Confused by pop sheet music that mixes vocal with piano

Posted by: Trinley

Confused by pop sheet music that mixes vocal with piano - 11/01/12 01:18 PM

I've bought a lot of pop sheet music, mostly Tori Amos but a lot of other stuff. What they publish in 99% of the songs is the vocal melody on the top staff, then a mix of vocal melody in with the treble so that it's alternating between just the vocal note or the vocal and a 5th or a 3rd. The bass is usually variations of chords and arpeggios, which is fine.

I think it sounds really lame to be singing and playing the exact notes that I'm singing, and rarely hear this happening in the original version of the songs. But I don't have a good enough ear to pick out what they're playing and mimic it. Why do they publish sheet music like this? Can anyone advise me how to adjust the music so the piano harmonizes with the vocal instead of just mimicking it? I'm sure a teacher would benefit me greatly, but I can't afford it right now. I had one teacher who I asked about this, and she thought I should be able to instinctively pick out notes that would sound good with the vocal, but sadly I can't.

Thanks for any advice!
Posted by: Exalted Wombat

Re: Confused by pop sheet music that mixes vocal with piano - 11/01/12 02:06 PM

I don't know why they do it that way either. Occasionally, just for fun, I accompany a singer playing "exactly what it says" and am rapidly instructed to stop it!

One approach is to work from the chord symbols and imitate what a good "auto-play" home keyboard might produce in an appropriate style. Then try to do it wait an awareness of the melody, but not re[roducing it slavishly.

Or you can listen to the recording and try to imitate it.

Yes, I know. Not a trivial skill. But one that develops rapidly if you stick with it. You DO have a good enough ear!
Posted by: rocket88

Re: Confused by pop sheet music that mixes vocal with piano - 11/01/12 02:34 PM

You can get a unit like this and import some of the original song from a CD or other source, and the unit will do several things to help you find the melody note.

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/CDGT2/

First, it will eliminate much of the lower bass/drum sounds so you can focus on the melody.

It will slow down the music without changing the pitch.

It will freeze the music at any point. That is probably what would help you the most, in that it will continue playing the note you freeze it at, and you can then go to a piano or other instrument and poke around until you find what is that note.

Doing this will also train your ear to isolate the note that you are seeking.

I have used a similar unit for years and it has been invaluable in helping me find what are the notes someone is playing.
Posted by: Farmerjones

Re: Confused by pop sheet music that mixes vocal with piano - 11/01/12 02:41 PM

I'd start by finding the guitar chords.
Often, finding the guitar chords online isn't hard, but then blending that chord into the desired rythmn may take some creativity (arpegiation, if that's a word?)
Posted by: rada

Re: Confused by pop sheet music that mixes vocal with piano - 11/01/12 02:58 PM

I think it is a 'no-no' for an accompanist to ever play the vocal line.
Maybe you can try working from a lead sheet. I am not a singer so I always have to find a way to make the vocals jive with the accompaniment....essentially making it a solo piano arrangement. Often time that is very easy to do.....sometimes it's not worth the bother.

rada
Posted by: LoPresti

Re: Confused by pop sheet music that mixes vocal with piano - 11/01/12 11:38 PM

Originally Posted By: Trinley
I think it sounds really lame to be singing and playing the exact notes that I'm singing, and rarely hear this happening in the original version of the songs.

Maybe too obvious?? Why not play everything that is on the piano grand staff, EXCEPT those notes that double the vocalist's melody? If you are able to do this, I predict success!

Welcome to the Forums!
Ed

Posted by: davefrank

Re: Confused by pop sheet music that mixes vocal with piano - 11/02/12 09:26 PM

Played a remarkable instrument today, it had 3520 keys!! It was called a forty-piano.

DF
Posted by: Hidden son of Teddy Wilson

Re: Confused by pop sheet music that mixes vocal with piano - 11/03/12 09:39 AM

I believe that a lot of that sheet music is targeted at people who are not very good players or singers. It's for playing after the family dinner.

The piano parts are often simplified (and sometimes just plain wrong) and they have the piano double the vocals because the singer is going to drop out or make mistakes at some point. Just my opinion....

I much prefer getting what I can off the record and designing my own accompaniment (not to mention that it's cheaper than buying all those lame music books). You say your ear's not good enough to do that, but if you forget that sheet music and really start doing it, you WILL get better. You can use software like "Transcribe!" to slow stuff down.
Posted by: jjo

Re: Confused by pop sheet music that mixes vocal with piano - 11/03/12 11:15 AM

I have a fairly large sheet music collection. I would say that the majority of song books include the melody in the accompaniment because they are trying to sell the same book to people who sing and people who don't. There is, however, a lot of music that doesn't include the melody. The problem is that it is hard to tell before making a purchase. In ancient times, you bought sheet music at an actual store and you could look at it and tell. Now, everyone buys it online and it's hard to find the books that don't include the melody in the accompaniment. I don't have an answer for you except to tell you keep looking.

Just as an example, several years ago when they put out the music for the show Wicked, they put out two books, one with the melody in the piano part, and one that was solely a vocal accompaniment.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Confused by pop sheet music that mixes vocal with piano - 11/03/12 07:12 PM

Most musicals are available as piano-vocal scores and as songbooks. The former are complete, and include all of the music, for use in accompanying a performance. The latter are selections, for singing or playing at home. If you compare the two, you will find that some musicals have the melody in the accompaniment, and others do not. Most people will only have songbooks, which are better for those who just needs the music for a song they like.
Posted by: blueston

Re: Confused by pop sheet music that mixes vocal with piano - 11/04/12 04:55 PM

Originally Posted By: rada
I think it is a 'no-no' for an accompanist to ever play the vocal line.


This is a very good rule of thumb to follow in the vast majority of these situations.
Posted by: blueston

Re: Confused by pop sheet music that mixes vocal with piano - 11/04/12 05:03 PM

Originally Posted By: Hidden son of Teddy Wilson
I believe that a lot of that sheet music is targeted at people who are not very good players or singers. It's for playing after the family dinner.

The piano parts are often simplified (and sometimes just plain wrong) and they have the piano double the vocals because the singer is going to drop out or make mistakes at some point. Just my opinion....


Yes! This is why they do this! And I agree it's tremendously annoying. The publishers believe the market for this sheet music if far larger for beginners and singers than for people that are somewhat good and want to play just the exact accompaniment.

However I am finding the availability of good and exact accompaniment sheet music is getting better and better. Sometimes you will actually find it, depending on what the artist is and the popularity of the piece you are looking for.

If you go to www.musicnotes.com , any digital download that says "Pro" Version is usually pretty good and will be as exact as you are likely to find it anywhere.

In worst case situations where you can't find what you are looking for, YouTube is a wonderful resource for additional ideas. You can sometimes find a variety of Tutorials for many popular pieces, or at least several different cover versions people have done that you can watch and try to imitate.
Posted by: Exalted Wombat

Re: Confused by pop sheet music that mixes vocal with piano - 11/04/12 07:46 PM

Originally Posted By: BDB
...some musicals have the melody in the accompaniment, and others do not.


Yup. If the vocal score follows the orchestration of the show, sometimes a vocal melody is doubled (typically by violins or oboe) sometimes not. A good piano accompaniment underpins, supports when required.
Posted by: Trinley

Re: Confused by pop sheet music that mixes vocal with piano - 11/06/12 10:01 AM

Originally Posted By: LoPresti
Maybe too obvious?? Why not play everything that is on the piano grand staff, EXCEPT those notes that double the vocalist's melody? If you are able to do this, I predict success!


This is what I usually do, since I'm not confident or knowledgeable enough to add my own interpretations. But the problem is that it leaves me with a very skeletal piano accompaniment. As I mentioned, all I get in the right hand is usually an alternation between just the vocal note, then the vocal and a 5th or a 3rd. If I take out the vocal melody, I'm usually left with a meager 4 or 5 notes a bar, plus the chord in the bass. Annoying as heck when I can hear and see the musician going to town on the piano with a beautiful supporting melody.

Thanks for all the replies! I will check out the software you mentioned, and maybe I do just have to sit down and try picking out notes by myself.
Posted by: Exalted Wombat

Re: Confused by pop sheet music that mixes vocal with piano - 11/06/12 10:12 AM

Originally Posted By: Trinley
maybe I do just have to sit down and try picking out notes by myself.


Yup, that's what it generally comes down to! Plus lots of listening to how other players do it.