HomeGet Fit: A Cappella Boot Camp!

Evan Feist's picture

Dave Brown and Freddie Feldman, with a combined 40+ years of a cappella performing, recording, and coaching experience, now bring you A cappella Boot Camp!

A Cappella Boot Camp, or "ABC," is a five-day, intensive recording seminar that will take place in Chicago on August 11-15.  The seminar's website, http://www.acabootcamp.com has lots of great information, but I still had more questions.

I was lucky enough (through the guidance and wisdom of the wonderful Amy Malkoff) to speak to the drill sergeants behind all this and ask a few questions.

So, without further ado, my first question was:

Evan Feist:
How is the affectionately named ABC different from “Soup to Nuts”?

Dave Brown: The crux of both programs is the same: teach future-amazing-producers how to choose and deal with the right gear, how to get great takes out of singers, how to manage recording projects, how to work with a mixing studio and mastering house, and so forth.  There are some differences, however.  The most obvious is that ABC is based in Chicago, which we hope is pretty accessible.  In contrast to Soup to Nuts, we talk a fair amount about amateur gear.  Rather than recording in a studio the whole time, we'll set up an inexpensive basic rig and show students how to work on that gear to make great music.  During our 5-day program, we'll also get an on-site tour of the Shure microphones facility.  One of the most fun aspects of ABC is that each student will walk away with a "Survival Kit" full of great award-winning a cappella albums, books about recording, gift cards, electronic pitch pipe, and more.  Every ABC student also gets killer discounts at places like Sweetwater Sound.

Who do you expect to attend this (age, pro or collegiate, just local, etc)?

DB: The seminar is open to folks of any age.  We've seen tremendous interest from collegiate students and post-collegiate folks alike. Our first couple of students who have already signed up are actually of the semi-pro and League age range.  We think a cappella recording artists of varying age ranges and experience levels actually have a lot to learn from each other.

EF: Where is Aca Boot Camp and can it come to "my" town?

DB: Aca Boot Camp is held in the state-of-the-art VOCOMOTION Studio owned and operated by Freddie Feldman just outside of Chicago, Illinois.  The studio was designed by world-renowned studio architect, John Storyk (Jimi Hendrix, Alicia Keys, Timbaland, Green Day).

There are no current plans to expand locations, though it's not theoretically unconceivable.

Why so few participants?  Will there be more than one per year so more people can attend?

DB: We want every ABC student to get a chance to set up the gear, sing on the mic, and run the board.  We've designed the program to be small so it can be highly customized and ultra interactive.  We want every attendee to walk away with the confidence to go out and produce their own amazing a cappella album.  There are also only so many people that can fit in a studio. :)

We hope to have the seminar again, but it's hard to predict. If you're interested in coming, we highly suggest you jump on board and join us this August.  We can't promise whether we'll do this again.  So, come join us!  It'll be loads and fun and an incredible learning experience.

EF: Will you be selling any programs, gear, books, etc?

DB: There's obviously a tuition to attend the program, but the unbelievable amazing unreal Survival Kit is totally free and included in the tuition.  As of now, there are no plans to sell anything to people who don't attend.

The Survival Kit includes:

(from acappellabootcamp.com)

-Hardcover printed book, On-Time and On-Budget: Managing Your A Cappella Recording Project (expanded edition), by Freddie Feldman

-Hardcover printed book, In a Closet: A Cappella Recording On A Severe Budget, by Freddie Feldman and world-renowned studio architect John Storyk

-$50 Gift Card to acaTunes.com

-A Farley's Essentials PocketTones electronic pitchpipe

-A bottle of Entertainer's Secret throat relief spray

-A one-of-a-kind package with complimentary copies of the latest albums from some of the best professional a cappella groups in the world (donated especially for ABC by the pro groups themselves), including:

Basix: Diversity

Blue Jupiter: Golden Lucky

Club For Five: You're The Voice

Firedrill: ...Sings Without Music Vol. II

Hyannis Sound: On The Clock

m-pact: m-pact

The Real Group: The Real Album

Rilton's Vanner: Japanmix, De vill att vi bugar och niger, and Har ar passion

Sonos: SonoSings

-Lifetime-enrollment in the private A cappella Boot Camp Forum where all -ABC alumni can discuss recording

And more!!!


-Exclusive discount code for Sweetwater Sound when purchasing recording gear

-Membership card good for two-year 10% Discount on mixing services at VOCOMOTION Studios

                        And more!!!

EF: Is there- a way to be involved if you can’t make those dates/can’t afford the seminar (ie web feed or private Skype lessons)?

DB: Perhaps in theory, but as of now, no.  This is a killer program, and it's hard to learn this stuff without trying it yourself.

We certainly appreciate that the tuition isn't ultra cheap.  But remember, many awesome a cappella albums (and some less awesome ones) cost $10,000 or more.  If you come to ABC and learn how to track and edit your own music, you'll save tons of time in the studio and literally thousands of dollars in your budget.  You'll also turn out a higher quality product.  Oh, and don't forget, we'll also be teaching you how to handle licensing yourself, how to market your album better, and increase sales.  So, ABC is actually a major bargain.  We could probably charge twice as much.

Since this saves on the overall album budget (and budgets for future albums), folks who are interested in attending shouldn't consider this a personal cost, but rather lobby their group or their school or their donors or whatever for funds.

EF: Will participants leave with tracks of their own?  Can “soldiers” bring their own arrangements to be recorded?

DB: We'll have a cover song we work on during the seminar as a group.  The group will pick the song before the seminar begins, and we'll then track it together, using that as one teaching tool during the week.  If all goes well, students will also have their own time in the studio (without Freddie and me) to just try whatever they want--cover or otherwise.

EF: Can people submit arrangements to be recorded if they cannot attend?

DB: A thoughtful question, but given my explanation of the course, you'll see why that kinda doesn't make sense with our model.  So, no.

The arrangement(s) we'll record will be organic, not so much planned out.  It's a fun learning experience to turn the studio into a live creative environment.

EF: What software/program will you be mainly using and will there be 101/crash courses available?  What about advanced courses?

DB: We'll mostly be working with ProTools.  The skills we're teaching aren't specific to any one software system, so it's not so much "learning ProTools"--there are already plenty of courses for that.

Rather, our goal is to teach you how to manage a recording project, how to manage an artist behind the glass, how to get good takes out of a singer, and how to make an overall successful album beyond just the recording.

Whatever your individual experience level with ProTools or otherwise, we'll throw all that into a big pot of learning.  Everyone will bring something different to the course.  If you've already made an album, great!  Let's teach you to make a better one.  If you've made great albums, awesome!  Let's teach you to make an award-winning one!

EF: Will the skills learn transcend the ProTools (or whatever program you're using) gap? (Can we take what we learned and apply it to Garageband, Digital Performer, etc) or is it plug-in specific?

DB: We'll be focused mostly on ProTools, since that's the industry standard, but we both have ample experience with other recording environments.  And as I explained above, we're not so much teaching people how to click the record button as we are teaching you how to conceive an album and execute it from start to finish.

Freddie is an unbelievably experienced, award-winning producer.  It'll be open access, anything goes, question and answer time.  He'll share money saving tips and industry insider tricks up the wazoo.

I'm a licensed copyright attorney who works at a record label managing artists and oodles of recording projects.  So I'll be talking about artist management, copyright issues, and marketing and sales.

Between the two of us, we've been around a cappella for something like 40 years, teaching, singing, listening, critiquing, coaching, managing, recording, you name it. We both get truckloads of questions from people all the time looking to make their recordings better.  We're thrilled to be able to sit down with seven great artists (and future producers!) and share whatever we know.  Plus, we're thrilled to learn whatever our students have to share as well.

EF: Will the mixing/effects style tend more toward uber-production Beezlebub style or more natural Straight No Chaser style?

DB: Both and neither. :)  Our goal is to teach you to make whatever you want.  Every a cappella track, whether like Fork or like the Persuasions, needs commitment and passion and musicality behind it.  Every track needs attention and thought and a producer who understands the gear and runs the studio with confidence.  Our goal is to prepare our students to go out and be that confident producer, no matter what his or her taste and style.

EF: What are the future big-picture plans for this program?

DB: Dunno!  For now, we just want to work hard to lift the musicality and recording abilities of a handful of eager producers.  We may do this for 50 years; we may do it once!  Only time will tell.

For more information, PLEASE visit http://www.acappellabootcamp.com

About the author:
Evan Feist has been composing, arranging, teaching, and singing a cappella music and vocal percussion for over eight years and has his Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Composition and Arts Management from SUNY Purchase's Conservatory of Music and is working towards his Master' Degree in Music Education at Columbia University, Teacher's College.  He has created and managed many successful groups, such as the A Cappella Innovations’ honored Choral Pleasure, SUNY Purchase Soul Voices, and the Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK Honors Choir.  Evan is the founder and president of Oven Feast Productions, and the business manager of Stacks of Wax Records, currently based out of Jersville Studios. He dabbles in all things musical and plays the piano, drums, percussion, trumpet, shofar, bass, and guitar.  Evan is currently building a collegiate mixed a cappella group in NYC (open to ALL students in the area)