HomeWhat Your Group Is Doing Wrong… (part 2)

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I want to state that I am fresh off of a fantastic weekend at BOSS, which has put me in an extremely good mood and more complimentary than critical. That is, until I started relating what I saw this weekend to what I see regularly from other groups. OK, critical Eric is back! This time, I want to focus on performance and the preparation that comes with this. My groups hear me criticize studio behaviors all of the time, so this will be a nice change of pace.

Number one: have an idea. I am not even saying that it needs to be a new or groundbreaking thought for your next show. I would settle for something you saw last month on YouTube. An idea of the direction that you want to take your show is the initial step in organizing everything else. Without it, you are wandering aimlessly just singing. And yes, I am aware that plenty of you are doing that this spring. You shouldn’t go into rehearsal without a plan or an idea of what to accomplish that day, so why would you do it in a show where people have taken time out of their day and paid to watch you sing? Shame on you for not putting on a SHOW! Repeat customers are developed by entertainment. A select few people are entertained by watching people stand still and sing.
You have arrangements that your group is nailing, and you sound incredible together in the practice space. Are you practicing in the same format that you perform in? Do your arrangements translate to the stage? Things sound differently in front of mics, and your group chemistry falls apart when numbers are rehearsed in a circle when you face an audience on stage. There is a really easy way to avoid this situation….

Choreography! Don’t for a second think that your group is above it or too cool for it. It is the equivalent of being too cool to wear your seatbelt when you drive. Ask around and see how that worked out for people. Obviously, groups take different approaches to this issue. Female groups naturally have an easier time with choreography because girls look good dancing. Be careful not to get too cutesy with it though, unless the song calls for it. Nothing gets an audience pumped like some girl power stomping the hell out of a stage. Guys have more trouble, but a ton of possibilities. You have to find the level that works for you and your group, and OWN it. Too many time groups have added choreography to a song, only to have half of the group invest themselves in it. The ones who don’t are doing so because they are embarrassed or think it’s lame. Let me set the record straight: it isn’t. Lame is being the one person on stage that isn’t feeling the music and standing there looking bored. If somebody in your group isn’t willing, then find a friend outside of the group or hire a professional. Yes, there are plenty of us out there that do consultations and would help choreograph numbers for you.

Sound is critical to a true show. Your arrangements may be complex and sound good to you, but that alto part may get buried under everything else on stage (insert plug for Deke’s microphone article here). Read that article about mic’ing your group individually. There are numerous ways to beef up your sound, and even more people out there that do it for a living. Is the cost of a professional a cappella sound person worth doubling attendance at your next show? That is your decision. if it isn’t in the budget, make sure you are doing a full sound check and positioning mics and monitors to maximize your performance. A sound system should add to your show, not subtract from it. There is too much value in technology to ignore it or avoid using as much of it as you can.

Above all, get your group in the mindset that every moment of every song should have a purpose. Going through the motions is a dangerous and very transparent action to even non a cappella enthusiasts in your crowd. Whether you are high school, college, semi pro, or do this every day for a living, sometimes we tend to forget the reason we started doing this in the first place. It’s fun! It should be fun for your audience as well, so remind them how much they love music and hearing talented people singing it. Do this, and your seats will stay filled for future shows. Who knows, you might even need to add a few more.

[ part 1 ]

About the writer:
Eric Talley fell in love with a cappella music the very first time that he heard it. He is the founder of Appalachian State University's only co-ed a cappella group, Lost In Sound. He served as their President for three years. During that time, a cappella brought him not only musical joy, but love as well. He met his fiancé Nicki - who was the music director - while in the group, and the two married in August 09. A background in a cappella music and sound engineering led Eric to become involved in professional album production, where he continues his work today and as a contributor to CASA.