Top 10 A Cappella Groups to Learn From

Written by Deke Sharon

June 27, 2016

A cappella is the oldest form of music, and has been a driving force within music ever since the dawn of singing. Below are the top 10 a cappella groups that teach the most important aspects of a cappella stylings. Included is a “chaser” group at the end as a bonus!  Check it out!

1. Pentatonix

Learn to groove. Vocal percussion and a driving bass line are central now to the sound of contemporary a cappella, and no one does it better than PTX, as evidence in this Grammy award winning arrangement.

2. Take 6

Learn about creating a new sound. What do you get when you blend Gospel songs with jazz harmonies and R&B stylings? The most awarded vocal group in modern history. There are countless new combinations to be found…

3. Sweet Honey in the Rock

Learn about purpose. No music group, a cappella or otherwise, performs with a greater sense of purpose that Sweet Honey: to change people’s lives, to change our communities, to change our world.

4. Street Corner Symphony

Learn about swagger. These guys didn’t win with The Sing-Off, but they did win people’s hearts, which is why they remain one of the most in-demand groups today, in no small part to their easy, laidback swagger.

5. Mills Brothers

Learn about instrumental sounds. One of the most important and influential vocal groups of the 20th century, these brothers often performed with a guitar, using their flawlessly interwoven voices to create the rest of the band, including horns, bass, etc.

6. The Bobs

Learn about pioneering vocal textures. The Bobs have paved their own path and inspired countless vocal groups since the 1980s, when this groundbreaking Beatles cover was nominated for a “Best Vocal Arranging” Grammy.

7. GQ

Learn about blending sound. Barbershop quartet singing is alive and well in the 21st century, as evidenced by award winning and genre-busting GQ (Girls Quartet). Listen to how perfectly and apparently effortlessly their voices intersect, like the Blue Angels flying in formation.

8. The Persuasions

Learn about soul. Formed after the end of the doo-wop era, this quintet took the street corner sound to new heights, with tribute albums to groups ranging from U2 to Frank Zappa, always deeply rooted in soul.

9. Singers Unlimited

Learn about dense harmonies. Former Hi-Los director, arranger and bass Gene Puerling formed this legendary studio-only quartet who overdubbed their own voices to create impossibly lush layers of dense harmony. Listen with headphones and get lost in their voices.

10. Home Free

Learn about having fun. There has never been a form or style of music that is more fun than a cappella, and no one exhibits this better than the world’s first country a cappella group Home Free. Have you heard Home Free’s version of the Meghan Trainor song, “All About That Bass”?

11. Straight No Chaser

Learn about keeping it exciting. We couldn’t forget collegiate a cappella group turned pro, Straight No Chaser. You’ve certainly seen SNC’s legendary “12 Days of Christmas”, but have you seen their follow up, “The Christmas Can-Can”? You’ll find it impossible not to smile!

Deke Sharon is a singer, arranger, composer, director, producer, and teacher of a cappella music. He produced NBC’s The Sing-Off and founded the Contemporary A Cappella Society. Deke was the arranger, music director, and vocal producer for Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2 and is currently preparing for the filming of Pitch Perfect 3. For more about Deke, check out Performer Stuff’s introductory article, “Introducing…Deke Sharon!” and his Facebook page.

Thumbnail: Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash