How to Sing A Cappella

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Singing a cappella involves producing a song entirely using your voice as opposed to with instruments. While it requires ordinary singing skills, such as maintaining a pitch and harmonizing, it also takes a good ear to be able to separate the individual sounds in a song. To sing a cappella, you can start arranging your own songs, or you can join a group of others. Once you practice your arrangement and are stage-ready, you’ll be able to wow any crowd with your a cappella skills.

EditSteps

EditLearning Necessary Skills

  1. Practice basic singing techniques. Untrained singers often breathe from too high in their chest, compress their throat as they sing, and adopt poor posture that affects their voice. Whenever you sing, stand up straight, place your feet shoulder-width apart, and roll back your shoulders. Breathe deeply from your diaphragm, low in your chest.[1]
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  2. Work on staying in pitch throughout a song. It’s important that you’re able to hold the same pitch while you’re singing, as well as be able to match your pitch to different notes. To practice this, play different notes on a piano and match your voice to the note. Singing major scales also helps you with your pitch.[2]
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    • To see if you’re staying in pitch, record yourself singing a song without the music. Play it back with the instruments and see if your pitch was correct throughout the song.
    • You can also use a pitch pipe to get you started on the first note.
  3. Sharpen your harmonizing skills. You’ll likely need to harmonize with others while singing a cappella, and it’s also a useful skill to know even if you’re singing on your own. Practice harmonizing by singing with others, such as in an a capella group or choir.[3]
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    • Record yourself while you practice harmonizing so that you can play your voice back to see if it goes well with the original sound.
    • Try humming the harmony section of a song while someone else sings the melody.
  4. Extend your vocal range. Many a cappella arrangements require certain singers to sing with extended ranges, especially tenors, sopranos, and altos. As you sing through the vocal range you’re comfortable with, practice more difficult notes little by little, such as notes that are just above or below your normal range. Singing scales will help you achieve a fuller vocal range.[4]
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    • To determine your vocal range, such as soprano, alto, tenor, or bass, sing each note from low to high and write down the highest note you can comfortably sing as well as the lowest. This is your vocal range. If you need help, download an app like SingSharp to help you find your range.
    • Even if you are able to sing all the notes in a song’s range, you may need additional practice to keep the sound fluid and soft.
    • You can find videos that will walk you through the process of figuring out your vocal range, such as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IejHKpfHso.
  5. Learn how to emulate different instruments. Since a cappella music is entirely made up of voices and no instruments, you’ll need to mimic the sound of the instruments with your voice. Each instrument sound requires a different method from your voice, but they can all be done with a bit of practice and research.[5]
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    • Practice producing the sound that a guitar, bass, keyboard, or even a maraca would make by watching videos online of people mimicking these instruments.
    • For example, to make your voice sound like a kazoo, practice making the ‘nnn’ sound with your tongue against your teeth, and then pull your tongue back to produce the kazoo sound.
  6. Take classes from a voice teacher to enhance your voice. Nearly all trained singers can immediately tell when someone has been trained, simply from the pitch, phonation, and projection of the singer. Professional voice training will help you improve all of the skills needed to sing a cappella, and you’ll receive valuable 1-on-1 attention.[6]
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    • Go online to find voice teachers near you and look up reviews to see which ones are the best. Meet with at least 3 teachers to determine who you connect with the most and who is trained in the genre in which you want to perform.[7]
    • Check with your local college campus, as they sometimes have singing students who would be willing to teach you for little to no cost.

EditCrafting Your Own Arrangement

  1. Listen to the original song carefully beforehand. When you choose a song that you’d like to sing a cappella, you’ll need to listen to it thoroughly to truly understand everything that’s happening in it. Listen to it multiple times, getting a feel for the lyrics, rhythm, and different instruments that all make up the song.[8]
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    • Starting with a simple song you know by heart will make it easier to arrange.
    • Look online for the song without instruments by searching for the name of the song plus “vocals only.”
  2. Condense the song to fit in a cappella format. Most songs have long instrumental solos or parts that just don’t work when you’re singing it a cappella. Decide which parts of the song you’re going to cut and which you’re going to keep, making sure you string the sections together so that they flow smoothly.[9]
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    • If you need help doing this, look up videos of other people’s a cappella arrangements to see how they condensed the original song.
    • It’s helpful if you cut up the actual song using a computer system so that you’re able to play it over and over again once it’s condensed.
  3. Write out the lyrics and musical factors that make up the arrangement. This includes the solo and all the verses you’ll be including in the song. If you’re able to read and write music well, write out the notes for the bass as well as any other instruments you’re hoping to include in the arrangement.[10]
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    • You may need to experiment with several different versions of your arrangement until you discover one you like.
    • If you can’t write sheet music, use a computer system to split up the different levels of the song so you can arrange it that way.
    • If you aren’t experienced with arranging music, look online for an a cappella arrangement for the song you want to sing.
  4. Hone your performance. Your sound is your main priority, but spend effort on other visual aspects such as facial expressions and choreography. Once you’re satisfied with your singing, work on the movements you’ll be doing onstage (if any) and on expressing the song through your facial expressions as well.[11]
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    • All dancing should be well-practiced and fit the song’s theme — a quiet heartbreak song might do well with you standing still, while an upbeat song can have dance moves incorporated.
    • Use your face to express the emotion in the song. If you have lots of energy and grin during a happy, upbeat song and look serious and sorrowful during a sad song, the crowd will take you much more seriously.

EditFinding Singing Opportunities

  1. Audition to be in an a cappella group. Look to see if your school or local community center has an a cappella group that you could try to join. You can also go online to find a cappella groups near you. Practice your song a lot beforehand so that you feel well-prepared when you go to audition, and show that you’re confident and unique when performing.[12]
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    • If you find an opportunity to audition, ask the a cappella group if there’s anything specific you need to bring or sing for them.
    • Smile, stand up straight, look the group members in the eye, and tell them clearly your name, what you’ll sing, and who the song is by.
  2. Organize your own a cappella group if one doesn’t already exist. If you can’t find an a cappella group near you that you’d like to join, start your own! Advertise your new group around town and hold auditions to find your new members. Make sure you look for a diverse group of voices so that you’ll be able to create unique, complete arrangements.[13]
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    • Post flyers at libraries, schools, grocery stores, or other local places around town (after getting permission first, if necessary) with all the information about your a cappella auditions, such as where and when they’ll take place and who to contact for more information.
    • Reach out to friends in person or on social media to see if they’re interested in joining.
    • When someone expresses interest in auditioning, ask the singer to prepare a short snippet of a song for auditions, and make sure you keep a list of the potential singers so you can make notes.
    • Choose someone with strong leadership skills and who has experience arranging and conducting music to be the director of the group.
  3. Join a local choir to gain group singing experience. Joining a good choir will rapidly improve your voice, pitching, ear, and sight-singing. In addition, it builds the maturity and professionalism needed to sing as part of a group. Ask your local community center or go online to find choir opportunities near you.[14]
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    • Joining your church or school choir is a great place to start.
    • When you’re in an a cappella group, you need to know when to blend your voice to mesh well with the other singers, as well as when you can make your voice unique to stand out.
    • Pay attention to your volume when singing in a choir to make sure you’re not singing too loudly or too softly.
  4. Find gigs around town to get performance experience. Performing in public, no matter how big or small the crowd, will give you practice and confidence as you continue practicing a cappella. Look for opportunities to sing in churches, hospitals, nursing homes, or even at fundraisers.[15]
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    • You could also reach out to other performers to see if they’d let you sing their back-up vocals.
    • Get in touch with a representative of the church, business, or event (whether through email, phone, or in person) and ask if they’re interested in having you perform.
    • Put together a sample of your a cappella singing so that the potential gig provider can listen to your music.
    • Make it clear ahead of time whether you’re doing this for free or if you’d like to be compensated.
    • If you can’t find gigs, try busking. You can perform anywhere with a pop-up a cappella street performance!

EditTips

  • Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get chosen after an audition, and just put all of your effort into improving your arrangement for the next time.
  • Understand the group dynamic of a cappella—you don’t want to sing so loudly that the crowd can’t hear anyone else.
  • To sing an entire arrangement by yourself, practice recording yourself singing each part and then putting it all together.
  • Play the video game Rock Band and choose vocals as your instrument. Pick a song you know well and mute the TV 15 seconds into your performance. You’ll be able to sing a cappella while the game lets you know if you’re on pitch!

EditSources and Citations

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