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#2103447 - 06/16/13 05:43 PM Help needed: Accompanying old Broadway singers
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1653
I have a gig coming up, it's playing piano for a party of older Broadway singers that want to make requests and sing along while I accompany. They have their books and I have Hal Leonard's "Ultimate Broadway Fakebook" (Over 700 songs). In general they like old show tunes: Jerome Kern, Rodgers & Hart, Gershwin, Porter, Arlen, Kander & Ebb, Bock & Harnick, Bernstein & Sondheim. No Andrew Lloyd Weber or les Miz. Favorites are "Someone to Watch Over Me" and Sondheim's "Our Time". Anything from "Finian's Rainbow" and anything by Sondheim.

My question: I am used to playing in time with slight rubato. But when I listen to Broadway pianists and singers they seem to operate in a different world of timing with frequent extreme rubato, speed up, rubato, speed up, all very well coordinated. How do they manage that timing where every phrase is dramatically different? Is there some sort of routine more than just slow down at the end of every phrase and then pick it up again? I expect the answer will be "Listen to the singer..." But it seems that could be risky when you are sight reading a little lead sheet and not familiar with the songs.. Might there not be some method to it than more than "Just listen to the singer" ???

Here is an example from Finian's Rainbow titled "When I'm Not Near the Girl I Love":

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#2103482 - 06/16/13 07:20 PM Re: Help needed: Accompanying old Broadway singers [Re: rintincop]
Hidden son of Teddy Wilson Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/27/09
Posts: 122
The example on the video is very well done and has probably been rehearsed.

You don't have the luxury of rehearsals so you can't expect such a polished performance.

Some songs have traditions: for example often verse is rubato, chorus is in tempo. If you're not sure you can ask the singer beforehand.

I find that doing rubato on a song that you're sight reading and never heard before is the hardest.

When I have to do that, then I read the words that the singer is singing, and I just follow along and fill the holes with little arpeggios. It's better to be a little behind the singing that ahead. Also, if a phrase starts before beat 1 of a bar, then you wait for the singer to start and play the chord when he reaches beat 1. But, if a phrase starts after beat 1 then it's on you to play a chord (usually the singer will be waiting to hear that chord).

Always be looking at the singer (and at the sheet with your other pair of eyes smile ) because often you can pick up cues as to what's coming. Be flexible! Sorry that I can't think of anything more useful...

Another problem that you might run into is that they might want to sing in keys other than the sheet music that you have. This can be pretty hard to pull off on a song you don't know...


Edited by Hidden son of Teddy Wilson (06/16/13 07:22 PM)

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#2105943 - 06/21/13 07:56 PM Re: Help needed: Accompanying old Broadway singers [Re: rintincop]
DaveRobertsJazz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/08/09
Posts: 74
Excellent advice from Teddy Wilson's hidden son.

If all else fails, play like Teddy Wilson -- and no one will care what the singer is doing or even notice that there is a singer. Teddy rules!

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