Vocal Percussion in Contemporary Choral Music

Hey all!

It has been a while since I have posted but good things are coming!  This week is the National American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Conference in Salt Lake City, and I have the honor of presenting an interest session on Vocal Percussion in Contemporary Choral Music!

Ever since I grew up watching “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”, I fell in love with a cappella music, mostly due to the fact that Rockapella killed it every show. When Jeff Thacher joined on as the groups vocal percussionist, I was more than hooked, I was obsessed!

Now, in 2015, after performing with my collegiate group (The Potsdam Pointercounts) and pro groups (Ithaca-based Sons of Pitches, and The Fault Line), I find myself presenting on a topic I am fond of to choral directors from across the country!

Now, for those of you not attending the conference, I will give you a sneak peek of what I will be discussing.

Why Vocal Percussion?

Teachers have asked me this before and I usually give them a variety of answers. Here are some reasons I tell them:

1. It provides a new opportunity for students to perform- Think about it. As students grow up, some see singing as being silly or they become too timid to sing because they do not want to be judged by their friends. Some students think they cannot sing at all. Vocal percussion opens a new opportunity for those students to still be a part of a group setting and contributing, without having the anxiety of singing.

2. It helps build rhythmic and reading skills- Working with vocal percussion in its beginning phase is like teaching a student how to play an instrument for the first time. You go through each note and how to play/perform it.   You then go through practicing on simple rhythms until the student becomes comfortable. As the student progresses, the level of difficulty increases. Students continue developing mental memory, building their “chops”. The same goes for students learning vocal percussion. Students can go through a similar process where they are starting off simple, then build upon those skills until they have learned complex sounds and rhythms.

3. It helps build improvisational skills- One of my favorite memories of performing with The Fault Line was our arranging process. We attempted to make songs sound different than their original counterparts. Our group would listen to the original and think about how we could change it. My favorite example was when we performed Fall Out Boy’s ” Dance Dance”. When we first started performing it, we tried to stick to how the original sounded. It didn’t really fly. We went back and thought of ways to change it without losing the integrity of the song. The result was a slower, laid back, swung version that changed every show with the inclusion of scat solos from our lead singer. The vocal percussionist and bass are the driving rhythm of the group. Think of the form of the piece… Do you want to go into half time at a certain part? Let the beat drop? Change the entire sound? The possibilities are endless. Be creative, improvise!


Throughout my week in Salt Lake City, I will be tweeting from my Twitter handle @JGloTweetsStuff and my student group’s handle @EldKeyElements Follow both for updates as I will be seeing and chatting with JD Frizzell, President of the A Cappella Education Association, Brody McDonald, author of A Cappella Pop, and many others in the a cappella world!


What do you think?