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#1137829 - 01/31/09 04:34 PM How to Accompany a Singer
survivordan Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/09
Posts: 844
Loc: Ohio
I have never played as an accompanist to a singer except for a family member at home. That was hard. I'm not used to having to keep trak of my place and theirs, plus variances in tempo, and the fact that theyre singing while I'm playing so I'm focusing on the music and trying to tune them out but I have o be listening to them. Aahh!!

My question is: How (methods, techniques, listening etc.) can I do my best to be a good piano accompanist to a singer?
Working On:

BACH: Invention No. 13 in a min.
GRIEG: Notturno Op. 54 No. 4
VILLA-LOBOS: O Polichinelo

Next Up:

BACH: Keyboard Concerto in f minor

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#1137830 - 01/31/09 05:03 PM Re: How to Accompany a Singer
Studio Joe Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/28/07
Posts: 1803
Loc: Decatur, Texas
The accompaniest leads on intro, instrumental interludes, and improvisational fills between vocal phrases. During the vocals, the singer controls the tempo and the accompaniest has to follow the singer's lead.

If you are reading sheet music, you still have be aware of what the singer is doing and follow him/her.

It takes some experience to get good at it.
Joe Whitehead ------ Texas Trax

#1137831 - 01/31/09 05:22 PM Re: How to Accompany a Singer
musiccr8r Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/16/08
Posts: 274
Loc: Denver
Ah, accompanying, I adore it! I don't know how much practical advice I can give, and some of this will be very elementary, but here are some things to consider:

1. If your soloist has not worked with an accompanist before, you should state clearly that THEY are in charge of the tempo. If you accidentally start too fast or too slow, they should never feel locked into going your way, instead, they should as soon as possible define the new tempo and you should be at your most alert at that first entrance to grasp quickly if you are off-base. Conversely they should explicitly understand that if they don't take charge, they may end up with something they REALLY don't want. For ex., if you start a tad too slowly, and they tend to drag behind the beat somewhat as a singer, you are going to follow that drag (assuming that they are signaling they wish to slow down), and get slower, at which point if they still lag on the long side of the beat, it will get slower and slower and slower.....that is, unless they tell you, "I want to lag and want you to be as rock-steady as possible". \:\)

2. You are correct that listening is vastly important. Try to avoid thinking of it as "the singer is a distraction/makes it harder to focus on my playing" (which will stress you out) to thinking in terms of it being a duet. When the singer is "busiest", you fade in the background somewhat, unless you have a complementary line. If you have a piano part where the singer's line is written in, if at all possible, DON'T play it, unless the singer is very inexperienced and needs the help. If you play the singer's line note for note, you not only are redundant, but you prevent the singer from taking liberties they might desire. If the singer has rests for a period of time, then is your moment to shine.

3. Keep a mentality that you are there to make the singer look good, and to provide a sort of structure and support they can lean on and trust. Follow extra carefully the dynamics and such as marked in the music the first time you are together; if they do something different make sure to mark that in, too. Grow dynamically in tandem with them but always making sure you can easily hear them, you never want to drown them out. Esp. be aware of this with instrumentalists, there are some instruments that don't carry very well over a loud piano. And if you are the one who messes up, just be prepared to maintain a bass line or some other connection to keep moving forward until you are back in track. At all costs, you are the fill! If the singer doesn't come in, go back a measure or two to a logical place and repeat as needed until they hear their cue and join you. \:\)

4. Have fun! The two (in my opinion) most fun aspects of accompanying are: a) the adrenaline of being completely focused and alert, ready to "cover" any possible mistake by the singer (a missed beat, etc.)....there is great satisfaction in seamlessly covering a potential "fault", and b) that "zen" moment when it feels like both you and the singer have somehow boarded on a musical journey that somehow exists outside yourselves. It is partially, I suppose, a function of being rhythmically together, but also just a sense that you are singing the same song, somehow. It feels fantastic! \:\)
Good luck and enjoy it!

#1137832 - 01/31/09 10:22 PM Re: How to Accompany a Singer
nitekatt2008z Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/08
Posts: 552
One of my teachers mentioned about accompanying singers that many players get too busy and try to fill every moment of the tune with licks. When the singer rests in phrasing, then the accompanist can "fill in" between the "gaps,"

Some singers may not have a real sense of time/tempo and not really be aware of what keys they sing in that are best for a tune. Some singers bring in a stack of sheet music and can't sing in the keys that are written and expect the piano player to transpose and arrange on the spot.

My piano teacher told me that an experienced singer should have charts in the key they perform the tune best at to present to the accompanist.

And not every piano is a master at accompanying. Being a great accompanist is not something to be taken for granted, and requires the ear and sensitivity to bring out the ultimate performance of the singer.

A great accompanist has to learn to play "between the lines' of charts, lead sheets and sheet music. No matter what though, it's still a challenge to be effective at accompanying singers.


#1137833 - 02/01/09 03:31 AM Re: How to Accompany a Singer
Doug McKenzie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/25/05
Posts: 47
Loc: Australia
I have placed about 20 videos on Youtube with singer Michelle Benjamin, as 'tutorials' on accompanying a singer. Most are jazz standards, but the latest is Sting's 'Every Breath You Take'
and Elvis Costello's 'Almost Blue'.
Most have a clear view of the keyboard, and many have notation scrolling across the screen. They all are annotated with suggestions as to different accompaniment styles.

#1137834 - 02/01/09 09:49 AM Re: How to Accompany a Singer
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
First off I would say never play the melody...that is for the singer. Obviously watch your volume....can you hear the singer? Yes, I agree the singer should be the leader but that all depends on the skills of the singer. I'm sure there are some pianists that don't like to be accompanists so you'll be the judge of this.

have fun,

#1137835 - 02/01/09 10:42 PM Re: How to Accompany a Singer
survivordan Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/09
Posts: 844
Loc: Ohio
The singer still has to learn the song, so I have to give pitches etc. but when performing or practice-performing I'll definately be playing the accompaniment.
Working On:

BACH: Invention No. 13 in a min.
GRIEG: Notturno Op. 54 No. 4
VILLA-LOBOS: O Polichinelo

Next Up:

BACH: Keyboard Concerto in f minor

#1137836 - 02/03/09 11:07 AM Re: How to Accompany a Singer
kiedysktos. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/02/08
Posts: 425
Loc: Europe, Poland
I think there is a huge difference in jazz comping and classical accompanying.
Roland FP-4

#1137837 - 02/03/09 12:19 PM Re: How to Accompany a Singer
BJones Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/08
Posts: 1043
Loc: Queens, NY
One major element that nobody has considered being of paramount significance is accompaniament register. The way the pianist orchestrates registral space for the singer, leaving the singing range of the singer's melodies uncluttered, evacuating space for the singer and reinforcing the singer through skillful choice of well orchestrated register.
Every singer has a sweet spot. The area of their range where they can produce maximum power with the most resonant effect. It's the accompanyist's job to recognize this range and provide skillful orchestration, creating a "table setting" that accentuates the singer's strengths, masks the weaknesses, and makes the singer sound even better than they are.
A study of piano and voice lieder from the great clasical composers is an invaluable aid for this, as well as listening to the great jazz pianist-singer duos recordings.
Again, the ear is primarily significant.
Some recent improvisations:

Cool School Chopin:





#1137838 - 02/05/09 06:10 PM Re: How to Accompany a Singer
nitekatt2008z Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/08
Posts: 552
Yes, jazz and classical accompanying are quite different. The classical is probably a score, the jazz is probably a lead sheet or fake book. One thing I learned about jazz/pop accompanying is to stay mid range on the piano/keyboard, watch the fills and a few other things.

I used to bring a singer with me to my lesson and my teacher was a great accompanist. He also had perfect pitch which doesn't hinder one either. I ran ads to look for singers who just wanted to practice tunes


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