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How to Write Your First A Cappella Song

deke4Guest Blogger: Deke Sharon is the co-author (with Dylan Bell) of A Cappella Arranging. The following is an excerpt from his blog on Casa.org. Check it out for tips on how to write an a cappella song.

There are endless books on the market about how to write a song, so I’m not going to go into depth. A brief web search will come up with many opinions, perspectives, techniques, models and best practices.

To these, I offer my own tidbits of advice to the first-time a cappella songwriter:

* Write what you know: Pick something meaningful to you that happened, be it an experience, a feeling, a journey, a moment. Do not make the mistake of trying to be clever, as that will be annoying. Do not try to write a general love song, as that will be unfocused. Do not try to write the greatest pop song ever, as you’ll collapse under the weight. Just as an essayist should have a thesis she knows about, make something small and personal and real.

* Write with emotion: You’re telling a story with this song, and as such the emotional content should be reinforced in your musical and lyrical choices. If you don’t care about the song neither will your audience.

* Write for yourself: Don’t start writing for other members of your group. Write for yourself. You might find it scary, but you are the one to sing this solo, so put the melody in your range, put the words in your voice. There’s no one and nothing to hide behind, and there shouldn’t be.

* Keep it simple, keep it short: There is a place for poetry and a place for epic scope. Your first song is almost certainly not that place, just as you should start by writing a short story before you write a novel. Less is more.

For the rest of the blog post, go to Casa.org!

The world loves to sing. From barbershop groups to madrigal choirs to vocal rock bands, there are tens of thousands of vocal groups in America. The success of mainstream television programs such as Glee and The Sing-Off not only demonstrates the rising popularity of vocal music; it reflects how current trends inspire others to join in. In addition, through various online and on-the-ground vocal music societies, the “a cappella market” is well defined and well connected. Like singing itself, a cappella is a global phenomenon.

At the heart of every vocal group is the music it performs. This often means writing its own arrangements of popular or traditional songs. This book is the long-awaited definitive work on the subject, wide ranging both in its scope and in its target audience – which spans beginners, music students, and community groups to professional and semi-professional performers, vocal/instrumental songwriters, composers, and producers – providing genre-specific insight on a cappella writing.

The tone of the book is instructive and informative, yet conversational: it is intended to stand alongside any academic publication while remaining interesting and fun. A Cappella Arranging is a good textbook – and a “good read” – for every vocal arranger, whether amateur or professional; every vocal music classroom, and any professional recording studio.

A Cappella Arranging: How the Book Came to Be


Guest Blogger:
Dylan Bell is the co-author of A Cappella Arranging with Deke Sharon. This is the beginning of his post on his blog. Please visit casa.org for his full post.

A couple of years ago, I had the bright (or possibly crazy) idea to write a book on a cappella arranging. To my knowledge, there wasn’t yet a complete, “definitive work” on the subject. (Anna Callahan wrote a great book a number of years ago, but it was written primarily for collegiate a cappella ensembles, and was written when collegiate aca was in its infancy.) So, before putting pen to paper, I put a call out to the a cappella community. Essentially, I asked:

“Is there an ‘a cappella arranger’s Bible’ already out there? If not, how come none of the masters have written one?”

I couldn’t help myself, and added the following:

“[Mr. Sharon, I’m looking in your direction]”.

Well, it elicited plenty of responses out there, all saying the same things: “No, there isn’t a book like that. Yes, please write it. And I’ll be the first to buy it”.

Good sign so far. Then Deke chimed in:

“Are you serious about this? I’ve been planning to write a book for years. What would you say about joining forces?”

Keep reading this post on Dylan’s blog.

A Cappella Arranging is a book in Hal Leonard’s MusicPro Guides series. Visit MusicPro Guides’ website and YouTube page. Also visit A Cappella Arranging‘s page at acappellaarranging.com

The world loves to sing. From barbershop groups to madrigal choirs to vocal rock bands, there are tens of thousands of vocal groups in America. The success of mainstream television programs such as Glee and The Sing-Off not only demonstrates the rising popularity of vocal music; it reflects how current trends inspire others to join in. In addition, through various online and on-the-ground vocal music societies, the “a cappella market” is well defined and well connected. Like singing itself, a cappella is a global phenomenon.

At the heart of every vocal group is the music it performs. This often means writing its own arrangements of popular or traditional songs. This book is the long-awaited definitive work on the subject, wide ranging both in its scope and in its target audience – which spans beginners, music students, and community groups to professional and semi-professional performers, vocal/instrumental songwriters, composers, and producers – providing genre-specific insight on a cappella writing.

The tone of the book is instructive and informative, yet conversational: it is intended to stand alongside any academic publication while remaining interesting and fun. A Cappella Arranging is a good textbook – and a “good read” – for every vocal arranger, whether amateur or professional; every vocal music classroom, and any professional recording studio.