Thursday, November 12, 2020

COVID Killed the A cappella Star

Hello dear reader.

How are you?

It’s been a while.


14 months to be exact.


A lot has changed in that time. 


Let’s see…where should I begin? Oh right. The board game Pandemic is no longer fun to play.


Chances are, as of today, you fall into one of these categories:

1) Your a cappella group has decided to rehearse, COVID be damned. And…then someone gets COVID.

2) Your a cappella group meets online and you spend the majority of time figuring out how to film your next virtual choir video.

3) You’re trying to rehearse with your group/choir live, but everyone is so far apart that tuning is nigh impossible. And forget about matching vowels…you can’t even see what shapes each mouth is making.

4) Your group is on hiatus until further notice.


You probably think that with all that’s going on today regarding health and safety, that these are your only options. Risk singing together or turn up the stress dial to 11 trying to work through online technical difficulties.


Well, I’m here to tell you, there’s another way to get your a cappella cake and eat it too. The cake is NOT a lie.


Here are some options you may not have thought of…


Option 1- LEARN!


Look, the ICCA is virtual this year, so there’s no need to spend hours rehearsing your pinwheel choreography. You’ve got some time on your hands, so why not spend it learning more about a cappella? Trust me, when the world reboots and the ICCA is back to its regularly scheduled program, you will most likely have to focus all of your time on that pinwheel.


It just so happens (shameless plug) that a school is currently open, where you can learn so much more about a cappella than you ever thought possible. Plus, the classes are live, so you’re getting direct, immediate feedback as if this were college.


To learn more, go here:


But wait! What if you HATE direct and immediate feedback? What if you’d rather have access to videos that you play on your own time? Well, there’s a website for that as well:


Option 2- LISTEN!


Ever see that movie Pay it Forward? Yeah, neither did I, but it did give me an idea about how we, as an a cappella community, can increase the number of people who listen to our stuff while simultaneously supporting other content creators. (I mean, I assume the movie is about selfishly helping yourself as much as you help others. Again, I did not see it)


I’m calling this the Aca-Swap (final name pending…)


Here’s how it works:

-You contact a friend in another a cappella group. They agree to participate in an aca-swap.

-You watch/listen to something (ONE THING) of theirs and give feedback/opinons/compliments. 

-Then, they listen to something (ONE THING) of yours and do the same. This way, both of you have now experienced something new.


That (ONE THING) disclaimer is there to ensure that it’s fair. I mean, don’t make your friend listen to an entire album then agree to only listen to one song. That makes you a jerk. By limiting each Aca-Swap to only one thing (ONE THING), you keep the exchange short and sweet.


Try it!




So, for this one, you need the Acapella app. I’ll admit, I resisted using it for a long time, because the videos looked kinda cheesy. (Okay, full disclosure- I resisted using it because they spelled a cappella wrong and it REALLY ANNOYED ME)


Anyway, once I discovered that you can actually use it to collaborate with friends, I started using it on a daily basis.


Then, this morning (THIS. VERY. MORNING.) I thought of something (ONE THING). While we might not be able to improvise circle songs and arrangements online [shakes fist at computer latency], we CAN collaborate one part at a time. Here’s what you do:

-Start an acapella video (HATE. THAT. SPELLING.) and sing one part over and over for a minute or so.

-Send that video to a friend who has the app, and they add one part.

-They send it to a different friend, who adds another part.

And so on.

And so on.

And so on. (WAYNE’S WORLD!)


The catch is that this is supposed to be improvised, so the person receiving the video should have no idea what the song sounds like until they record for the first time.


This can be used for a number of clever improvisation games. (More on that in a future blog)




“The Singer’s Mask” is probably the most widely used right now by my choral educator friends. The only drawback is, of course, it makes you look like a duck. (Also it’s not exactly cheap). But if your group is small and everyone buys one, then you can rehearse in person safely.

You can buy it here:




Now is the BEST time to try building a new a cappella skill, like recording, arranging, improvising, making videos, etc. I myself have re-discovered my love of looping, and now I put out weekly improvised looping videos. (Bonus, I’m getting better at Final Cut Pro).


The thing is, if you are going to compete this year in ICCA, ICHSA, ACA-OPEN, etc., you’re going to have to make a video, which can be expensive.


Take it from me, unless you’re in a group that has made it to the finals any year or won, you are not going to have enough money to make a video worthy of winning the ICCA and therefore, have little-to-no chance of winning. 


That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enter. On the contrary. You should ABSOLUTELY enter, but make the video yourself. Knowing that you have NO CHANCE of winning allows you the freedom to get creative, to experiment, to master a new skill.


It just so happens that a friend of mine (and by friend, I mean a group of friends who work for a registered LLC) have reasonably priced classes that will help you get started. You can see these classes here:




Look, as much as I make fun of our situation, the reality is, this is serious. People are dying and every time I see a friend of mine on Facebook say they have COVID, I genuinely get scared.


Now, I’m not trying to get political, but it seems that our fortunes might be turning in this situation, because the government is going to take COVID seriously.


Why does this affect you? Because you can use your a cappella powers to raise money for organizations who need supplies, man power, and medicine to fight this disease. You have the power to fight back, and you have the power to brighten someone’s day. Use the aca-force for good.


If you wonder why your virtual choir video isn’t going viral, it’s because everyone and their mom (even my mom) are making virtual choir videos. If you want to stand out in this unknown territory we call online learning, you need to think outside the box.


But don’t actually go outside the box. You might catch COVID.


Marc Silverberg


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