Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Ok, I've read the pages above. Seriously, what does it cost to do this?
A: The only potential costs you may have is whatever you might need to actually make the recordings. Our Recording Space Setup page goes into more detail about that, but it's possible that you may already have everything you need to make good recordings of your voice part. That said, if all you have at this point is a laptop with a built-in microphone, it is likely you may need to make a further investment - although it is no longer as expensive as it once was to self-record music, there is an expense involved in getting set up to do so. But the checklist gives you several options at several price points to be able to participate with us.
Q: So you're looking to be the next Pentatonix? Peter Hollens? Mike Tompkins?
A: We're looking to be the first AcaLumni Project. While there have been one-off collaborations of this nature (such as Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir or several other Mike Tompkins videos), this to our knowledge is the first ongoing virtual group of its nature where the focus is creation of music interactively from different areas of the country for recorded publication only.
That having been said, anyone seeing this as a vehicle for fame or "going viral" may be disappointed. Everyone involved, from the producers and arrangers to the video editors and the singers, are doing this for fun and not for profit, and although we will all put out the best product we possibly can, we're still amateurs, one and all, and will not initially be producing recordings on the same level as the professionals can. We do hope to entertain with what we produce, but our primary objective is to allow people to make music together that may not have the time or opportunity to do so with others in their immediate area.
Q: I've been singing for many years and have participated in non-acappella groups singing a variety of music, but have never sung in an a cappella group before. Why are you limiting membership to those with previous a cappella experience?
A: From a practical standpoint, everyone involved in this is an amateur in that none of us are doing this full time and some of us are learning the technical aspects of remote music recording on the fly. Because of this, it isn't feasible for us to add the additional workload of helping people new to the medium to learn and understand the concepts behind singing contemporary a cappella, and by allowing for someone to prove that they can handle it coming in opens up an audition process we are unable to feasibly undertake with current personnel. At this time, it is essential to the process that those that join have that previous experience in order to make all of the other processes, especially the music engineering process, somewhat easier for our amateurs to navigate.
In an ideal world, we would love to be able to include anyone with the ability and desire to sing, but at this time, it's not a practical reality for us to do so.
Q: Why is there no audition process?
A: Our guiding assumption is that if you passed an audition process or were otherwise accepted into a "live" vocal band at some point in your singing life, you remain sufficiently talented to contribute to the group vocally, even if you haven't done it for years. We will have a process to audition soloists and other featured parts in the projects that we do, but that is internal - we don't require an audition to join.
Q: How much of a time commitment is involved?
A: When you apply, you are given 30 days from date of application to set up whatever gear you may not already have and to complete our Tech Check successfully. The Tech Check verifies to us that you know our procedures and how to use your equipment well enough to participate.
Once the Tech Check is passed, you will have a "Face To Face" discussion with Shawn, our Project Manager. You'll look over your recording setup together and discuss some tips on tracking, as well as how to make your recordings more emotional in a vacuum. He'll also answer any questions you may have about the process.
Then, you participate in your first project within 60 days of your F2F to verify you have the process down. This is the only "mandatory" project that we have, and it's to help get new members in the flow quickly, as sometimes new members are nervous about joining a project and can sometimes go months without being an actual part of what we do. We walk you through the process, pair you with a mentor on your part that's there to help you, and it helps you determine whether or not the process is for you. Once you complete that first project, you are then a member.
As a member, time commitment is on a per project basis. Once you are a member of ALP, you would sign up to be a part of any active project going on at that time , and it is always your decision whether or not to participate - if you need time off for other life commitments, simply don't sign up for a project. At any given time there may be one or more projects in the "hopper", and you can choose to be in one at a time, multiple, or none at that moment. For all members, real life comes first, so we will work with you to allow you to participate when you are able to do so, within reason.
When you sign on to a project, there is a period of learning your part, then we have a three phase system of submitting stems for review that approximates, to the best of our ability, the live rehearsal process of learning a song. Phase 1 is a dry run with which we then turn around and use to improve our work. Phase 2 should be reasonably close to being 'ready to mix' except for a section here or there that needs polishing, with Phase 3 being the final, ready to mix track used going forward. The whole process runs about four weeks per project for tracking on average, with more difficult projects allotting more time.
We do ask that before you commit to a project that you are reasonably sure you have the ability and time to complete that project. Multiple dropouts from projects you sign up for may impact your future ability to participate.
Q: Hold on...tech check? I didn't know there would be a test...
A: Relax, it's not anything you have to study for. We require all applicants to undertake a "tech check" to make sure you're ready to do projects - it gives you the ability to work with your recording materials, get used to their function, and try out recording if you've never done it before. For us, it assures us that you at least know HOW to record your voice and save it to file so that when you're actually doing projects, any technical issues aren't the really basic ones that tend to crop up.
For singers, we have an Audacity pre-assembled package for you to sing along to a basic warmup, record it, save it to WAV file, then submit it (if you're using a different DAW program to record, we'll send you the base WAV files). Once the tech engineer verifies everything's good, you're good to sign up for recordings at that point! If you're a vocal percussionist/beatboxer, your Tech Check is simply tracking 30 seconds of percussion freestyle that demonstrates you can emulate a drum kit (which isn't necessarily the same thing as beatboxing).
Q: I currently have a lot going on right now, and my time is limited enough that doing these membership steps are going to be hard to find time for.
A: The response to this depends on whether you are truly new to this or if you are someone with past experience in self-recording that has most of the equipment ready to go. For those new to the process, we feel that 30 days is fair if you are in a position to learn the process (meaning having your gear) and if you're ready to go with this. If you don't feel you can gather your gear in sufficient time to meet the 30 day deadline, that's fine - you can always withdraw and reapply when you're in a better position to meet the base requirement for membership. Sometimes getting gear isn't financially feasible, and we understand that.
If you already have your gear and have previous experience recording yourself, we feel that 30 days is MORE than fair. Once you know the basics and have the gear, it takes roughly 30-60 minutes to read the instructions for executing Tech Check and to create and submit a sound file for review, and it's about the same for Check 32.
Although we are fine about not joining projects once you are a member, if you are indicating the inability to find time to complete this task within the time listed when you have the equipment necessary, we would have to wonder if ALP is something you're interested enough in doing to make that initial commitment. The tech check is a necessary part of what we do, and the F2F helps you to learn more about how to track ALP style ahead of time. We aren't big fans of wasting our members' time, so we try to keep the mandatory stuff to what we need, but we do need those things. If you don't have time for those, you probably won't have time to sing with us in any way that would be meaningful to you.
Q: Is is a requirement to be able to read music?
A: Although being able to read music is helpful, it is not essential. Along with sheet music, you will be provided guide tracks for recording that are drawn from MIDI files created for the arrangement, so if you can't read music but have a good ear learning from rote, you will have MIDI files of your part to listen to as you follow along in the printed music that should help you learn. We will also have video tutorials that will discuss the rhythms, vowel sounds and overall things to remember for your part to help you learn. Additionally, the project head can also make time to work with you to get your parts down, either over the phone or over Skype or Google Hangouts. Finally, once Phase 1 of any project is submitted, we try to turn around recording materials to allow you to sing with the live singers from Phase 1, instead of the MIDI files.
If you were previously in a group and couldn't read music, you made it work then, and we can try to make it work now. It may be slightly more difficult if the way you learn is to have someone else who knows it singing in your ear, but we can compensate by having someone work with you one on one to learn your part. There are ways. :)
Q: I have never tried to record myself in my life. How hard is it to use the software we need to record?
A: There is always a learning curve when you set out to do something you've never done before. We will do the best we can to make that curve as brief as possible.
We offer a "how to" written guide, a video tutorial, and live tech support for a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) called Audacity (available for both Windows and Mac users) , which is free to download and use. If you have never tried to self record or use a DAW before, we strongly recommend you use Audacity so that we can give you the support needed to get up and running.
If you have recording experience and have a DAW that you prefer to use, you are more than welcome to do so,but other than basic instructions on how we wish stems to be exported we won't be able to provide further tech support for you at this time.
We will also have you do a practice run (the Tech Check mentioned above) where we send you recording files (with click and guide tracks) of a basic warmup that you will load into your DAW of choice, record your track, and send back to us. This allows us to verify both your ability to do your part in the process as well as the quality of your recordings. Check 32 takes these concepts and then adds the ideas of learning and performing music to them. Both are mandatory before we permit your participation in a project, but once you've done these things, most of the technical issues related to recording should become familiar enough for you to focus on the music.
Q: Why is there a requirement for home internet access? Do you need to be connected to the internet while recording?
A: The size of the files being transmitted both to and from singers can be quite large, and it's not always conducive for project needs for a singer to have to go to their local coffee shop to download/upload, and hotspotting/tethering to your phone's data will drain your data allowance fairly quickly. If you run into a technical difficulty, Wes may need for you to download something on the spot, and the inability to do so would hamper the tech support process.
Additionally, we will also be recording video files for use in the eventual videos for some projects. These files can be immense and take several hours to upload once recorded, and that's just not an option for people dependent on public internet to download and upload.
That said, if you feel you can make it work, and as long as communications and project files (audio and video) go to and from without any issues, then we're probably not going to know if you are actually doing everything from home or not. Just be sure it doesn't become an issue down the road.
Q: Wait...we're recording VIDEO too? What do I need for that?
A: Most of our releases will be animated using the Vyond software, but occasionally a special release will have us in a "box video" format. Examples can be found on our Music page with the songs "Fast Break" and "Listen To The Music". Usually the camera on more recent cellphones can be used, or you can get a 1080p webcam camera for about $30 if it's not built into your laptop.
Q: What kind of music will we be singing?
A: We will be focused on popular music spanning nearly seven decades. A number of groups out there are releasing videos of the Hot New Hit on a regular basis, so we see our focus as elsewhere - classic rock/pop artists, up and coming or unknown artist with cool songs, one hit wonders...hitting them where they ain't, as Yogi Berra might say. As we grow, depending on what our project managers wish to do, we may branch into other genres a bit, but our central focus is contemporary popular music with limits only determined by our ability to secure the rights to distribute what we record.
Projects may or may not have a participant cap depending on the needs of the arrangement.
Q: How often will we be recording projects?
A: Right now we only have one member that has the ability to edit and mix our recording stems into the final product. Because of time and real life limitations, we will annually produce anywhere from 6 to 10 recordings per year as a full group (with possible additional side projects), based on whether or not others in the group wish to arrange, lead projects, or try their hand at editing and/or mixing. As other people with editing/mixing experience come aboard, we could possibly do more. But remember, once you're a member, your only obligated to record...and complete recording...on projects that you have signed up for.
Q: Can we bring our own arrangements to be performed?
A: The short answer is yes.
The longer answer is that since we don't have a director, each project is "directed" by a project lead. More often than not this will be the sound engineer in charge of mixing the final result, but sometimes it will be the arranger, who is then in charge of creating and distributing the learning materials, giving the arrangement notes, and then working with the sound engineer to achieve the arrangement's vision. At this time, arrangements to be performed are approved by the sound engineer working on the product. So anyone wanting to have an arrangement sung through ALP would need to submit it for a quality review before it is approved to take to project.
Additionally, we want the singers to have participated successfully with a couple of singing projects before bringing forward arrangements for review, so you won't be able to join and then immediately present arrangements. But once you've been with us for a bit and have shown commitment to the group, there will be more opportunity to present your own arrangements for recording.
Q: I have some experience in sound/video engineering. Would I be able to lead projects?
A: Absolutely, under the same guidelines as presenting arrangements...once you've participated in a couple of projects, we can look into having you lead a project as a sound engineer. Sound engineers are second only to singers in who we would desire to come on board with us...it's a great way to work on your craft hands on and still get to be a part of making music. The more active sound engineers that we have, the more projects we can have going at once, the more recordings we can release. That's the idea, at least!
Q: I have experience in sound/video engineering, but I don't sing. Would ALP allow me the chance to work projects for school/practice/love of music?
A: On a case by case basis, yes. It would be all volunteer, and you would need to adhere to our rules and standards, but yes, potentially we would be a good resource for engineers looking to hone their craft, if they are able and willing to work under our time frames and rules. But we would welcome non-singing members of the group that specialize in either sound or video engineering.
Q: Will we only being doing mixed voice arrangements, or will the opportunity for male or female voiced arrangements be available.
A: No, we will not be doing only mixed arrangements. Many of us have had the best times of our lives singing in an all-male identifying or all-female identifying group, and we want to have the chance to recreate that experience, too! These opportunities will develop as our membership grows.
Q: Is there currently any financial assistance for people that wish to contribute but have a legitimate financial hardship at this time?
A: We wish we could, but that isn't something we are able to consistently offer at this time. However, depending on where you live, it is possible that one of us with equipment could come to you to record your part. This option is currently available in central/western PA (from the greater Pittsburgh area to State College, PA) and in the greater Washington D.C. area. Contact Us to see if this could be an option for you.
Otherwise, if financial issues are the only thing keeping you from being a part of us, it never hurts to ask. We can't promise, and we may say no, but we can see what we can do. We really want to help people rediscover why they loved singing a cappella in their past, in any way we are feasibly able to. We have been able to help on a spot basis in obtaining microphones for members currently with us, so although we can't promise, we will consider our means at that time.
This page will be updated with additional questions as they arise.