Friday, July 12, 2013

The Final Countdown

Before you read on, this should get you in the right mood:
It’s the final blog post for the summer, and what better way to say “I’m taking a break” than with a discussion of how I plan to use my time off, as well as a helpful suggestion list of ways to spend your time preparing for the new aca-year.
10) Use your free time to brush up on materials.
In a similar post, “The Hydra,” I outlined several methods you could use to catch up on your a cappella listening. Here it is again:
9) Arrange like a madman.
You are only going to become a great arranger by trying, failing, trying again, failing again, and trying some more.
Pick 3-5 songs that you know your a cappella group would never sing in a million years and arrange those. In fact, arrange them for your group with the distinct goal of convincing them that your arrangement is so good, they have to get over the fact that the song is terrible and use the arrangement for the upcoming year. After you arrange five songs, you might actually convince them.
8) Chronicle the success of a cappella groups.
Now that schoolwork is over and your time is yours again, how about stalking a great a cappella group? Find out everything you can about them, how they achieved their success, and how you can translate that to your own a cappella group.
7) Devise and short and long term battle plan.
Start with the big stuff, like “winning the ICCA.” Now, what steps do you need to achieve that goal? Well, first you have to submit an audition video, which is usually due in the fall. That means your entire set must be learned and memorized by the audition date, which doesn’t give you a lot of time.
Devising a month-to-month plan, even a week-to-week plan, helps keep you organized and will eventually make you more successful.
6) Read.
Read absolutely everything you can about a cappella. This includes books, PDF’s, blog articles (*cough cough*), album reviews, CD liner notes, etc.
5) Branch out into other areas and make a cappella connections
One of the things I do best is find connections between a cappella practices and other educational methodologies. Instead of reading an a cappella book for the 47th time, how about reading a choral methods book? What about a history of rock book? What about a composition book?
4) Develop your piano proficiency/MIDI capabilities.
The two most common ways to learn music is by plunking it out on the piano, or making a set of learning tracks and distributing them amongst your group. Because let’s face it…everyone in your group is probably not a proficient sight reader (but we’ll get to that in the fall…).
Both methods require some skill. Plunking notes on a piano requires you to actually know how to play, in some small way, the piano. Making and distributing MIDI files or learning tracks is technology based, which means you have to know what buttons to push and in what order.
3) Develop your ear.
One of the best things you can do as a musician in develop your aural skills. Try transcribing an a cappella arrangement from sound only. Try one of the zillion free online ear-training apps. Try listening to a bunch of music and singing along after only one play-through.
2) Learn Google.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am Mac user for life (once you go Mac, you never go back). But Google is the software that keeps me organized. I’ve even starting using Google Drive and Google Calendar.
Google can keep your group organized too, and it’s not terribly difficult to use. If you are going to learn it, now would be the time.
1) Sing.
Have a great summer. See you in the fall.
Marc Silverberg
Follow The Quest for the A cappella Major:
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