When you think of a cappella, or vocal music without any instrumental accompaniment, the movie Pitch Perfect may come to mind. While the well-known form of a cappella is arrangements of popular tunes, a cappella songwriting can be a unique way to dazzle up your songs. The challenge is that without the aid of instruments, songwriters must rely on the human voice to create all aspects of the song.
Here are some tips to help you write a successful a cappella song.
1. Melodic Structure
Even with no instruments involved, it’s still important to structure your song properly. You’ll still need a bass part, some harmonies in the middle, a melody, and details on top, as you would with a normal song. This can be a bit challenging, but it’s a great opportunity to flex your songwriting muscles and come up with some creative solutions to make your vocals sound full and complete.
2. Take Advantage of the Human Voice
One of the great things about a cappella music is that it allows you to take full advantage of the human voice and the sounds that it can make. Choosing interesting syllables can add a unique texture and rhythm to your song. You can even experiment with different vocal techniques such as beatboxing and vocal percussion to create a more complex sound. Keep in mind that the human voice can be incredibly versatile. You can use different vocal ranges, from the lowest bass notes to the highest falsetto. And don’t forget that the sound of the human voice can be incredibly emotive, so you can use it to convey a wide range of emotions in your music.
3. Fill in the Chords
Another tip for writing a cappella music is to know your chords. When it comes to filling in the chords for an a cappella song, it’s important to have a good understanding of basic music theory and know the chords you want to use. Knowing the key of the song and using basic chords such as major, minor, and dominant chords can provide a strong base for the piece. Then feel free to experiment with it all that you want!
4. Add Interesting Harmonies
Once the chords are established, the next step is to add the harmonies on top. A cappella music relies heavily on harmonies to create depth and interest, so it’s important to choose the right intervals to create the desired effect. Commonly used intervals include the third, fifth, and octave, as well as more complex intervals such as the seventh, ninth, and eleventh. The lack of instrumental accompaniment allows for a more prominent focus on the vocal harmony, so you can experiment with different chord progressions and harmonies to create a unique and interesting sound.
5. Add Dissonance to Resolve
Adding dissonance to a cappella songs can be as simple as having one voice hold a note while another voice moves around it, creating a clash of harmonies. The tension created by the dissonance can be resolved by having the harmonies move to a consonant chord or note, bringing a sense of resolution and satisfaction to the listener. Careful use of dissonance can help create a more dynamic and engaging a cappella song.
At the end of the day, writing a cappella music can be a fun and rewarding experience that allows you to explore the full range of the human voice. So next time you’re struggling to come up with a new song, try taking a break from your instruments and see where your voice can take you.