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History of A Cappella

A cappella music was first heard in churches. One example a cappella style music that was performed in churches is the Gregorian chants. Some churches do not believe that instruments should be used inside of chapels, and so they use a cappella arrangements instead of traditional accompaniments. Some Jewish and Muslim services use a cappella music, as well. A great deal of the music from the Renaissance was also a cappella.

Emulating Instruments

In the 1990s, a cappella began to grow in popularity as more groups began to emulate instruments as part of the performance. This allowed groups to take already popular songs and change the arrangements. This was done primarily in collegiate groups throughout the country, though some professional groups did this as well. Generally, one or two people will hold the bass and drum sounds while the other singers will emulate the sounds of different instruments. It creates a very full sound.

A Cappella Musical Theater

There have been just a few performances of musical theater with entirely a cappella music. One of these was Avenue X, and it was performed in 1994. More recently Perfect Harmony and In Transit were performed in off-Broadway theaters. Both of these productions took place in 2010.

Barbershop Style Music

In addition to the collegiate style a cappella music, barbershop style music has been very popular throughout the United States. This style of a cappella focuses on harmonizing and originally started with men's groups. The style got its name because the first groups were started in barbershops. Although this style was started in America, it has grown in popularity and spread throughout the world.

General Resources

A cappella : Learn about the different styles of a cappella and discover the long history of the style.

What Is A Cappella Music : A look at a cappella music and how you would use it in a religious setting.

A Vocal Basis for the Affective Character of Musical Mode in Melody : This article looks at how voice and history has affected different styles of music.

A Guide to Auditioning for Musical Theater : Learn how to prepare for an audition.

Barbershop Harmony Society: This website provides information on barbershop music.

The Origins of Barbershop Harmony: Read a detailed history of early barbershop music throughout the United States.

History of Barbershop Music: A brief history of barbershop music.

An Historical Review of Barbershop Music and the Sight- Reading Methodology (PDF): This is a scholarly paper that examines how people learned to sing barbershop music.

The Historical Roots of Barbershop May Surprise You (PDF): This article gives some background on barbershop music.

A Guide to Producing an A Cappella CD: Learn the steps you will need to take to produce your own CD. This covers everything from choosing the best recording space to helping your singers stay in tune.

Evolution of Music: Watch an a cappella performance that takes you through the history of music and demonstrates just how a cappella works across different genres of music.

The 'Cool' Kids of College A Cappella: This article examines the a cappella movement across college campuses.

Sweet Honey in the Rock: This PBS piece looks at the history of one of the earliest female a cappella groups.

Sweet Adelines: This international women's a cappella musical chorus has been gaining popularity.

A Cappella History: Discover this brief history of the a cappella style of singing.

History of Chant: Gregorian chants and other types of chant are discussed here.

Why Is Chant Called Gregorian?: Find out the origins of the Gregorian Chant on this page.

Barbershop Harmony's Historical Roots: The history of barbershop harmony and how barbershop is gaining popularity today.