A cappella is a type of singing that relies on multiple singers vocalizing in harmony with each other to create uplifting music. It’s a way to showcase pure vocal talent when it comes to belting out the notes, beatbox rhythms, and imitating instruments. The following is a look at the best a cappella groups and what makes them worth listening to.
Pentatonix is the penultimate a cappella group of the current era with their smooth, effortless harmonies. Their videos garner millions of views, and they largely cover hit songs. The group consists of four men and one female singer. All of them work together to create a wall of sound so perfect that you’d be excused for thinking they use autotune.
The group goes on tour on a regular basis, and you can catch them performing holiday songs or covering pop songs depending on the season. When you watch them live, you get to see how they manage to create an amazing sound without the use of backing instruments.
VoicePlay is a rising a cappella group that combines tight beatboxing sounds with barbershop quartet-style vocals. The men’s voices range from tenor to baritone, and they’re seamless when they play their voices off each other. Meanwhile, they lift each other up when they back the lead singer. Occasionally, they’ll have a female soprano guest singing with them. The result is a sound that fills your soul with delicious harmonies.
3. Straight No Chaser
Straight No Chaser consists of nine male vocalists that got together in 1996 during their college years. Their experience and years of performing together are evident in their consistent and seamless delivery. There’s no denying their talents and ability to create a variety of sounds and rhythms that fill the room. Straight No Chaser makes it a point to deliver a good time when they play live, making this a do-not-miss a cappella group.
4. Voca People
The Voca People originate from Israel, but they’ll tell you that they originate from Planet Voca somewhere behind the sun. They wear all white, paint their faces white, cover their hair in white caps, and paint their lips red. It’s an effective way to neutralize their appearance and make their voices prominent. Appearances aside, Voca People deliver a solid live performance and their harmonies are heavenly.
5. Street Corner Symphony
Street Corner Symphony has been performing for over a decade and showcasing its tight harmonies. Their performance of Radiohead’s “Creep” on NBC’s The Sing-Off brought them recognition. However, they’ve yet to gain the fame that they deserve. The group continues to record original tracks, perform covers, and delight their dedicated fanbase.
The reason why Street Corner Symphony is considered one of the top acapella groups comes down to the quality of their performance. Even though they don’t have widespread fame and fortune, they are solid performers who work hard at perfecting their craft. The group also stays away from dressing up in order to let their voices take the lead. It’s a refreshing look that makes the singers relatable.
MayTree is a South Korean a cappella group that formed in 1999 and has been making its way around the world’s music charts since debuting in 2000. They’ve finally made their way to the U.S. through the TV show “Squid Game” via a novel approach: recreating computer sounds and smartphone ringtones. The five-member group has seen lineup changes since its inception, but its overall sound has been strong and smooth while letting everyone show their vocal talent.
7. Home Free
Home Free is a five-man group that focuses on covering songs that tug at the heartstrings and deliver deep messages. They beatbox their rhythms and use their voices to recreate the sound of instruments. Their Southern roots show through when they let their country accents come out in their vocals, adding a bit of a downhome feel to their performance.
8. The Manhattan Transfer
The Manhattan Transfer has been around for 50 years and won numerous awards throughout its existence. The group has performed on their own and in collaboration with many famous artists including Bobby McFerrin. Many of their YouTube videos consist of performances from award shows. There’s even one show-stopping number with Ella Fitzgerald.
The group used to consist of two male and two female singers who harmonize on everything from oldies to popular songs along with their own work. The Manhattan Transfer took old standards and made them sound fresh again over the course of the group’s career. One of the founding members has passed away, but the group still performs and records.
9. The Swingle Singers
The Swingle Singers were originally formed in the U.K. by Ward Swingle in 1974. Some of the original members have stayed with the group, while others have left and been replaced. What makes The Swingle Singers one of the best a cappella groups comes down to the honesty they put in their vocals.
The original members consisted of two sopranos, two altos, two tenors, and two basses, but the balance has changed over time. Now known as The Swingles, the group covers everything from classical music to modern hits.
10. Take 6
Take 6 was formed in 1980 and is considered one of the top a cappella groups of all time. The six members, hence the name Take 6, started on a college campus in Alabama and quickly found success with their renditions of spiritual songs, jazz covers, and pop songs. The members also know how to put on a live show that has you dancing in your seats.
What makes Take 6 so awesome is their ability to make their voices sound instrumental and each singer’s ability to hold their note as they sing. Their harmonies are as smooth as glass, and their vocal range is impressive.
11. SoCal VoCals
The SoCal VoCals are actually an ever-changing group of students from the University of Southern California. They consist of 13 to 19 men and women vocalists. However, this isn’t your typical a cappella group as it’s essentially a musical varsity club. Students get to learn how to put their voices to work before they graduate.
The group was founded in 1996 and has gone on to win multiple awards since its inception. The quality of sound created by SoCal VoCals is incredible. It’s a testament to the ability of the voice teachers to get the best out of their students. They’re one of the top acapella groups in the nation in terms of sound and performance.
12. The Filharmonic
The Filharmonic originates from the Philippines, hence the spelling of the group’s name. Five male Filipino-American men make up the core of the group. However, they’re not averse to collaboration with other artists. The group found fame when they appeared on The Sing-Off and are regulars as backup singers on The Late Late Show with James Corden.
Most of the music put out by The Filharmonic consists of covers of modern pop songs and R&B. But dig into their catalog and you’ll discover covers of spirituals and holiday songs. They beatbox so cleanly that it sounds as if they’re playing instruments instead of using their mouths to create a sound.
13. The Alley Cats
The Alley Cats are one of the top acapella groups in the nation and it’s easy to see why. The group faithfully performs songs from the 50s and 60s and refers to themselves as The Cat Pack, the alternative to The Rat Pack. The four-man group has been the opening act for many famous comedians on their tours. They not only sing but also perform comedy skits between their songs.
The group has won many accolades over its 35-year career and has performed around the world, entertained the troops, and even played at The White House. The Alley Cats have made it a point to cover popular songs while having silly fun. But that didn’t stop them from performing with the groups they covered. In fact, The Alley Cats got to sing alongside The Beach Boys, The Drifters, and The Coasters.
Rockapella is most famous for singing the theme song to Carmen Sandiego. Many consider them one of the best a cappella groups for that reason alone, but the group is much more than that. Rockapella has covered classic pop songs and created its own original songs.
The group was formed in 1986 and started out singing on street corners in New York City. They focused on singing barbershop-style harmonies and pop songs that showcased their voices. A TV producer noticed the group during a performance and lifted them up to spots on national TV, commercials, and opening for famous acts such as Styx and Billy Joel.
Rockapella has never let fame get in their way. They keep touring and performing, although the original lineup has changed.
Voctave consists of 11 members, five women and six men, who focus on covering songs in categories that include contemporary, movie soundtracks, pop, choral, and barbershop tunes. The group has received over 150 million views on their YouTube videos, firmly putting them in the best a cappella groups.
Members of Voctave have performed on their own and with the group, showcasing their versatility and range. As a group, Voctave has performed with award-winning artists. Their vocals deliver warmth and heart to the songs they choose to perform, delighting the listener’s ear.
16. Gentleman’s Rule
Gentleman’s Rule shot to fame by combining Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” with Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me” back in 2012. On the surface, the mashup seems absurd, but it showcases the versatility of the seven-member group’s vocals. The song goes from singing the notes of the classical song into the rhythms of rap. That’s not an easy shift to make.
The group went on to cover more pop songs and write their own original music. They’ve also performed with Ben Vereen, Emmylou Harris, The Oak Ridge Boys, Jason Mraz, and more. Gentleman’s Rule is currently on hiatus and has no tours planned in the near future. However, keep your eyes peeled and you might catch them performing at a venue near you.
17. Naturally 7
Naturally 7 has a unique sound that comes from pushing their vocal performances beyond beatboxing and singing without instruments. Listen to their performance, and you’ll swear that they have someone playing a set of drums and grinding out on a guitar. Look closely to see some of the singers creating the sounds on their own. It’s a sonic smorgasbord that blows you away once you realize it’s coming from a human, not an instrument.
The group performs songs from a variety of genres and puts their own spin on them. Their performance of “In The Air Tonight” on World’s Best showcased what they’re capable of creating. The seven members of Naturally 7 are in harmony and synchrony with each other at all times. It’s musical precision at its finest, yet it doesn’t feel overproduced or unnatural.
Naturally 7 is poised to be one of the top a cappella groups to hit the scene. Make sure to catch a show to experience a group that knows how to push limits and blow minds.
These artists highlight the beauty of a cappella music and the complexity of the human voice. These groups primarily cover existing music to help increase their reach and popularity, but they are most certainly not limited by their choice of song. Check them out and experience just how amazing music can be without the use of instruments.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.