Acapella–The App

In the post, Music Technology Tips for Parents and Teachers, several apps were recommended, including Acapella. This is an app that is available in the Apple app store, and in Google play. It is an app designed for use on mobile devices, and can be used for collaborating from anywhere, which makes it a perfect tool for remote learning environments. In this post, I will give an overview of the Acapella app, and provide some direction on how to get started using it. Music educators can plan creative lessons around this app that include music production, composing, audio and film editing, and remote ensemble performance. Please observe that this app is not intended for live streaming or performances. It is in essence a very accessible, easy to use audio and video editor. 

An Overview of the Acapella app

  • Multi-window video, with the same person singing different parts at once
  • Multi-window video, with different people collaborating, singing parts at once from remote locations
  • Two versions, one free, one upgraded pay version.
  • Basic version—1 minute only
  • Pro version has better video quality, better sound quality, and record up to 10 minutes
  • Available for Android and iPhone

Things needed

  • The app
  • The camera on your phone, the higher resolution the better
  • Headphones, microphone. For iPhones with only one place to plug something in, wired headphones with a built in microphone is one option, or bluetooth earbuds/headphones with a wired microphone.

Getting Started

  • To begin using, open a new project. Remember that opening a new project will delete anything you’ve been working on that was not saved. 
  • Select a template. The pro version has a bigger selection, but the free version still has numerous choices. If you’re working with the app as you read this, select classic.
  • Select a layout. Choose a layout that has the number of parts or collaborators you will be using. This cannot be changed once you have started the project, so think this through before starting the project.
  • Select the length that your recording will be. The longest option is Custom time, which is 1 minute in the free version. It’s best to choose the maximum length of 1 minute in the free version, because if you end up recording something shorter, it will be easy to crop the extra time later. If you are working with the app as you read this, though select 15 seconds now. 
  • Choose where your first recording will appear on the screen.
  • Adjust input (microphone) settings. Input gain will determine the sensitivity and volume of the recorded material. High gain will be louder, but also tend to cause distortion or the picking up of background noise, so some experimenting is helpful. Monitor level will set how loud you hear yourself while you’re making the recording. 
  • Select the time signature and tempo.  This is important for syncing multiple tracks. If you will be singing along with a pre-recorded track already on your phone, choose this option select and import the song you will be using, and choose the portion of the song you will be using. The paid version allows you to adjust to higher resolutions and to import a video also.
  • To start recording, press the red record button, wait for your count off, and record. When finished press the stop button. You will have the option to continue or redo. Press continue now if you’re following along. Now you will be able to listen to what you just recorded. Repeat these steps to record other tracks, each track in a different location on your layout. You can reselect a track and re-record it at any time. 
  • To edit, select a track and make adjustments. This includes options to adjust the volume on individual tracks, pan (change the prevalence on the left or right tracks) add reverb, change the overall pitch. There is also an equalizer and filter options, and adjustments for specific instruments you may have used. You can also edit the look of the video with filters, and change the color of the border between windows (voices) on the screen. A watermark and/or text can also be added to the video in the paid version. 

Observations

Sharing options are there. Choose from private, public (anyone can find it using the app) or collaboration (share a link with someone else and collaborate with them). You can also share directly to popular social media platforms.  The free version exports at 720p, and the paid version allows you to export at 1080p. The paid version also allows you to save the video file and audio file separately. 

This app is by no means a professional application. Even with the paid version, video and audio are both compressed to some extent, and syncing of rhythms that are divisions of the beat can be tricky. For example, if you are recording eighth notes in two tracks, getting those eighth notes to sync up between both tracks can be maddening. But for standard popular styles, this app is an excellent way to get started with this kind of production, and the ease with which collaboration is possible is a big plus for music educators and students. 

Because this app is connected to social networks, it is not appropriate for any child you do not want using those social networks. The free version is completely connected to these. 

Users of this app on Android devices have reported difficulty, with several bugs hampering their success. It was originally developed for iPhone, and seems to work much better there. 

The paid version is by yearly subscription only. The cost is $50 annually. There do not appear to be educational discounts or licenses available.

No promotional fee has been paid to this author or Mr A Music Place for any of the content included in this post.

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