommends the classic buffalo steak burrito with a wheat tortilla, brown rice, and no celery. I find The Summer burrito hits the spot. And their shakes aren’t bad, either. Let us know what you think!
p.s. Don’t forget to attend the event on Facebook!
5 Ways the New YouTube Design Could Affect Your A Cappella Group
It’s no exaggeration that YouTube is an important tool for a cappella groups. YouTube channels are a great way for groups to show off their talent to fans and potential clients. Recently, YouTube unveiled a new design that changes how the homepage works. What do these changes mean for your a cappella group?
1) Subscribers, subscribers, subscribers
Now more than ever, gaining more subscribers is of the utmost importance. The most recent uploads of your subscribed channels appear on the new homepage. Like it or not, almost every other helpful feature of the homepage requires that viewers have already subscribed to your group’s channel.
2) Groups will need to pay more attention to their channel’s activity
The advent of the channel-focused sidebar on the left-hand side of the new YouTube homepage means that your group’s channel is now the most prominent way for users to see your performances. You’ll need to upload videos more often to stay on your viewers’ minds, and the most recent video should be your best.
Video tour of the new YouTube homepage.
3) Channel logos and general aesthetics will be more important
Hand-in-hand with thoughtful channel activity goes thoughtful channel layout and aesthetics. Group channels will need simple and recognizable avatars and backgrounds. Featured playlists and featured videos can also draw visitors’ attention to the best your group has to offer. YouTube has four different channel layouts available—choose the one that seems right for your group and your group’s channel. Check out Yale OOTB on YouTube for an example of a considered channel.
4) Analyzing video viewership will be easier than ever
YouTube Insight has been replaced by YouTube Analytics, which provides data about video performance (views) and viewer engagement (likes, comments, etc.). Analytics also collects info about audience retention (at what point in an individual video viewers click off to watch something else) and which videos get people to subscribe. This data can help guide your group’s strategy and content.
5) A new emphasis on the intersection of YouTube and social media
An interesting addition to the new homepage is one-click access to Facebook and Google+ videos posted by your friends and fans. A video shared on Facebook or G+ will go to friends on those networks who might not have otherwise sought it out on YouTube.
These are five things that OOTB is keeping in mind as we respond to the changes, and we would love to hear what you think. How is your a cappella group taking advantage of the new YouTube? What’re examples of great-looking a cappella channels? Let us know in the comments!