Learn a folk pop song from the 1930s which featured in a Hollywood film and have a go at performing it accompanying yourself with cups!

Some of you might have watched the American musical comedy film Pitch Perfect, released in the UK in 2013, featuring Anna Kendrick and produced by Universal studios.

The film tells the story of an all-girl a cappella group from Barden University called the Barden Bellas who compete against other groups from their college to win Nationals.

What does a cappella mean?

‘A cappella’ is an Italian word which means ‘In the manner of the chapel’. In music, it is used when singers perform together without the accompaniment of musical instruments.

Here are three examples of a cappella groups who sing in very different styles:


Stile Antiquo sing ‘Ave Maria, Virgo Serena’ by Josquin Des Prez who was a French composer of the Renaissance (1450/55-1521).

His music was sung in church.

In this video, OneVoice sing ‘I want you back’ by The Jackson 5. The group is made of students from a High School in Memphis in America.

They use beatboxing with the a cappella voices.

Beatboxing imitates percussion instruments using mouth, lips, tongue and voice.

In a more classical style, VOCES8 sing ‘Sleep’ by Eric Whitacre who is an American composer and conductor who still writes music for choirs today.

What do all of these videos have in common?

Can you remember how to call music which is performed without any instruments?

Which video was your favourite? Why?

The Cup Song

Let’s come back to the film Pitch Perfect.

There is a famous scene where the main character Becca, played by Anna Kendrick, sings a folk song from the 1930s called ‘When I’m gone’. It is also known as ‘The Cup Song’ as she use a cup to make rhythms to accompany her singing.

The song was so popular that they even made a music video for it which you can watch here…

Challenge Time

Now its time for you to have a go!

What you will need:

  • A plastic cup.

Before we start, we need to warm up our voices with Jenny:

Learn to sing ‘When I’m gone’ with Jenny and Nicola:

Learn how to put the rhythm with the song using your plastic cup:

Are you ready for the final performance? Join in with Jenny and Nicola. Good luck!

If you want, take a video of you doing this challenge and share it with us on social media using #ONLittleSchool


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