Directing Collegiate Acappella: Performance

This is the fourth in a collection of articles, putting together the knowledge I gained while directing the UC San Diego Tritones acappella group. This article describes what I believe is a director’s role when it comes to performances.


Show Prep

During show prep, you will also be making a setlist.

Please Please PLEASE plan out transitions between songs.

Sets become infinitely more interesting with short vamp sections behind speaking points, and smooth entrances and exits between songs. Keep silence for when it matters.

For your sound engineer, it will make it much easier if you have a setlist including who is soloing, who is vp, who is bass for every song. This should be by mic, so if doing any mic swaps or anything, be aware and speak with them beforehand.


I feel like collegiate groups can sometimes weird expectations. Especially, I feel this during ICCA and “competitions”. Competitive art is really weird, and you should not approach these kinds of shows any differently. Make sure that you don’t prioritize any one audience member over another. Really, your mindset should really just focus on two things:

  1. Make your set fun and engaging for you.
  2. Make your set fun and engaging for your audience.

If you can do these two things, then you are successful!


Microphone Technique #


EQ, Compression, and Reverb #

If your sound engineer has experience and confidence with vocal percussion and acappella, then you are chilling. Just listen to what they prefer.

If they do not, I’d tell them to start with:

  1. Shelve/limit highs from bass microphone, and boost the mic in general.
  2. Do some kind of smile curve with the vocal percussion microphone. Treat it less like a vocal mic, and more like a drum overhead w/o individual mics. Accentuate the kicks and highs, and have liberal compression.

Adjust from there as necessary. I generally try to avoid artificial reverb wherever I can, just cuz it tends to muddy things up; bad mixing generally ends up with a very midrange-y-sounding experience.