AKAPella is an a cappella group that performs parodies on other artists' songs, often non-Jewish ones as of late, in a cappella for people to enjoy during sefira and the three weeks.

In their albums, they use what I assume to be computer filters to make their voices sound like real instruments. Although if one listen closely it's obvious that it's not the actual instrument, they do such a good job mimicking it at a cursory listening that they have actually printed on some of their CD's "So good it should be assur."

But why isn't it forbidden? Firstly, are computer synths not considered to be instruments? And secondly, even if it's technically permitted, how does it uphold the spirit of the time, in which we are supposed to mourn? We stay away from music as a sign of mourning, and they go ahead and put out a cappella that might as well be real music?

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    When you invent chumros you can invent kulos to circumvent them. – user6591 Apr 21 '17 at 16:10
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    In hachi nami. The Heter must only be for live performances – Double AA Apr 21 '17 at 16:14
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    Society, possibly with the guidance of Rabbis decided that electronically produced music has the same laws as playing an instrument. Society possibly with the guidance of Rabbis decided electronically manipulated voices do not have that rule. – user6591 Apr 21 '17 at 16:19
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    @Double that's an opinion. Reb Shlomo Zalman who also was of that opinion at least clarified that the only music, live or recorded which must be avoided is music that brings one to dance. Other music is fine. He is also recorded as mocking people for obsessing over these laws and pestering him with questions about this while they never asked about other more important laws such as ribbis and kibud av v'eim (his examples). – user6591 Apr 21 '17 at 16:55
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    @Gary Is there anything wrong with a subjective definition? – Scimonster Apr 22 '17 at 17:42

The poskim today differentiate between digitally modified a capella music vs. straight voices:

Rav Belsky is quoted as saying,

There are basically three types of a cappella.

One is where the musical sounds originate from human voices but the natural properties are digitally modified with computer software to attain quality of sounds that are not humanly possible, thus making it sound more like regular music. Such a cappella is halachically not viewed as being any different from regular music.

There are other forms of a cappella which sound very similar to regular music, although no digital modification is done to the voices. These types of a cappella should also not be listened to during Sefirah and The Three Weeks, as will be explained shortly.

The third type of a cappella is where regular songs are sung by an individual or choir. There is nothing halachically objectionable about listening to such a cappella during Sefirah and The Three Weeks.

*I heard Rav Heinemann make the same chiluk as well.

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    This doesn't answer the question; if anything, it just strengthens it. You haven't said anything that provides a heter for digitally modified voices. – DonielF Apr 23 '17 at 15:05
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    You're right, it seems a handful of contemporary poskim wouldn't allow such music during sfira. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems the question "Why isn't this forbidden" is answered by "It is forbidden." – NJM Apr 23 '17 at 21:21
  • They claim that it's permissible. I'm looking for a Rav who backs them up. – DonielF Apr 23 '17 at 21:42

The following is my own idea. I'm no scholar or rabbi, so take it with a heavy grain of salt. I'm certainly not your rabbi, so don't rely on it practically. (Also, I've never heard the band referred to in the question.)

One can differentiate between music whose tune is effected by means of an instrument (e.g. a trumpet) and music whose tune is effected orally but which an instrument then distorts (e.g. a synthesizer) or relays (e.g. a tape recorder). Both sound great (YMMV), but, arguably, the former is more music-like. And, arguably, only the former is considered music of the sort around which the original custom developed of refraining from music during the mourning period of s'firas haomer, simply because the latter type of music didn't exist until more recently than that custom developed. Thus, the burden of proof seems to be on those who would include the latter type of music in that custom.

As to whether listening to it is against the spirit of the season — sure, let's say it is for argument's sake. So go ahead and avoid it if it makes you happy. But that doesn't mean it's forbidden.

  • So we differentiate between music effected by an instrument and music affected by an instrument? :) – Scimonster Apr 23 '17 at 6:39
  • I think that we need to check, what kind of music is used for a big festival, a wedding, etc, if it is synthe or some non instrumental way, it is prohibited. "So go ahead and avoid it if it makes you happy" is a very good approach – kouty Apr 23 '17 at 7:55

Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky in Kovetz Halacha is quoted as having made the distinction that once the voices have undergone digital manipulation (AutoTune etc.) then the voices are technically considered at that point as instruments.

Rav Wosner was also of the opinion that that music processed is call instrumental music.

Regarding the spirit, Rav Chizkiyahu Nebenzahl (Chief Rabbi of the Old City) told me that acapella music not only is a violation of the technical law, but also the spirit.

When my wife was in school and felt that music in the background while working was needed to concentrate, we asked the Rav if she could listen to acapella, he said it was forbidden and that it was better to listen to Classical Music, as it (generally) does not bring someone to dancing, and it does not undergo the digital enhancement and processing as acapella does.

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    This doesn’t answer the question. I’m specifically looking for someone who holds that it’s permissible, since everyone I’ve come across so far would hold that it’s not. (Or, like the ones you quote, even regular a capella is forbidden.) – DonielF Apr 24 '18 at 11:22
  • @DonielF it does answer the question: it’s forbidden, are you looking for a heter? That’s not how halacha works – Shoel U'Meishiv Apr 24 '18 at 11:35
  • No, I’m trying to understand the heter that they proclaim, as well as those who listen to their albums. I’m sticking with the shitos I already follow that permit a capella but not this stuff. I’m just trying to figure out this particular opinion - who exactly do they hold like? Chas v’shalom that I would go Rabbi shopping, and certainly not on a site like this where psak questions aren’t allowed. – DonielF Apr 24 '18 at 11:48
  • @DonielF they most probably rely on the fact that once its a voice, no matter the amount of digitization, its still a voice, and though agaisnt the spirit, so what, just like a reallly nice and attractive Shaitel is against the spirit of the law, but no one says its like a uncovered head. But i have no sources to support that, so i dont post it. – Shoel U'Meishiv Apr 24 '18 at 11:49
  • The problem is that nobody seems to hold that a computerized voice is still considered a voice... – DonielF Apr 24 '18 at 11:53

Generally when we pasken Halacha we don't look at the reasons for the mitzvah in making the psak.

The minhag is that instruments are assur but voice is ok

The spirit of the law does not make something forbidden if it's technically permitted.

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    What do you mean, we don’t look for reason? Of course we do. We’re not brain dead zombies. Besides, this is only minhag - there has to be a reason this is the accepted custom. – DonielF Apr 23 '18 at 19:31
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    @donielf no, the opposite is true. If it was halakha there would be a reason. If it's a Minhag there need not be a reason. People do all sorts of crazy or contradictory things on their own. – Double AA Apr 23 '18 at 19:34

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