HomeRockapella and Harmonix’s Rock Band: An A Cappella First

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I can describe myself in many ways. I’m an IT guy and a computer nerd. I’m a drama geek and a choir boy. I’m a son, a friend, a brother, and a whole slew of other things, but most of all, I describe myself two ways – I am a gamer, and I am a musician/singer. So when I heard that a cappella music would be coming to Rock Band, I was absolutely ecstatic!

Rock Band, for anyone who is unaware, is a video game from Harmonix Music Systems. The game allows you to play some of the greatest songs of all time using controllers built like guitars, drums, keyboards, and even microphones. Following the colored symbols on the screen, you push buttons, hit toms, tickle the ivories, and wail on the mic along with songs from No Doubt, Lady Gaga, Metallica, and thousands of others. But now, thanks to Rock Band authoring group, Fairwood Studios, you can play as legendary a cappella group, Rockapella, on their newest single – “Bang.”

“But Jeeves, how do you play a cappella music – THERE ARE NO INSTRUMENTS!” I’m glad you asked, person-with-a-broken-capslock. Much in the way that contemporary a cappella music replicates instruments using voices, Rock Band can replicate voices using instruments. So, Jeff Thacher’s rockin’ percussion is played using the drum set. George Baldi’s soulful bass is played as a bass guitar. Scott Leonard’s high flyin vocals are available on the microphone, and Steven Dorian and John Brown’s harmonies are played as chords on a guitar.

The promotional videos show that the parts seem to translate almost effortlessly to the Rock Band platform. Rockapella’s percussionist, Jeff Thacher, had a chance to play the track and had a great time with it. “[Playing the song] is smooth and challenging and a lot of fun.” Jeff also noted the interesting complexity of playing with fingers instead of mouths. Jeff is hardly new to the Rock Band franchise. He commented on a couple of his favorite tracks to play. “Though I've played many of the classic tracks, I think the Beatles selections were so beautifully done that they have a bit of extra magic.”

So will we see anything more from Rockapella on the Rock Band Network? That is yet to be seen. Forum posts on the Rock Band website are calling for classic Rockapella like “… Carmen Sandiego.” Jeff liked the idea, but says that the addition of new songs is up to the fan’s response. “We’ll have to see how ‘Bang’ does for the time being. We’ll see what the awesome folks at RBNetwork think. Stay tuned!”

“Bang” by Rockapella is now available for download on the RBNetwork for $1.99, £0.99 UK, €1.49 EU (160 Microsoft Points for Xbox 360), and is considered a 4/5 difficulty level overall. You can also purchase Rockapella’s CD “Bang” from iTunes or Amazon. Check out their website for more information!




About the author:
Jeeves Murphy: "I've only heard the a cappella version of that song before." If Jeeves had a nickel for every time he's said that, he'd be a rich man. Jeeves has been singing ever since he can remember (even before he was "Jeeves"). He's performed in classical and renaissance a cappella groups, as well as contemporary groups and barbershop quartets.  He helped found multiple groups while he was in college, including the first of its kind at UMBC (The Mama's Boys) where he graduated with a degree in English Literature. Jeeves currently works in Columbia, MD as an ITS Engineer. In his spare time, he is an all around musician - playing piano, bass guitar, cajon, and of course singing Tenor (high-tenor), arranging, and vocal percussion. He's the Maryland State Ambassador for CASA and writes semi-regularly for the site (or at least when the mood strikes). Jeeves' articles focus mainly on performance and CD reviews.