Questions somewhat similar to this have been asked before, but I admit to still being unsure.

Throughout the last three weeks I have been listening to a capella music only, as per the Three Weeks, primarily through playlists such as this and this. This is a practice my family members does not do and this is my first time doing so, and as such I have no particular references I can ask for what "our tradition" is. I have noticed, however, that these songs tend to vary a lot, ranging from very somber tunes about the Kotel that are clearly just unaltered vocals sung by a soloist or choir, to songs where people are imitating instruments (including one case in which a singer imitated a bass drop in a capella), to songs that clearly have post-effects added to the voices such as reverb or autotune, to a few instances of the use of distortion pedals on a microphone (this enables a sufficiently skilled singer to essentially do a guitar solo with their voice, and while it is noticeably different from an actual guitar solo on a close listen, it still involves an external device to generate the music). I found myself increasingly skipping songs when I thought to myself, "Wait, that definitely can't be allowed" or noticing what sounded a lot like an electronic beat on a repeat listen. One song that came on was even about Purim, which is, needless to say, not becoming of the Three Weeks.

Clearly, there are multiple traditions regarding music, such that the rules appear highly inconsistent even within a single person's list of "permitted" music. I saw elsewhere that there may be a "danceability" metric, ie if you can't dance to it it is probably fine, but that is also highly subjective (for instance, I have managed to dance to death metal that people have called unlistenable, let alone impossible to dance to).

I think one perfectly reasonable answer is "As long as your listening habits are substantially different during this time period, and therefore you have heightened spiritual awareness that this is not a normal time but the Three Weeks (or Sefira), that is what matters - the rest is details." However, I'm still hoping to determine where the lines are drawn. What, halakhically, is an instrument? Are basic electronic effects okay as long as the song is "mostly" a capella? Is autotune fine since it's just slightly changing the vocals, but reverb or distortion crosses the line? If (as has happened before) I can't tell if something is really good beatboxing or a drum, does that mean I need to avoid it?

Related questions (one is even the same question but didn't get any answers):

What is halachically considered an instrument for the purposes of Sefirah and the Three Weeks?

What are the limits of "music"?



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