History Colorado is the designated steward of Colorado history, we aspire to engage people in our State’s heritage through collecting, preserving, and discovering the past in order to educate and provide perspectives for the future.
Wanted to take a minute and give a quick shout out and thanks to our friends at Castle Rock Radio who helped us to promote our show on February 25th at the Paramount. They are selling wonderfully fast, so grab up the last few while you can!
Click below to catch the Castle Rock Radio Urban Method Interviews with Katie Turley, Myke Charles, Liz Ager, and Richard Steighner.
Hip Hop week on The Sing-Off. We are in the middle of lesson learning.
As the Hip Hop group we’d like to represent our genre well. The name of this game is representing those who got you here. So in the process of choosing our songs, we’ve narrowed things down to a couple of options: either perform something from one of the top current artists or something from an icon.
The genre took off when East Coast and West Coast had their representatives (Pac and Big) hit the mainstream and develop followings that not only supported their reps, but fiercely opposed the other coast’s rep. It comes down to this–perhaps the most important part of successful music: “We need a little controversy” (thank you Eminem for the line). When there is rivalry, opposition, and something respectable for people NOT to like, the energy grows as does the fan-base. Biggie represented the East Coast while a strong contingent of West Coast artists had developed. Without the two artists, Hip Hop would not be where it is today. As we try to push hip hop into vocal music, what better way to honor the National competitiveness than in a competition like this one.
We chose to go with Love, iconic hip hop song from Tupac that would translate well into a cappella and the Urban Method style. Hope you enjoy.
Update: The NBC Execs have informed us that they are looking for a more current Hip Hop song for the show. In a scramble to find a new song for this week, we turn to Eminem, Jay-Z, and Kanye. Apparently there is a Kanye song on the books for this show, J’s crew will not release the rights for a song just like Eminem (especially after a favor from his crew allowing us to do Love The Way You Lie). So we will be performing a song from the current charts and adding our hip hop style and some UM flair.
The Lesson Learned? To fully understand and perform Hip Hop, you must get to the roots of what it is. The reason many people rap is that their message feels more expressed to them in words rather than song. The fact that you can focus on saying what you need to say rather than condensing and compressing that into words is the root of Hip Hop. The genre is very much about a confident stand for what you believe, and the drum and bass emphasis is crucial to delivering that message. Now, people are mixing song and rap, R&B and Hip Hop, Pop and Emcees…let’s explore that corner.
Every year for the past 25, the Harmony Sweepstakes has crowned a champion. I have had the distinct pleasure of competing, losing, winning, losing again, winning it all, being judged by judges, being judged by peers, and learning.
I have seen young groups win and lose and old groups win and lose.
I have seen traditions succeed over novelty and I have seen innovation transcend time.
Most of all, I have seen a transition. “Just Friends,” the first group listed as Harmony Sweepstakes champions in 1985, the year after I was born and started working on my snares, sang jazz standards and originals. Roll a ’6′ and move forward as many years to when North Shore (yes, that North Shore) won in 1991. Scrolling the list of annual champs since then, North Shore marked the point of inflection when Doo-Wop/Jazz began to phase into Jazz/Contemporary vocals. The outliers are barbershop groups and comedy groups that either touch on perfection or sublime genius (by design or happenstance) to outshine trends.
All of these groups have in common the en masse closer “Goodnight Sweetheart,” flawlessly performed by the very North Shore of 1991. After years of stumbling through 80-person cluster chords to end a night of judged singing, North Shore’s swan song of 5 voices marked (for me) a departure of an era of a cappella through the Sing Off Vomitory, stage-left.
While we all seemed to miss the endearing personalities of NS, mourn the loss of polished professional stalwarts, and sympathize with the departure of a working model (not Guy, the group itself), NS took the term “A Cappella” with them (and everything that goes with it), perhaps for good. A cappella, despite the efforts of myself and friends and colleagues to define it as an instrumentation, is very much a genre. North Shore is that genre, and everything that is good about it.
Is Urban Method a cappella? What about Pentatonix? Vocal Point? Even Afro-Blue seems to defy the veil and gown of A cappella as representatives of the pre-neo-a cappella era. To be more clear, I’ve created a timeline (with a NON-EXHAUSTIVE list of examples):
20 BCE – Jewish Chant *
15C. – Renaissance Polyphony **
16C. – Palestrina, cantata, and madrigal ***
1873 – Glee Clubs (See: The Rensselyrics) *
1906 – Choir (See: St. Olaf College) **
1938 – Barbershop (See: African American tradition) ***
1950 – A Cappella (see: Hi-Los and The 4 Freshmen) *
1980 – Vocal Jazz Era (Post A cappella. See: Manhattan Transfer) **
1985 – Neo-A Cappella (See: North Shore) ***
1991 – Pop Vocals (See: Boy bands, Boyz ii Men, Take 6) *
1996 – Contemporary A Cappella (Anti-A Cappella. See: m-pact, Naturally 7) **
2003 – Vocal Reconciliation (See: Idea of North, Groove For Thought, Committed) ***
2007 – Indie Vocal (See: Imogen Heap, Moira Smiley and VOCO, T-Pain) *
Present – Vocal Renaissance (See: Sing Off) **
[* = Thesis; ** = Antithesis; *** = Synthesis]
Yes, I believe we are in an entirely experimental, antithetic, and perhaps soon sythetic period for vocal music where equipment is now affordable, experimentation is necessary, and novelty is diluted if not despised. Competition is high to make new sounds (see: bazillion beatbox videos) and tradition carries little weight anymore (see: episode 5).
So I bid you a sincere adieu North Shore. I have had the distinct pleasure of crossing paths with you numerous times in a cappella and have the utmost respect for you. You are “A Cappella” as we have come to know it and it now becomes striking to me that the phrase “a cappella” is rarely heard in the show.
By request, here’s how I’d focus on breathing while mouth drumming…
Let’s start with the problem—you need to breathe in AND out. While holding a pattern down for an average of 3.5 minutes (hell, for one minute), you simply can’t breathe out the whole time (though I’d love to hear some beatboxer start a song with a huge breath in followed by an amazing 2 minute solo).
There are 3 ways I’d approach this:
Find sounds to do while breathing in
Stop the pattern to breathe in
Use only the mouth (do not engage the larynx)
truthfully all of these options have merit and hold a 50/40/10% weight for me, respectively. If you are like me, you don’t plan too far ahead while beat boxing…if you have 3 options when it comes time to make a decision, you should never have a problem.
So, breathing-in and making sounds…in order of ease:
Actual breath sound (uh/ah/oh)
Reversed cymbal sound (sss with a crescendo opt. end with a ‘t’)
Rim hit (Kf)
Small/short crash (Ksss)
China (Krh or Kah)
Inward tom (Vocalized Kf) with cymbal (Vocalized Ks)
Inward snare (Pf) with cymbal (Pfs)
Crab Scratch (Google)
I usually throw in one of these on the “4″ of a pattern where a cymbal is usually appropriate and where it can be longer or shorter to accommodate more or less breath as needed. Of course, the amount of breath you need is often going to be different each time you breathe in because of the pattern, your energy, how much movement you’re doing, how loud you are making sounds in songs, etc. So sometimes, just stop!
Seriously, the beauty of Vocal Percussion is that it is human and people are not listening to a machine (aka a Beat Box…)
So again, just stop and breathe. Hell, even take whole measures off. Why not? What you are doing as a bb-er is creating a rhythm and energy…funny thing is that that has momentum. That’s why song changes feel good and why accidental tempo fluctuations feel so disconcerting. People feel the train moving along. Imagine the car jumping off the ramp in an action movie and then landing….
Do the same with the beat, but consolidate it to a measure, or more often than that, just cut out the ’4′ of a pattern like this:
What better way to describe it than show you. You can beatbox with the cavities that you can create with your mouth and sinuses and with a microphone or a quiet room, you can hear a whole bunch of great sounds and breathe at the same time. Hell, you can even sing some background tones through your nose while your mouth does all the work! Check it out:
The dude from the French version of American Idol does a great job with it so here he is:
Hope that helps, folks! Check back soon for more info on the beat box world!
Alright Beatboxers, Vocal Percussionists, Mouth Drummers, and all the rest of my spit-firing brethren and sister-en…
So most of us do the majority of our beating of box off mic—you know…
in your car (messing up your windshield),
when working (messing up your laptop screen), and
in the shower (no harm, no foul).
There are different places where it sounds better than others (see: bathroom stall, backseat of cars, anywhere with headphones on). But when it comes time to be on stage and there is no room that reverberates, only an open stage, things change. So how do you actually take advantage of a microphone? Better yet, how do you make it sound good? You know what I mean…I can hardly count the times that I’ve shown up to a gig where they have a pair of tiny speakers and we’ve had to make that sound good. Here’s how I do it…
CUP THE MICROPHONE!
That’s right, cup it. Cheating? Maybe. Potential for feedback? Of course! Changes your sound? Yes–and you’ll have to adjust. I’ve had sound guys tell me I shouldn’t do that but then told me after the show that it sounded great…I hated that every time–like telling a guitar player, “Don’t hold your guitar like that,” or, “Don’t use overdrive.” Ugh.
But adjusting can be funky with a 38 second sound check. The approach I take is the same as a guitarist. An electric guitarist to be exact. An electric guitarist does not blindly (insert analog for audio) play the guitar without noticing how the sound comes out of the amp. He plays with it–it informs how the notes happen. Hell, distortion removes a large portion of the sound wave that comes out of a guitar, so it changes the way you attack, sustain, and tone the notes. In the same way, you must play the monitors. In a very real way, that is the instrument (not your voice or mouth or whatever). If you are a good with your mouth, you can tweak your snare, your kick, your cymbals to sound better on the monitors (exactly like a guitarist would adjust the tone on an amp.
But why cup it? When you use a microphone, you are hoping to place the mic in the path of the sound. Of course, sound expands in all directions (which is partly why people behind you can hear you beatboxing). My theory is this: your ear has roughly the same cross-section as your fist. The actual ear canal is about 1/4″ in diameter and that is much smaller than the diameter of a dynamic microphone (like a Shure Beta 58a or Shure SM58 or Sennheiser or Audix or whatever you want). Even a small diaphragm microphone has a bigger surface area. So when cupping it, allow a very small space for your sound to pass through (between the thumb and pointer finger or index finger). This creates a focused sound and essentially a chamber where the sound can exist. Since you are not creating much tone, there is little distortion of your sound, just a focus and resulting amplification. And, since you mimic a human ear, it will sound like what you think it should sound like!
To go the extra mile, I use my pointer finger to place beside my nose which gives me a channel from my nostrils to the microphone through which a tone can pass if I sing bass notes or add to the beat box pattern with some tones.
The attack on your sound will be stronger. Your sounds themselves will take on a new characteristic. You can overcome even the most menial gains on a sound board.
NBC is airing the second episode RIGHT NOW!!! Holy #@$%&*&@#! these groups are amazing! We just saw The Dartmouth Aires, Pentatonix, Messiah’s Men, and Sonos take the stage and they sounded great.
Dartmouth Aires: The judges loved Michael and said he was a great front man! Way to go man! You look great up on stage and are a totally professional performer.
Pentatonix: The judges were totally digging your house beats and your trio’s harmonies. Definitely some cool sounds on stage and really changed around E.T. Great job!
Messiah’s Men: Such a great collection of story-tellers. It seemed like the judges were engulfed in your sound and your energy. I love that you guys are so positive and it’s hard not to jump on board!
Sonos: We love you guys! Totally have your album and it’s on ALL the time! I can’t wait to see you guys kick it into full gear with the FX. I dunno though—I really like your sound clean and clear. It’s great to hear what comes out of your minds!
After the first elimination, Messiah’s Men has been eliminated from the Sing-Off’s second episode. The Aires were called first followed by Pentatonix and Sonos. On to the 2nd bracket!
So we are about to watch the first episode of the Sing-Off on NBC. This is the 3rd season of the increasingly popular show and compared to the normal process of performing music, it has been a whirlwind. Of course, we can’t reveal anything about the outcome of the episodes, but we did want to show you a bit of the first week of taping leading up to the first episode!
We had arrived in Los Angeles knowing pretty little about what path was in front of us. The whole show is produced with a ton of people, a ton of choreographed work from different people and resources, and a ton of high expectations. Beyond the obvious pressure of trying to perform well for a TV audience in a competition, we found that the environment was strongly supported by a cappella minds in the effort to create not only a great show but great music. This is thanks in great part to the a cappella star-studded dream team: Deke Sharon, Christopher Diaz, Ben Bram, Robert Dietz, Laura Sweeney, and Ed Boyer. The Vocal team is very supportive and encouraging and make this whole thing very do-able, so thank you VERY VERY VERY much to each one of you guys!
Snare Drums can be done with a myriad of techniques. I show how to create a plosive snare. I find it useful to achieve a sound with decent low-end support, fairly high speed, and controllable volume. The toughest part of this snare is consistency of pitch and the relative violence within the sinus passages it causes.
To summarize, I must emphasize that the snare drum should operate essentially as something that continues the beat. In a very rudimentary sense, it has the exact same function as a kick drum. However, depending on the style of the music, song, or part of the song, the snare can be pitched and the chains can be emphasized more. The beauty of beatboxing over using a drum set is that you can tune the snare throughout a song and emphasize the presence of the chains as the song calls for it. The drawback is that snares tend to be very “live” and depending on how it is played in a drum kit, the sound of a snare can morph though a drum passage. For example, it sounds different when played as part of a drum roll than as part of a straight ahead rock beat.
Take that all as seriously as you like, but know that my particular snare drum technique also allows for what I believe to be a maximized ability to play with the sound of a snare. Enjoy!
What’s the latest in Denver, CO when it comes to a cappella? We’re your source for what’s going on in the Mile High City when it comes to vocal music. While there are a ton of incredible singers in Colorado, not all of them do a cappella. So Urban Method wants to present to you the latest and greatest in Denver.
Old Faves: If you have known a cappella you know that there always seems to be a fantastic group holding it down. The 17th Avenue All Stars with long-time frontman Norm Silver have been a real mainstay in Denver. They were a fantastic hit when they showed up over 20 years ago and really helped to push a cappella to new places around the country. Quite literally hundreds of spin-off groups have populated cities nation-wide and made a cappella popular and accessible in a number of places. More recently, Sing Off contestants Face have made a name for themselves with a very strong fan-following just west of Denver near the Boulder and Broomfield areas. They’ve been performing a fun pop-rock set for what has become a thriving a cappella population in Colorado.
Up-and-Comers: With a lot of bubbling music in the city, there are a ton of great things happening. Check out DU’s Idiosingcrasies, Confidential, and Plumbers of Rome (2010 National Harmony Sweeps champions).
Shout Outs: Some brilliant projects that call Denver, Colorado’s a cappella scene home and we wanted to take a minute and give a word of recognition, appreciation, and thanks to our fellow musicians. Check out Graffiti Tribe, Moosebutter (spelled moosebutter), Up On The Roof (long-running a cappella musical review), and the newly reformed Curious Gage.