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“A Cappella Arranging” is finally here!

The “definitive work” on a cappella arranging had yet to be written. So, Deke and I wrote it. How’s how it all happened.

A couple of years ago, I had the bright (or possibly crazy) idea to write a book on a cappella arranging. To my knowledge, there wasn’t yet a complete, “definitive work” on the subject. (Anna Callahan wrote a great book a number of years ago, but it was written primarily for collegiate a cappella ensembles, and was written when collegiate aca was in its infancy.) So, before putting pen to paper, I put a call out to the a cappella community. Essentially, I asked:

“Is there an ‘a cappella arranger’s Bible’ already out there? If not, how come none of the masters have written one?”

I couldn’t help myself, and added the following:

“[Mr. Sharon, I’m looking in your direction]”.

Well, it elicited plenty of responses out there, all saying the same things: “No, there isn’t a book like that. Yes, please write it. And I’ll be the first to buy it”.

Good sign so far. Then Deke chimed in:

“Are you serious about this? I’ve been planning to write a book for years. What would you say about joining forces?”

Deke and Dylan, writing the Ulimate Acap Arranging book. I could dig that.

So, we talked. Turns out we have a lot in common, in our approaches to the art, our writing styles, and even our working personalities. Looking good. Deke had even started collecting and organizing his many posts over the years. And thanks to Deke’s existing relationship with Hal Leonard Publishing, the world’s foremost music publisher, we managed to secure a publishing deal. No ring-bound, published-at-Staples home-job: we decided to go big, or go home.

And go big we did. It’s 98,000 words long. 330 pages. A half-century of our collective wisdom (such as it is), now available to everyone.

What did we say in our 98,000 words? In essence, whatever you told us you needed to know. In our research phase (and over years of answering forums, individual questions, and teaching workshops on the subject) we collected questions from the a cappella community to find out what tricks, tips and techniques you need, what problems you’ve come across, and even genre-specific questions like “How could I do a barbershop arrangement of a Metallica song?”

The book breaks down as follows:

“Quick Start”: The Ten Steps Approach. For those who just want to jump right in.

Principles of Arranging. Everything from how to transcribe, to thoughts on the creative process…plus some important myth-busting to break down the barriers and help you get started.

The Ten Steps Expanded. We really dig into the details here, and take you through the process using two of our own arrangements.

Detailed Analyses: for the hardcore arranging fans, we dissect three of our own charts, explaining the thought processes and reasons behind every note.

Specific Topics in Arranging. A mixed bag of detailed topics, including tricks and tips to spice up your arrangement, techniques for writing for different types of vocal ensembles, writing in specific musical styles (from Gregorian chant, to jazz, to gospel), and how to write medleys.

In short, everything and anything we could think of telling you. It’s finally on the (virtual) shelves, available here and here. In addition, we’ll be supplementing the book with a website: www.acappellaarranging.com.

This book has truly been a labor (or in Canuck-speak, “labour”) of love, and we hope you enjoy learning from it as much as we enjoyed writing it for you.

No go out and buy it!

About the writer:
In a word…multifaceted. Juno-nominated, multiple-CARA-winning Dylan Bell is a performer, composer/arranger, music director and producer/engineer. As an a cappella singer, arranger and producer, Dylan has worked with many of the world's renowned vocal groups including Cadence, the Swingle Singers and the Nylons, as well as his own groups Retrocity and the FreePlay Duo. He’s played stages across the world from his native Toronto, Canada to Stockholm, Sweden, to Calcutta, India, and his compositions and vocal arrangements are performed everywhere from Arnprior to Zurich. Dylan also has a secret life as a freelance multi-instrumentalist, touring internationally as a pianist, bassist, and guitarist. Visit Dylan at www.dylanbell.ca.

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