Acapella singing has been performed in some fashion since the beginnings of humankind. Today, it prevails in virtually all genres and styles of music. You may be surprised to discover that some of the best acapella songs to sing are ones that you already know and perform.
What Does “a Cappella” Mean in Music?
“Cappella” translates as “chapel” in the Italian language, and “a cappella” means singing “in the manner of the chapel.” When printed on modern-day sheet music, a cappella means to sing without instrumental accompaniment.
This style of music and singing has been performed through the ages, and it is still in use today in classical, jazz, country, gospel, folk, rock, hip-hop, soul, and other genres of music and song.
Origins and History of A Cappella Music
The origins of acapella music (usually written “acapella” in English) are virtually impossible to know. Yet this vocal music is thought to have been around since the beginning of the history of humankind. Cave folk hummed to themselves during their daily chores and pursuits and most likely sang in an early form of language.
An early forerunner of sheet music was found on a cuneiform tablet that dated as far back as 2000 B.C. Recently, one of the first known scores of polyphonic music (music written in multiple vocal or instrumental parts) was discovered and dated back to 900 A.D. It has since been performed at St. John’s College at Cambridge University in the UK.
Acapella music became known through its use in Hebrew synagogues and Christian churches. In European cathedrals, Gregorian chants have sung acapella during the Medieval period and into the Renaissance. In Rome, madrigals, which were the pop music of the day, were performed and gained popularity.
Over time, poets and composers “concerted” acapella pieces, adding instrumental accompaniment. Gradually, acapella singing began to lose popularity, only to resurface with a resurgence of popular interest and performance later on.
Barbershop music became popular in the 1930s as a type of acapella singing. It was performed by a quartet of men that consisted of two tenors, a baritone, and a bass singer. Women also sang barbershop genre music, and their quartets were called “Sweet Adelines.”
Today, acapella singing is included in nearly every genre and style of singing, from classical to the latest modern rock and other popular forms of music. Acapella singing may seem effortless and easy when performed by high-quality, experienced singers. Yet it takes serious ear training, skill, and lots of practice to become a top-caliber acapella performer.
Basic Beginner’s Steps to Singing Acapella
There are many tried and true methods for learning to sing acapella well. Whether you want to sing solo or with a group, you need some basic guidance to give a good performance. Some teaching methods are more complex than others. Yet by following a few simple steps, you can start to sing, appreciate and enjoy acapella music.
The following steps and tips can help you find easy songs to sing for beginners interested in singing acapella, sooner than you may think possible:
- Practice singing simple techniques
- Practice good pitch
- Gain good harmonizing skills
- Extend your vocal range
1. Practice Singing Simple Techniques
Start practicing the basics, like improving your posture and keeping your throat flexible and open. Always remind yourself to breathe from your diaphragm.
2. Practice Good Pitch
Every singer must strive to stay on the pitch while singing. Yet this is of utmost importance for acapella singers since there is no instrumental accompaniment to smooth any mishaps.
3. Gain Good Harmonizing Skills
Even when you practice singing solo acapella, having good harmonizing skills can help you perform well. Of course, when you sing with a group, you will need excellent harmonizing abilities. Practice singing acapella with other singers when you can, and record yourself as you practice alone. Then do some research on the best acapella songs to sing and listen to them.
4. Extend Your Vocal Range
All really great acapella singers have a big, impressive vocal range. To help extend your range, imitate different musical instruments. It is often easier to feel comfortable with gaining a larger vocal range if you mimic the sounds of various instruments. If you do this often, your vocal range will most likely extend before you realize it.
By practicing these simple exercises, you will sharpen your ear. How good a singer has to be before trying acapella? Well, good enough to be able to identify any flat, sharp, or off-pitch notes, and sing them with ease. Even if you have no plans to perform acapella music, learning about it personally will give you a greater understanding of and appreciation for this unique type of music.
Top 22 Songs to Sing Acapella from Popular Recording Artists
The ideal songs to start practicing to sing acapella from known and popular recording artists include the following:
- ‘Thinking Out Loud’ by Ed Sheeran
- ‘Crazy In Love’ By Beyonce
- ‘She Will Be Loved’ By Maroon 5
- ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra
- ‘Someone You Loved’ By Lewis Capaldi
- ‘Hello’ By Adele
- ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ By Judy Garland and Others
- ‘Sir Duke’ By Stevie Wonder
- ‘Mirrors’ By Justin Timberlake
- ‘Fallin’ By Alicia Keys
- ‘Rude’ By Magic
- ‘You and I’ By Lady Gaga
- ‘Slow Hands’ By Nial Horan
- ‘Secret Love Song’ By Little Mix
- ‘Rockabye’ By Clean Bandit
- ‘Roar’ By Katy Perry
- ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ By Taylor Swift
- ‘Fight Song’ By Rachel Platten
- ‘Lost Without You’ By Freya Ridings
- ‘Everything I Wanted’ By Billie Eilish
- ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ By John Denver
- ‘Wrecking Ball’ By Miley Cyrus
‘Thinking Out Loud’ by Ed Sheeran
This popular hit song was recorded by Ed Sheeran (ECW SHEERIN), the British music producer, writer, and singer. Although he typically plays guitar while singing, many fans prefer to hear him perform his songs acapella. ‘Thinking Out Loud’ is the perfect example of a song that is a great choice for acapella singing. It is no wonder that this beautiful, haunting song received the 2014 Grammy Award for Song of the Year.
‘Crazy In Love’ By Beyonce
The American pop star Beyonce (Giselle Knowles-Carter) performs this song equally well with instrumental accompaniment and acapella. She customizes her performance style to different venues and occasions beautifully. Singers who can sing well with or without accompaniment like Beyonce bring different qualities to their many acclaimed performances and songs.
‘She Will Be Loved’ By Maroon 5
This hit song from the famous U.S. pop-rock band, Maroon 5, gained high popularity around the world. It is always a favorite among audiences who love to hear it again and again. The tenor vocalist of the band, Adam Levine, uses his wide vocal range to make his tenor songs a good choice for many singers today.
‘She Will Be Loved’ is also a great choice for singing by acapella singers of all levels of experience. In fact, it is now considered one of the best acapella songs to sing.
‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra
The classic star-studded song ‘My Way’ performed by iconic singer Frank Sinatra was first written in French with the title, ‘Comme des habitudes.’ This is a great example of a song that is well-suited for singing with accompaniment or acapella.
As a great American singer, Sinatra was also called a gifted storyteller who could convey anything that he wished to his audience when he sang. Singing acapella gives the performer great flexibility to do just that.
‘Someone You Loved’ By Lewis Capaldi
This is singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi’s most famous song. It is also an excellent choice for a song to perform acapella. There is a wonderful aspect to being skilled at singing a great song with and without musical accompaniment.
This powerful aspect is that you as the singer have the ability to convey a somewhat different meaning and sentiment when singing with or without any accompaniment. Lewis Capaldi understands this completely.
‘Hello’ By Adele
Leading British pop singer Adele (Laurie Blue Adkins MBE) got a fabulous reaction both from her fans and other musicians when she performed this hit song. Since then, it has been performed for overjoyed crowds by many different bands. Adele has the ideal vocal range and beautiful voice to perform this song to resounding applause either with a band or acapella.
This song also can help to begin acapella singers with their breathing and vocal interpretation. It is definitely on the list of the hardest songs to sing.
‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ By Judy Garland and Others
This stunningly beautiful ballad was brought to its heights of popularity by 1950s star singer from the U.S., Judy Garland. Since then, it has been performed and recorded by numerous other singers. This number is truly a perfect song to be performed as an acapella piece. In fact, the emotional content and sheer beauty of the lyrics and melody can be even more empowering as a solo vocal performance.
‘Sir Duke’ By Stevie Wonder
Performed by the famed American singer, songwriter, and activist, Stevie Wonder (Stevland Morris), this song’s outstanding melody lends itself equally to singing with or without musical accompaniment. Singing this number acapella would be an amazing experience for any singer today.
‘Mirrors’ By Justin Timberlake
This hit song was written and performed by the U.S. recording artist, Justin Timberlake. Especially since his voice is quite flexible, and he has a rather big range, Timberlake performs this song beautifully. The song is ideal for singing acapella, and it is suitable for both male and female singers.
‘Fallin’ By Alicia Keys
This is Alicia Keys’ most widely known and acclaimed classic song. This versatile singer-songwriter, pianist, and vocalist uses her amazingly powerful voice to color and project myriad dynamic and nuanced emotions in this unique and celebrated song. This number is also a wonderful choice for performing acapella.
‘Rude’ By Magic
This pop song from a mixed reggae group and performed in concert in Canada is a great number for baritone singers. It is also a really good song for putting your listening capacity to the test. In turn, this will help you acquire better ear training for use when you sing the song acapella.
‘You and I’ By Lady Gaga
This may be Lady Gaga’s least celebrated album. Yet it has strong popularity among her avid fans. This recording is truly outstanding as yet another dynamic and excellent ballad from Gaga. Although a challenge, this song is a wonderful choice for learning to sing acapella. After learning this number well, you can enjoy performing it as one of the best acapella songs to sing.
‘Slow Hands’ By Nial Horan
This is a great number for male singers who wants to sing acapella songs solo. Even beginning acapella singers can practice this song and learn quite a lot. Practicing it now will make the eventual performance of this song easier and more meaningful.
‘Secret Love Song’ By Little Mix
This talented quartet is made up of girls with a truly powerful vocal delivery and pleasing style. Female singers will have a great time working on performing this song as an acapella piece.
‘Rockabye’ By Clean Bandit
The strong classic melodies in the upbeat songs are great for testing the flexibility and power of your vocal skills. In addition, this is a good choice of acapella songs for singing.
‘Roar’ By Katy Perry
This song is a really fun song to perform, and one of popular audition songs. It also makes a perfect acapella number due to the strong and varied emotions that it depicts. Many singers will grow considerably in terms of their vocal skills from practicing and performing this song acapella.
‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ By Taylor Swift
This popular song by Taylor Swift is a fast-moving number that is an ideal choice for singing as an acapella performance. It has strong and clear harmonies that give it dynamic character and charm.
‘Fight Song’ By Rachel Platten
This song has innate beauty and appealing simplicity. It also has heart and soul that the singer must convey fully, which Rachel Platten does quite well. This is a good choice for a dramatic acapella performance on the stage.
‘Lost Without You’ By Freya Ridings
British singer-songwriter Freya Ridings performs this song with soul and meaning. Yet as an acapella number, the song might have even more depth and soul. This lovely ballad could be spiked up just a little when performed acapella. You could accomplish this by changing the melody a bit in parts as well as the tempo and rhythm.
‘Everything I Wanted’ By Billie Eilish
Arranged and performed with and for American recording artist Billie Eilish (Pirate Baird O’Connell), this is a true feel-good song. Eilish has also performed an acapella version, and this song is an ideal number for any acapella singer to try. It is clearly one of the best songs to sing acapella.
‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ By John Denver
The famed folk-country-pop singer-songwriter John Denver made this song a hit. A number of bands such as Hermes House Band, a Dutch pop group, recorded cover versions of the song. If you like Euro Dance 2001 versions, you can hear some good acapella songs for solo singing.
‘Wrecking Ball’ By Miley Cyrus
Performed by the very popular American singer-songwriter Miley Cyrus (Miley Ray Hemsworth), this song is quite adaptable to acapella singing, by female singers. This song has an excellent tone and character that can be delivered best when performed without musical accompaniment.
The dramatic quality of this number also lends itself to a vocal performance. Anyone with the desire to sing it without accompaniment should also view Miley’s video for the song.
‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ By Gotye
This is a song written by Wouter “Wally” De Backer (better known as Gotye). Because it has a strong, vibrant vocal track, this song is a good pick for acapella singing. The way in which this song is structured makes you want to sing it loud, which will strengthen your acapella delivery.
Once you realize how challenging, rewarding, and fun it can be to sing acapella style, you will want to try it. You can most likely locate a performance venue for singing in this unique style, or you may decide to join an acapella vocal group.
If you feel the need for ear training to improve the pitch and tone quality of your singing, there are plenty of coaches, teachers, and acapella groups to work with. The more you sing acapella style, the better your pitch, tone, and overall delivery will be.
If you join an acapella singing group, the quality of your singing will improve as you work closely with the other group members. Your ear training will improve significantly, and you will find it much easier to stay on pitch and produce a clear, concise, and true tone.
Your enthusiasm for singing acapella songs will fuel your desire to find the very best acapella songs for singing without musical accompaniment. You will be pleased to discover that some of your favorite songs that you now perform with instrumental backup are probably among the easy songs to sing as well.
Additional song-related pages for singers:
FAQs Best Songs to Sing Acapella
A cappella is Italian for ‘in the style of the church’ and has since come to mean any music where the vocals sing without musical accompaniment. This does not mean that there can only be one voice at once for a piece of music or a section of music to be considered acapella, but rather that there are no instruments other than vocals present at any given moment. In this way, the mention of the church in the etymology makes sense, for what else would be performing the music of the lord but voices, which would typically be unaccompanied?
Acappella music originates in religious music, especially the church, hence the etymology of the term coming from the Italian ‘a cappella’, meaning ‘in the style of the church’. A notable example of acappella music that is utterly without accompaniment would be Gregorian chant, a form of unaccompanied sacred song performed in Latin by the Roman Catholic church. The majority of secular vocal music from the period of the Renaissance was, too, largely performed acappella, of which Monteverdi is a prime example. Likewise, the madrigal song form was performed acappella up until its development in the early Baroque period into a form that was instrumentally accompanied.
With the advent of the internet and the world wide web, finding an acappella of a song is about as simple as typing in the title of the song that you desire followed by the word ‘acappella’. This can be particularly useful if you are an electronic producer and want to sample the vocals of a song without the accompanying backing track or musical passages. You can see this kind of work all over Burial’s seminal sophomore album Untrue, which makes use of R&B vocals pitched at various haunting speeds over glitched dubstep beats.
There is no framework that dictates what does and does not make a good acappella song – and the work of Bjork on her album Medulla (which is almost entirely formed from vocals in all their forms) is testament to this – though one can surmise a certain set of things that might make a song at least somewhat better suited to being performed by vocals alone. A strong and simple beat would be a start, alongside a musicality that lends the individual parts of the song to being memorized easily so that they can be recalled without trouble.
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