Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why WIX Works Wonderfully

Last week, I had an epiphany. See, I was teaching Sight Singing 2 to a bunch of students who had already failed it the first time and we were all frustrated. I was frustrated that they weren’t able to grasp the material and they were frustrated that I wasn’t yet dead so they could automatically move on to Sight Singing 3.

Both sight singing and ear training have a unique challenge built into the course- No textbook in the world can possibly help you learn sight singing or ear training by yourself. You can never practice either by yourself, because how do you know if you are right?

Practicing with others works well, but unless you have a very dedicated friend who is available 24/7 and willing to listen to you struggle through examples, then you can’t always rely on other people.

There are always apps and programs online that help, but the good ones cost money that you nor the school really has to offer.

I knew the solution was making some kind of available resource, online, that students could practice with any time and get real-time feedback. But I also knew that my skills as a webpage designer could easily be compared to Bill Gates, if he lost both arms and legs, went blind, deaf, and dumb, and was then placed in a dark cave in the middle of nowhere.

The answer came from my a cappella group. We had already started building a new website and our alto Melanie had shown me something called Wix. Wix is a free website builder that lets you add all sorts of things, like movies, and music, and photos, provided you use their template.

With WIX, I built a sight-singing practice website for my students, with audio clips, a metronome, and sheet music examples.

Before you start thinking that I now currently work for WIX and this is just some ploy to gain more customers, it isn’t and I don’t work for them. But I did think that WIX could have multiple a cappella applications that you probably haven’t thought of yet…

1)   A place to hold your MIDIs

You could possibly make a website where your members could log on, practice their music with midi files they would never have to keep track of, and follow along with sheet music that you posted online.

2)   Blog

When Docacappella.com finally comes (I’m working on it), I will house it on WIX, because even a computer-nobody like me can make a decent website.

3)   Links

Chances are, your members have lost the links to your Google calendar/doodle page, documents, and other really important things you use all the time. Why not put up the links on WIX?

And in case you think I’m being biased towards WIX, I also recommend Squarespace. So there.

Marc Silverberg

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What I Learned From SOJAM 2014 Edition

This past weekend, I attended the latest SOJAM a cappella festival. A good time was had by all, but I also learned a lot. Here’s what I learned that you can take back to your groups:
1) A cappella is the new Show Choir
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching countless competition sets, and especially at this year’s SOJAM, it’s that contemporary A cappella has basically become the new “show choir.” With high energy dancing, acrobatic feats, theatrical staging, costume changes, and thematic mash-ups, a cappella has basically taken the show choir format and removed the house band. There’s really no other difference. The National A cappella Convention, hosted by The A cappella Educator’s Association (AEA) is trying to do just that: Convince the competitive show choir teachers to give “all singing and no instruments” a try. I’d wager the link between show choir and a cappella is so strong that one could probably write a dissertation on it. (Any takers?)
2) VP Patterns
A very interesting take on vocal percussion was led by Matt Murphy, where he laid out technical patterns to build upon, instead of working on sounds. I found this approach very refreshing, being an analytic/technical thinker myself, as it reinforced the opinion I’ve always had about vocal percussion: The percussionist’s job is to make the group look good, not the other way around. I personally couldn’t care less how many sounds you can make with your mouth. I want to know if you can keep the beat.
3) How to build a long distance group
Robert Dietz’s group The Funx, talked about how they manage to stay together, despite living in cities across the country from each other. They hold bi-weekly Google hangouts, they learn the music on their own, and they rehearse only if a gig is coming up. It’s not the most perfect scenario, but it allows them to occupy several a cappella groups simultaneously. Also, if you build a long distance group, be sure that the reason isn’t to make money. You would only build a long distance group if you really liked these people. Flying across the country on your own dime just to rehearse for a gig is nowhere near as motivating as flying across the country to see your best friends.
4) The preparation wheel
And speaking of Robert Dietz, he showed me the “Preparation Wheel,” a four step process to crafting an a cappella arrangement. It starts with the Genesis, a reason for doing the song. The technical takes care of intonation, pitches and rhythms. Then you move to crafting the arc of the song, which applies dynamics, articulations, and phrase shaping. Finally, you demonstrate the emotional core of the song by bringing out the emotion in the music. And because the wheel is circular, after you are done with the emotional core, you should then reflect on the Genesis, and see if the reason you originally picked the song is still your main motivation for singing it.
5) Elie Landau is the funniest human being ever.
Seriously. Follow him on twitter. You won’t be sorry. @elielandau
Marc Silverberg
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