Are you trying to elevate your a cappella group to the next level? Or are you just trying to get your group excited about the music they’re singing? Either way, a good arrangement can make all the difference in the world with your group. We talked to Ben Spalding, director of the award-winning high school group Forte, about his process for teaching arrangements.


Before the school year starts:

  1. Create playlists on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, etc. where students can listen to potential songs and add their own suggestions. This helps you choose repertoire.
  2. Distribute arrangements and practice tracks (if you have them) using Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.
  3. Require students to learn their parts on their own.
  4. Hold “Forte Camp” before the first week of school for the group to practice and prepare the pieces together. When students come in knowing their parts, it sets a high standard and creates better results instantly. When the school year starts, they will already have a head start on repertoire and group cohesiveness.

During the school year:

  1. When new arrangements come in, students still have to learn their parts on their own. Forte members usually have to learn new arrangements within a week before rehearsing them with the group.
  2. Don’t spend a lot of time teaching individual notes and parts for students. Arrangements with practice tracks can be used on the students’ own time; use that valuable rehearsal time for group work.
  3. Use the “one-on-a-part” quiz whenever necessary to pinpoint issues, but focus on practicing as a full group.

To create original songs and arrangements with your students:

  1. Improvisation! Start with your basses improvising a simple bassline, then layer on impromptu parts, one singer or section at a time. This exercise gives students a chance to create something unique as a unified group.
  2. Use the resources provided by the AEA, including personalized advice from experts and free arrangements, as part of our membership program.
  3. Bring in outside clinicians who can work on songwriting, arranging, and other important skills.
  4. If budget allows, bring some or all of the students to events and opportunities where they can explore areas of interest and grow their skillset. If you don’t know where to start, join the AEA Facebook group for ideas and connections with the industry’s leading educators and experts.

This article is based on an interview with Ben Spalding, who is a high school choral director, author, and founding member of the A Cappella Education Association.

Do you want free arrangements, expert advice, and access to professional a cappella events? You can have all of that and more by becoming a member of the A Cappella Education Association. Join us today and help shape the future of a cappella.