Working With a Piano Accompanist

Working With a Piano Accompanist

Piano Accompaniment

A good accompanist does not just work “for” the soloist but “with” the soloist or student and may offer advice to music students preparing for a recital in order to maximize the impact of their performance.

Playing a performance with a live piano accompanist is not like playing along with a CD or MP3 and offers much more than just trying to play along with a backing track. Not all good piano players make good accompanists and the skill of accompanying is a very specialized and different skill that not all piano players take the time to learn. It is often true to say that a good accompanist can help make or break a performance.

A good accompanist will know the soloist part just as well as their own part and will be able to help students understand how the music fits together, support their playing where necessary and be flexible enough to ensure a successful performance even if the students part does not go exactly as planned. A sensitive accompanist will be skilled at adjusting the music during the performance should the soloist make any “mistakes”. If a student “forgets a repeat”, “misses out a line of music”, or makes other serious musical errors during a performance a good accompanist will have the ability to seamlessly adjust their performance to fit that of the student. If a student becomes completely lost in a piece of music a good accompanist will be able to continue to play in whatever style is necessary until the student is able to pick the music up again. A good accompanist will not only assist coach students in how to play their music along with the accompaniment but will also teach the student valuable skills associated with performing music with other musicians. Students who are not used to playing with other musicians may occasionally have timing and rhythmic insecurities in their playing and an experienced accompanist will be able to help the student identify these areas of their performance that may need improving. A good accompanist will be sensitive to the final balance of sound between the soloist and the accompaniment and will never allow the soloists part to be overwhelmed.

Improve your own performance by working with an experienced piano accompanist

Working with a great accompanist offers a level of security for the student during the performance and can help them achieve a better performance themselves. This can help students competing in competitions achieve higher grades and rankings. When a student is preparing for a public performance it is important that they secure the services of a good accompanist so that the student may be free from worry about the quality of the final performance. The security of working with a skilled and reliable accompanist can help calm the nerves of both parents and students and as a result they are likely to be less nervous about the performance.

What does it take to become a great piano accompanist?

Accompanying is an art and takes a great pianist and a sensitive musician, who is capable of creating the framework in which the soloist is free to express their music, in a context that is harmonious with the soloists vision. This is not a simple task. It takes many years of experience for an advanced piano player to eventually become a great accompanist. A typical piano accompaniment will often be more complex and “harder to play” than the actual soloist part. This is especially true of more advanced music that students may perform at a senior level. Many piano accompaniment parts are reductions of scores that were originally written for an orchestra and these accompaniments are often not written in a particularly “pianistic” style making them much harder to learn. There is also a wide range of styles an accompanist may be called upon to read, ranging from traditionally notated sheet music to piano vocal scores and chord charts. A good accompanist will know when best to “embellish” his part to support the soloist and when to allow the soloist room to breathe in the performance. A successful accompanist needs to have a broad experience of playing and performing in a wide range of musical styles to a professional standard. A good accompanist will know their own part of the music well enough to be able to devote a large part of their attention to listening to what the soloist is playing and reacting to this accordingly.

How does playing with a great accompanist help music students?

A good accompanist will know when to “lead” and when to “follow” and will be able to adjust the style of their accompaniment depending on the particular musical situation. When a vocalist is unsure about pitching certain notes at particular places in the music the accompanist my subtly include these notes in the accompaniment to help the vocalist. Some instrumentalist and vocalists who don’t know their own part very well may be “put off” if a complex accompaniment is played. Under these circumstances the accompanist will know how to support the soloist with a simplified version of the music. At the same time when an accompanist senses that the soloist has fully mastered their own part and appreciates the added dynamic that an extended piano accompaniment will provide the good accompanist will know how to produce a more complex professional sounding accompaniment that may help to inspire the soloist to reach beyond their normal interpretation of the music thereby elevating the performance to new levels of excellence. A good accompanist will be able to assist the student with any important transitions in the music including key changes, tempo changes and changes in the navigation in the music and will remember exactly how these transitions should occur during the performance. After working with an accompanist to work out how these critical areas of the performance should be played students may sometimes forget what was agreed during the rehearsal. A good accompanist will be able to compensate for this and help to “smooth over” any areas of the performance that may be negatively impacted by the student’s lapse in memory.

When should a student work with an accompanist?

Tremendous value may be gained by students from working regularly with an experienced accompanist even if there is not an impending performance happening in the next few days. Many dedicated music students will schedule regular time with an accompanist in a similar way they would schedule lesson times with their regular teachers. Students who have regular experience of working with accompanists will often perform better in competitions than students who only ever get to play with an accompanist for one hour a year before an important performance. Students who wish to excel in their performance during a competition would be wise to consider working with an accompanist on several occasions prior to the performance rather than leaving rehearsals to the last minute. An accompanist can assist in identifying areas of weakness in a student’s performance that may require a more extended period of time to correct.

Booking the services of a piano accompanist

Good accompanists are in high demand, especially during busy local festivals or competitions. If you establish a relationship with your accompanist throughout the year it is more likely that you will be given priority over other students looking to schedule a performance at the last minute. Establishing a relationship with an accompanist prior to performances can also reduce last minute panics caused by accompanists who may “let you down” at the last minute.

The Legends Piano Studio Accompaniment Services

I have experience of working as a music festival adjudicator in Buckinghamshire, England and so has a keen eye for the type of things judges are looking for in a musical performance. I am an experienced accompanist with an exceptional ability to work with musicians of all levels from beginners who have been playing for just a few months, up to performances with some of the finest musicians in the world. Paul has the ability to learn advanced accompaniments quickly. At the age of 14 Paul spent 3 years sight reading music for two local dance schools four times a week and as a professional musician sight read new music every day working with visiting artists during his work as a pianist for Holland America Cruise Line. This work involved sight reading music during a one hour rehearsal every day for a new and different performance every evening for 5 years. I am a classically trained pianist with a Degree in Jazz and Contemporary Piano Performance from the #1 Music School in the UK for Jazz and Popular Music. I have extensive experience as a professional musician, accompanist and as a School Music Director.

  • Skilled in accompanying soloists of all ages
  • Knowledge of vocal repertoire in diverse styles
  • Excellent Sight Reading Skills
  • All styles, from Classical, Contemporary, Jazz and Popular Music, Early Music, Improvisation, Musical Theater, Contemporary Music

Piano accompaniment services

  • Music Examinations
  • Musical Theater
  • Rehearsal Accompanist
  • Vocal Accompanist
  • Music Festival Accompanist
  • Music Competition Accompanist
  • Concerts
  • Studio Recital Accompanist
  • District Auditions Accompanist
  • State Auditions Accompanist
  • Dance Class Accompaniment
  • Music Workshop Accompaniment
  • School Concert Accompaniment
  • School Choir Accompaniment
  • Church Organ
  • American Idol Auditions Preparation!

I am able to read any style of notated sheet music

  • Traditional Sheet Music
  • Choral Scores
  • Orchestral Reductions
  • Chord Charts
  • Hand Written Charts
  • Jazz Charts

Rehearsal Details

I am available for piano accompaniment in and around the St. Louis area. Rehearsals may take place in your own home or at the Piano Teaching Studio. I have a high level of ability and experience as a piano accompanist and therefore rehearsals are productive, as short as possible and to the point. Recording may be made of the rehearsal for further personal practice but may not be published online.

Additional Services Available

A portable electric piano is available for performances and rehearsals. Rehearsal CDs may by ordered online. Accompaniments will be recorded as professional quality MP3s and emailed to you. Music accompaniment scores may be arranged or composed to your specific requirements. For example, if a vocalist needs a piece of music arranging in a different “key” than the original music. Scores are produced to the highest professional standard using Sibelius music notation software. Scores are available in standard PDF format and may be emailed to you. The original Sibelius files are also available. Please contact us for further details.

Piano Accompaniment Fees

Accompaniment fees are flexible depending upon the requirements of the performance and are based on published MTNA recommended accompaniment rates. The better your accompaniment, the better you play!

Learn more about the professional piano accompanist services offered by The Legends Piano Studio.

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