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Singing Naked II – Try It.

Try adding a cappella instrumentation to your vocal performance – Mister Tim of moosebutter shows you how*.

Last week we looked at the phenomenon of a cappella music and began to apply this to any vocal work.

This week, let’s explore how a cappella music can co-exist with contemporary forms of singing and point to some interesting alternatives that vocalists might want to try.

New School vs. Old School

Contemporary a cappella is distinguished from traditional a cappella by the use of vocal percussion as well as vocal imitations of instruments that sound nearly identical to the original.

A human being can produce compelling drum sounds, for example, which can help to create rock, pop and jazz genres.

‘Old-school’ a cappella – doo-wop, barbershop, etc. – would incorporate instrumental sounds, but only on a novelty basis.

Modern a cappella ‘vocal bands’ have parts of their ‘band’ which function in exactly the same way as instruments in a rock band and can sound just like the real instrument, sometimes with and sometimes without effects processing.

Check out this awesome video of Felix Zenger beatboxing along with piano and guitar in the Iiro Rantala New Trio.

Starting with a Naked Bass Line

Think about a bass line; it has two functions: to produce the correct note, and to produce the correct style.

When singing pop, rock, or other contemporary music, a bass vocalist can imitate the specific style of bass used for that type of music; with adequate sound reinforcement, sung bass will have the same impact and power as the instrumental version.

There are vocal bands producing live music just as amazing as its instrumental equivalent, while Beatboxers and Vocal Percussionists are producing beats and grooves that get people dancing.

Stepping Out Naked With Vocal Percussion

Even if you have never done any a cappella work, adding this dimension to your music may lead you to some powerful alternatives to your usual performances.

I want to encourage you to try vocal percussion and percussive sounds in your performance.

Vocal percussion and beatboxing is nothing new: rappers and hip hop artists made it famous before Justin Timberlake brought it to the teenage masses.

You can fit it into your performance easily: as a silly addition to a song, as serious textural variety, as another layer in the percussion bed, or as the only percussion if you play acoustic.

If you have a looper, you can easily lay down vocal percussion to accompany any type of music.

Start simple, accent the important parts, and let your imagination run wild!

Don’t worry about sounding ‘right’: any sound can be compelling providing it’s interesting and relevant.

Taking the Plunge into this Genre

I believe passionately in the power of a cappella and I’d like all vocalists to know more about this genre – so indulge me for just another minute…

A cappella is making an impact – not only in terms of a cappella groups but also in terms of artists who incorporate it as an element of their vocal performances.

Some vocal artists are playing up the novelty factor and performing at corporate gigs, but a lot of them are bands who are writing and performing original music and touring with other bands. Consider the work of Naturally 7 and The House Jacks

I think you’ll want to watch out for European groups who have the rich European choral tradition behind them. Their vocal training and skill is impeccable and the best groups are popping out of the choral-heavy areas.

FORK is an interesting example: coming from Finland, with both strong choral and metal traditions – they mix the two.

It is because of this dedication and rich history that many groups with full instrumentation now include a cappella instrumentation as a part of their repertoire.

The Future of A Cappella

Where is a cappella going?

Very soon someone is going to find a way to demonstrate via television and radio just how great live contemporary a cappella sounds.

I see music lovers everywhere accepting a cappella as just another cool instrumentation, with a cappella groups being accepted at the same level as any other band. Europeans seem to be way ahead of the Americans in this regard.

I see a day when “naked” singers walk right beside the fully clothed in full equality…

*Written by Gregory A. Barker in conversation with Mister Tim.

Mister Tim creates, directs, sings with, and composes music for over a dozen successful a cappella acts and has a solo vocal live-looping show. His music is influenced by Bobby McFerrin, The King’s Singers, Spike Jones, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Rockapella, Beethoven, and a host of others.
You can see more of Greg’s work here.

Useful Links

Mister Tim

Mister Tim Vids


moosebutter – A Cappella Comedy

The Contemporary A Cappella Society

Home of the World Beatboxing Community

Felix Zenger

Basix and the Quest for Vocal Perfection

Feature graphic adapted from:
Penn Peak Radio’s Flickr Photostream
http://www.flickr.com/photos/pennspeakradio/3197693078/ – Naked Cowboy Singing A Tune

  • G_Alexander

    Tim – thanks for the awesome suggestions. You're just the right person to write an article like this! The Felix Zenger piece is incredible – as is your own work.

  • ilovetosing!

    Hi! I have always wanted to be a singer and be noticed for it. My fathers side and my mothers side of my family have gone somewhere for singing. I have been on t.v before and would like to be a magazine. I want to meet miley cyrus and different celebs. Please email me at misspopstar123@yahoo.com if you have any ideas??

  • Well…strange, but true. My first and best voice teacher actually told me to sing naked, when I was at home. Believe it or not it does a lot to free one of boundaries and creates an airy feel when singing. This technique also helps singers to build self confidence and keeps things pretty real. It's just you and your instrument…nothing in between :) I know that's not what this is about but it made me laugh when I read the title and it reminded about a common angle I use to become more centered, focused and allows me to physically watch my breathing.



  • Is there someplace we can go online and view your talent?

  • Mister Tim

    Thanks, G. Look for more a cappella-related posts coming up on VoiceCouncil!

  • I've been listening to a lot of Michael Jackson lately, and noticed he uses vocal percussion sounds all over his music. For a great example, listen to “Working Day and Night”: The whole underlying groove is saturated with vocal sounds.