Acapella refers to the art of unaccompanied singing. It began in the church with Gregorian chant and has progressed over the centuries through many stages. In 20th century America it has been known through barbershop, doo wop and various choral ensembles. Barbershop is known for its four part harmonies and doo wop for inventive harmony parts which may imitate other instruments as well. Doo wop also gave rise to the Persuasions, a group that personified vocal music in the 1960’s.
In Africa singers commonly imitate animals and even thunderstorms with clapping hands and finger clicks. The melodies in African acapella are particularly rich and satisfying.
Modern artists such as Bobby McFerrin have taken acapella to a unique art form in his imitative explorations. The unaccompanied voice is still very much alive in the church also as well after hundreds of years.
Where to find acapella?
You may begin singing acapella with a school choir or small group of your own. I would recommend the college or community choir especially if it is a madrigal group or other unaccompanied group. A madrigal is an acapella style from the 16th and 17th century, very common to find in college courses. It is can be very complex and fun to sing. Even if it is not something you are really attracted to it is a good way to begin to sing acapella in a group environment.
There may be barbershop or doo wop or even African style acapella groups in the area that you live. You can form a group of your own if you have the desire and can find others that share that same desire.
There are also groups that support the acapella form such as the Barbershop Harmony Society and Chorus America.
Sharpen your ear
Acapella sharpens your ear more than your vocal abilitlies. You absolutely have to listen to the other voices and respond because there is no musical reference for your tone center. If you can’t find it, you are stuck. If you go flat it will show, no doubt.
Acapella can be one of the most satisfying experiences in music as it is the purest form of music, the human voice in all of its forms.