A Cappella Songwriting
Carl Hose reports:
"A cappella is a vocal song without instrumental music...A cappella songs put the emphasis on the vocal harmonies and use voice to its full potential as an instrument. Writing an a cappella song is a combination of writing a good lyric line and assigning voices to the lyric lines to showcase harmonic vocal structure in its best light. Write lyrics to your a cappella song first. The lyric content is less a focus of the a cappella song than the way the words are arranged and harmonized. Typical lyrical content of an a cappella song depends upon the type of a cappella song...Develop harmony and rhythm with the vocal parts. Decide if you want three-part or four-part harmony. With a three-part harmony, you will typically write a line for a bass voice, an alto voice and a high soprano. A four-part arrangement will include a tenor part. Use a digital recorder to work out the arrangements with actual singers if you can. If not, compose parts on the piano or an electronic keyboard. Write a melody line for your alto voice. This will be the lead part. [T]he alto singer will sing the lead vocal line throughout the song. Build other vocal parts around the main melody. If the lead singer is singing an E and the chord of the moment is a C, then you would write the fifth note of the C scale for the voice above the lead singer and the root of the chord for the bass singer. In the case of a C chord (built from the first, third and fifth notes of a C scale) you need the notes C-E-G. Because the lead singer has the E, write a C for the bass singer and a G for the soprano singer. Write counter melodies for the bass singer to add movement to your a cappella songs. Because there are no instruments to give the song movement, you can write a bass vocal line that goes against the melody of the song. In this case, use a tenor or a second bass to handle the low notes of the harmony...When possible, work with a group of singers. Writing an effective a cappella song is more about arranging voices. Sometimes it takes several combinations to find the harmony of a lyric as well as the counter melody that makes an a cappella song sound good. The more you can work with different voices, the better you can refine your song."
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