Group Mentality: A Conversation About Gender Differences In A Cappella

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By Emily Snyder

Men's, women's, and coed a cappella groups are often stylistically distinctive and laden with stereotypes.

Many of us, myself included, stay in our own bubble and never truly experience the real differences among group types. From the representation we see on the screen (ahem, "Pitch Perfect") to the dynamics we experience with and among our own groups, there is plenty to unpack from this suitcase. 

I sat down with expert all-women-to-coed a cappella group switcher Brynn Bowman to get the lowdown on the actual versus the imagined differences between gender-exclusive and coed groups.

(Please note: for the purposes of this conversation I'll be using gendered language, but I am well aware that not everyone falls into strict male/female categories!) 

FloVoice: What are some stereotypes you've heard about female a cappella groups? Do you think any are justified?
Bowman: I've heard that there must be so much drama and that they must fight over everything. To that I say absolutely not. Sure, there's drama here and there, but that comes with any group of people.

In your experience, what are the major differences, if any, between all-women and coed groups?
There are both stylistic and social differences. Obviously, you get a fuller sound when you have male voices in the mix. With a mixed group you're able to explore more octaves and ranges. All-female groups are definitely able to sing all the same styles with just a slightly different sound. 

Are there definite stylistic differences or are they mostly social?
Socially, there's a natural difference when you're surrounded by the same gender as opposed to a coed environment. I truly don't believe one mix is better than the other. It depends on what environment appeals to your personality.

If you could dispel one myth about gender-exclusive groups, what would it be and why?
"All-female and all-male groups will never match the sound or performance of mixed groups." So, so wrong. Look up groups like Lark, Pitch Please, or All the King's Men. Gender-exclusive groups are still more than capable of putting on a stellar performance with the voices they have!

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