Category: A cappella

Vocal groups are great forums for learning. They are small enough so that everyone is heard if they have something to say, and big enough to have a variety of different experiences and approaches to just about everything, including singing. Everyone brings something unique to the table. The member who can reach the high notes most effortlessly can teach the others their technique. The VP can demonstrate his/her skills and show the others how to do it themselves. The one with the nice velvety tone can help the others adjusting their timbre so they all blend well. But having special skills is one thing, teaching them is another.

The teaching part requires putting into words what is actually happening in your voice/body/etc when you do your thing. And before you can put it into words, you must analyze it for yourself. So for the benefit of the others in your group, take some time to think about what you do well, and how you do it. A scientific approach helps to make it clearer for yourself and your fellow singers. If you’re good at imitating an upright bass, it might be because you’ve analyzed how the instrument sounds first. How hard is the attack? Which consonant is best for the transient? How long is the decay? Which vocal is best for the body of the sound? If you have done the analysis first, it’s easier to explain to the others why it would make a better upright bass singing dun-dun-dun instead of bum-bum-bum. And the other members can learn from your experiences, without inventing the wheel themselves.


I’ve been strumming an ukulele in my free moments for a couple of years now, and becoming better at it than I am at playing guitar. Fever strings, easier chords. And since I’m also involved in the a cappella community, it struck me what a great tool the ukulele is for close harmony arranging. There are four strings, which have the same intervals as the upper four strings of the guitar, exept the darkest string which is tuned an octave higher. And that’s what makes the ukulele so great – it is already close harmony even with open strings (C major sixth or A minor seventh, depending what you choose as your root note). And from here, most chords (even advanced stuff!) can be accomplished using only one or two fingers, so that only one or two voices of the group are changed at any chord change (yes, I’m simplifying here, but you get the point). So by choosing the appropriate inversions to keep the melody in your chosen voice, or just float the melody above an ukulele SATB backing group, this tiny little instrument could be all you need. Give it a try, you will not be disappointed!