Stephanie Graham on Tight Harmonies

The human voice is an incredible instrument. Sound is created by two small vocal chords located in the larynx coming together while air passes through them. We use our voices to communicate many emotions every day, but singers use their voices to create music.

There are songs from all genres on my eclectic iPod, but the ones I seem to play the most feature singers with strong vocal ability, and lately I’ve been intrigued by groups that sing with tight harmonies, which requires excellent musicianship. Here are some recent cover songs that both follow the traditions and break the rules of barbershop and doo-wop.

Stephanie Graham is a performer, choreographer, producer and educator. She lives in the east end of Toronto with her husband and two cats. Follow her at

Stephanie’s five links

1. Sam Tsui and Kurt Schneider, Michael Jackson medley

I love this video because Sam Tsui, a Yale undergrad with an extensive vocal range, has overdubbed his own voice to create a multi-track. Kurt Schneider did the arrangement of this medley, and together the duo have created many fantastic arrangements and, as a result, become YouTube sensations.

2. Naturally 7, “In the Air Tonight”

Naturally 7 performed this cover of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” on the Paris subway. The talent of this N.Y.C.–based group is unbelievable. They have strong vocal quality, but are also able to create percussion and horn sounds with their voices. They sing mostly R&B, but with a lot of beat-boxing as well. I love the reactions of the people on the subway to the performance.

3. T-Mobile’s Welcome Back ad

T-Mobile, a brand that staged a dance flash mob last year in London’s Liverpool Underground station, has created another, similar ad. It enlisted a group of singers for this video, which was filmed at Heathrow Airport.

4. The Puppini Sisters, “Crazy in Love”

This London, England–based group consisting of Marcella Puppini, Stephanie O’Brien and Kate Mullins has an Andrews Sisters feel. With harmonies like this, the singer has to think both laterally (having to do with the vocal line) and vertically (how the note fits into the chord in relation to the other singers). The trio’s version of this Beyoncé song is absolutely delightful.

5. Kirstie Maldonado, Scott Hoying and Mitch Grassi, “Telephone”

This trio of American high school students is out of this world! Not only is it a very entertaining arrangement of a song that is very popular, but the tight harmonies and quality of vocal sound from all three singers are outstanding. Their use of vocal dynamics and subtle choreography makes it a great a cappella performance.