For us classical chamber musicians the lock down has been a real ordeal. But also an opportunity to try new things. Miles apart, not being able to see each other and play together, we had to find another way to stay connected musically. We discovered for us how to use the acapella app.
This is who we are – Duo Fantasie
on how to use acapella app
The best compliment we heard was “we cannot distinguish anymore if the sound comes from the flute or the piano, you play as one entity”. To learn more about our story and understand how this is possible, please read this article.
Before I explain how we used the acapella app to get a little of that magic back into our lonely lock down days,
I wish to share our top three secrets to playing well together and
Become a real Duo
1. Breathe together, even when you are not playing, imagine you play your partner’s part and breathe with it. Also, breathe with the flutist even if you play the piano, or a string instrument. Try to breathe as one. You can exercise that by playing back-to-back without seeing each other. This will help you to start and feel the other’s musical phrase and air stream.
2. Which leads us to the second secret of becoming a real musical entity: Get to know the other one’s musical ideas and learn to anticipate them. Learn to imitate and lead them into your ideas which the other one will follow. The best compliment we received was that it was impossible to distinguish from which instruments the sounds were coming, so much had we merged the voices.
3. To trust each other and learn to depend on and guide each other, you should also spend some time together without playing or practicing. Have dinner, go out, play a game, go to the beach, or in times of Covid have a coffee on zoom or Skype, participate in a Yoga or Zumba online lesson together and then talk about it, etc….do whatever you can to increment mutual trust and knowledge. Create common ground outside of musical practice and above all, HAVE FUN!
I hope our secrets inspire you. Get to know us on our Facebook page
But what you came for is
How to use acapella app
So let us get right to it. You can download a free version that allows you to record 30 sec. However, that is enough in the beginning to become acquainted with how it works. Furthermore, I should mention that it is for ipad, iPhone and mac only.
But nowadays, most of us have both and can use at least one device for this purpose.
In the beginning of how to use acapella app
When I discovered the acapella app I was desperate for finding a way to play together from a distance. I didn’t intend to record in the beginning. But there was no way whatsoever to do that with normal internet connection. Only big institutions with super fast internet can do that, play or do things simultaneously. We tried with all the video conferencing tools, but it was impossible.
So I had nearly given up, when I found this funny way of reproducing yourself many times and singing a song with 6 voices just by myself! That was quite cute and I tried to adopt it for the flute. Most classical pieces developed in much longer than 30 seconds so it didn’t make much sense.
Starting a project on how to use acapella app
I chose to play the slower parts of our Fantasies, like on Traviata and Ballo in Maschera and record 30 seconds that concluded at least one musical idea.
When you sign up, you give your contact information or use your google or Facebook account. Then you are in and can follow other peoples’ projects. Even more so, you can join collaborations with them and see open proposals of cooperation.
But we wish to explain how to start your own first project. In order to do that, you need to click on the white mics on red background and a window opens where you choose the red bar to click on “record new”. After that you have a choice between different classic options, which are not too bad! Even without going premium you can select how many windows you need and what the layout should be. Just click on your option.
A window will pop up and allow you to select the time frame. You are on a free basis and should click on the 30sec. If you play less, it will automatically cut the rest. So go with the maximum length allowed on free membership basis. Click next!
Recording on how to use acapella app
As you are the first one to record, choose the side you like by clicking on it. The system will load and prepare. Place the device where you like the view of yourself playing. Possibly that one can see you well and follow your gestures as indicators on how to record on top.
When you click the red record button in the middle, it will offer you a countdown of four to prepare. Just play and stop it on the same button. If you are ready earlier it will trim the video down to the actual time you played, otherwise it will just stop after 30sec.
Now you get the choice if you’d like to redo or continue. If it wasn’t that bad, just click on continue! At least you will be able to listen to it and learn a lot from listening to your own recording. However, most probably after that first one you figured out what sounded better and will like to redo it. No problem, just cancel on the x in the upper left angle and do it all again.
Make sure you use a piece of music where you guide and your colleague follows. No rest bars or accompaniments in your part.
Recording on top
Once you have your recording you can decide to pre edit your sound by clicking on the loudspeaker below. You might want to lower the volume just a little if it was all up and add some reverberation. If you like playing around a little you can also add filters and styles by the other two buttons below the window.
But remember that the final say has the one who last records! The next step is to click on “save and share” in the upper right angle and this will open several possibilities. You should go with collaboration and send the link via whatsapp, messenger or sms to the other musician. I had trouble with that part and always created the link with the sms function to copy and paste it in an email.
The other musician also needs to download the app on an apple device. When he or she has done that, just by clicking on the link, it will allow collaboration. Furthermore, the same project opens and by clicking on a free window recording is able to start the same way described earlier.
Only this time, you need headphones or ear bugs, to be able to listen to what was prepared for you. However, both of you should make sure to play in tune, even when apart.
Finishing a project on how to use acapella app
Same procedure as your sharing with him or her. When you are happy with colors, style and sound (for non pros it is best to only adjust reverberation and volume), you can save it on your camera roll and upload it wherever you please. Make sure to save it outside of the app and save a link to the finished project as well.
You can also use that link to share on social media. But if you have different channels, it is best to host it on one of them.
What to keep in mind when using the acapella app
It is not like playing together. However, it can be uplifting and create a feeling of collaboration and shade of normality. Moreover, it helps each one of you to become a better musician, because you have to be very precise and can listen to your own recordings to improve.
Choose musical pieces or parts where one of the two is in control and the other can accompany. It will take some time to get used to this way of “playing together” and be able to anticipate and imagine the other one’s musical ideas. Hopefully, you have played together for some time now and find this process easy.
The instrument that can be tuned should make sure it has tuned to the right A, especially when playing first. Then you have no reference sounds.
Last step in how to use acapella app
This brings me to our last progression, playing on our own concert recordings. As a result, we could also play music where there is not just one leader. This was so much fun that we decided to go premium, just one of us is enough. So now we can record for a longer duration and choose from the premium themes.
Thus, listening to a recording and giving a clear starting sign, like a deep breath, you can play more complex chamber music.
If the concert recording is your own, it will be easier for the other person to remember and record on your recording alone.
But what can you do in a case there is no such recording? This is the case of a double concert that was written for us to be performed for the first time this summer. “Two Souls” for flute, piano and orchestra. As it will not happen this summer, but somewhere in the unforeseeable future, we decided to take little excerpts where there is less or no orchestra and send very short recordings to the composer as a thank you.
Enlarging the collaboration to an Opera singer!
This was quite a difficult project! We had many attempts at it and many failures. In the end it is the best to record the leading voice first, even if she opposes! She can listen to a recording of her choice while she records the first part.
I had gone premium for a weeks trial, and so I prepared an empty project to ask her for collaboration. Furthermore, it is important to know that you need to record whatever you wish, talking, cooking, nothing, for the full duration and send this default recording. Make sure you use the window that is best for the other one recording first. She will simply click on it and record over it, while listening to something else on her headphone.
When she was happy with the sound, and it is not easy, singing opera from home, she sent the collaboration request to our pianist. In addition, we had decided which notes she would play and in which octave, so that I could arrange a flute part that fitted. Now, surprise, I had planned flute and piccolo, so we were working with 4 windows.
It took a lot of trial and error, but in the end we came up with our arrangement of “Saper vorreste” from “Un ballo in maschera” by G. Verdi. Here is the result:
How to use acapella app for an unedited concert
This concert is very special and nothing alike has yet been written in the classical environment. It was our wish and describes our personalities and cultural backgrounds: “Two Souls” – double concert for flute, piano and orchestra
The concert is based, as the title suggests, on the characterization and juxtaposition of two “musical souls”: on one side the Swiss-German one by Jana Hildebrandt (flutist) and on the other one Cuban by Monica Jimenez Calvo (pianist). Composed between 2019 and the beginning of 2020 on commission of the two concert artists. “Two Souls” uses an immediate, modern and captivating language, also making use of some references and thematic ideas like the following:
We might recognize, on the one hand, the beginning of the 1st beat of the VI “Pastoral” symphony by L. van Beethoven, some ideas from “Der Freischütz” by C. M von Weber, references from “Abendsegen” by E. Humperdinck taken from Hansel and Gretel, hints of Viennese waltz by R. Strauss (An der schönen blauen Donau) and on the other a reference to the famous “Guantanamera” together with the use of pressing rhythm with the use of the “clave”, references to the Cuban style .
Everything is packaged in the form of the Classical Concert, with an energetic and dancing first movement in tripartite bi-thematic “Sonata form”, a poignant Pavana and a sparkling Rondò on the rhythm of the “clave”.
Our two souls, Cuban and German are fused to a great concerto which will be presented live as soon as possible!