HomeRobert Dietz: Turn Up The Creativity Dial

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I review for RARB, and the question people ask me most often is “have you gotten any really bad CDs lately?”  Three years ago when I first got started the answer was yes, I got them all the time.  There was a time not long ago when being in tune, well mixed, and generally energetic on record meant that you had one of the best albums out there.  We are a genre of mostly collegiate, amateur singers, so it’s not surprising that once upon a time a group’s ability to make enhancements in the studio was what got them to the head of the class.  Nowadays with “do it yourself” recording so prevalent, just about anybody can make this happen for a reasonable price.  Good use of the studio is no longer enough to make a record that turns heads.

So what do you need?  Creativity!  If I had a nickel for every time I’ve told a group to “turn up the creativity dial,” I’d have a lot of nickels (drinking game – go through my RARB reviews and drink every time I tell a group to “turn up the dial” on something.  Put 911 on your speed dial).  There are lots of opportunities to be creative with your music, be it song selection, arrangements, solo delivery, use of non-vocal noises, or anything really.

Before we go any further, let’s define what it means to be “creative” (or at least what I, as a lone reviewer, would consider to be creative).  If you do something I’ve never heard before, that’s creative.  If you do a song I’ve heard a million times in a way I would have never expected it, that’s creative too.  If you throw in sounds and vocal effects that totally take me by surprise, you’re probably being really creative.  Notice the pattern?  Creativity is, I think, about pleasantly surprising your audience by exposing them either to something brand new, or to something familiar in an exciting way.  People want to be moved by your music, and one of the best ways to do it is to selectively and musically thwart their expectations.

Important note – the topics I will cover from here on out may or may not apply to your group!  If you are a traditional doo-wop harmony group, and you want to make traditional doo-wop recordings for your fan base, they probably won’t appreciate a song or style coming at them from left field.  Just because your music isn’t particularly “creative” doesn’t mean it’s not good, musical, or valuable.  It just means it probably won’t be pushing the genre forward.  If you know that your album falls into this category, be aware that it may not receive the kindest review, depending on the reviewer.  If you’re ready to push forward, follow me down the rabbit hole.

What can you do to be creative?  That will be the focus of this series of articles.  Check back for new installments. Please read, comment, and hopefully we can come up with some ideas together. After all, that’s what our community is all about.

About the author:
Robert Dietz is a recent graduate of Ithaca College in upstate New York where he received a dual major in music and business. He began singing in high school when he founded the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award (CARA) winning male quintet, Ascending Height. During his time at Ithaca College, Robert had the pleasure of performing with and conducting Ithaca College’s only all male a cappella group, Ithacappella. Along with Ithacappella, Robert had the honor of twice advancing to the finals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCAs), as well as sharing the stage with the internationally renowned rock band, Incubus.  In addition to his CARA awards and nominations, Robert also holds three ICCA awards for outstanding vocal percussion, and his 100th arrangement received the award for outstanding arrangement at the ICCA semifinals at Rutgers in 2009. He currently lives in Brooklyn, and works in the Manhattan office of MusicMind Tracks (www.musicmindtracks.com), a brand new music production library.