13 Things Only Kids Who Did A Cappella In College Will Understand

In the wake of the world’s collective orgasm over the vocal stylings of Anna Kendrick and the like on Pitch Perfect and NBC’s The Sing-Off, I’d like to shed some light on the cold, hard reality of flapping your vocal cords next to fifteen of your peers who are each paying upwards of $50,000/year for the privilege. Here are some truths for those who’ve been through the melodious gauntlet of collegiate a cappella.

1. If someone is flat, they are committing a bold-faced act of vocal sabotage. The harmonies can be coming together like the scarab beetle in Aladdin, but one flat note from the mezzo in the back will rip them apart in as long as it takes to sing a sixteenth note. If you hear someone singing flat, you will side eye the fuck out of them until they start listening to the group’s tonal center.

2. Pitch pipes are pitchy. Like, I don’t even know why we use pitch pipes anymore. They sound like dying cats. But we keep using them because they are classic, and at the end of the day everything about a cappella has its roots in the old school, bougie, landed gentry with matching blazers, etc.

3. Speaking of men with matching blazers, there’s nothing as majestically awkward as twelve male Ivy Leaguers dancing around while faintly intoning some indie pop gem. Ah, the sweet sound of patriarchy. *he says as he dusts off his shiny striped tie…*

4. Nodes (vocal nodules) are fucking real. There’s always that one girl who got them and *never sounded the same again.* You live in fear that, one night, a node will slip under your bedroom door, pluck your vocal cords out of your throat, drop them into a pouch, smile like the Grinch and float away.

5. Ninety percent of basses have big dicks. Law of nature.

6. You can learn more about your relationship with someone by staring at their pupils as both of you sing “oo” than by having sex with them.

7. When a song starts without bass, and then the basses come in after eight bars, it’s the warmest feeling in the world. The vocal equivalent of diving into a pool of heated Snuggies.

8. Eighty percent of tenors are gay. Second law of nature.

9. There’s always one person who can’t *really* read music, but they have a decent voice and are endearing, so they just learn everything by ear and are always 40% confused.

10. It is possible to work for weeks to copy an Xtina riff, or to make your voice sound like an acoustic guitar. You finally get it, but not after you consider that Christina and her band probably did it spontaneously in a studio once, and just kept it. They didn’t think much of it, but now here you are, replaying four seconds of a pop song in a Sisyphean climb to the top of Mount Imitation. Makes you question the definition of “art.”

11. You’ve flown to a European country with a pitch pipe in your backpack. You sang for children three times and spent the remainder of the week dancing around naked while making snare drum sounds with your mouth.

12. The tension between “ti” and “do” at the top of a scale can accelerate the beating of the human heart.

13. There’s that quarter-second during the chorus when everything fits together, and you hear your own voice as part of a constellation of other, matching voices, and you just listen, you become one solid ball of listen. And you realize that this is why you do it, and this is how the universe works, and yes it’s a questionable art form, and yes you’re impersonating a brass instrument, but you don’t care. When you feel your own voice subsumed by the vibrating muscles of fifteen other humans, you just know. You’ll keep stretching your vocal cords with these fools until you hand in your pitch pipe on graduation day. TC Mark

Check out Harris Sockel’s new Thought Catalog Book here.

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