Can you sing acapella? (We can’t)

March 19, 2017 — by Ryan Kim and Austin Wang

    If you heard high-pitched screams or a constant low howling that vaguely carried a rhythm while out in the quad recently, you weren’t hearing the mating calls of Indonesian proboscis monkeys — we were just singing acapella.

After watching the 11-student acapella group, the En Chords, get crowned at this year’s Saratoga Idol competition last semester, we decided it might be a fun experience to try out acapella for ourselves. Since we both have no experience in singing, we watched some videos and found a list of popular songs to begin rehearsing.

When we saw Jimmy Fallon use an iPad app to help him sing acapella on his late-night TV show,we decided that we could also use an app called “Acapella” to help us sing by looping the beat that we made. Every time we sang a tune, the app would replay it over and over, allowing us to sing other parts of the song without repeating that specific section. We used a recording device to separately record ourselves singing bits of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by The Tokens over a period of 7 minutes.

That night we discovered why we could never hope to become singers or K-pop stars. We tried singing in major thirds and other chords, but in the end, our beat and pitch were both totally off, and we couldn’t even match up our basic rhythms.

Despite our initial failures, we decided to try singing the acapella version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” again, but in front of a live audience of our friends. While we didn’t expect a more successful result, we thought it would be nice for our friends to have more embarrassing videos to post on our Facebook walls on our birthdays.

Halfway through the song, the combination of our audience’s and our own laughter cut our acapella debut short at two minutes.

Fellow Falcon staff member junior Vivien Zhang immediately pulled out her phone to record us as we opened our mouths. We’re assuming we made quite the interesting Snapchat story.

We weren’t even able to actually begin singing the iconic chorus, which was a total bummer — although we imagine we wouldn’t be too enthusiastic even if we got to the chorus, as we have roughly the same vocal range as that of an elderly chain smoker.

We also couldn’t match our tempos, but decided to be more ambitious — for whatever misconstrued reasoning we had — and tried out “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. We may have been slightly inspired by Pentatonix, a world-renowned acapella group, but don’t worry: We weren’t even close.

After Skype-calling for a good 30 minutes, practicing “Hallelujah” and trying to sound better than a couple of dying hippos, it’s needless to say we killed it — that is, killed any chance at singing we ever had. After that debacle, we had decided that we had had enough self-humiliation for one experiment.

What did we learn? For one, the success of the acapella team, of course, reflects the quality of the singers. But it’s not just about the individual talent of the people singing; it’s also a union of individual talents and effort to make music.

Unfortunately, we lack both the individual talent needed to sing well and the coordination to pull off anything close to an acapella.

Luckily, our singing careers haven’t truly died; they merely transitioned into a stand-up comedy act involving inadvertent animal impressions. Talent show, here we come!

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