Some Tips for Piano Accompanists

SOME TIPS FOR PIANO ACCOMPANISTS
By STEPHEN CHIN
• Always attempt to get your music well ahead of time.  Reference to a recording can be most helpful.

• Development of good sight reading skills is extremely important yet fun!

• Do lots of “easy” pieces when starting out to boost your confidence.

• Check bars numbers, rehearsal figures and repeats – they can vary between editions

• Never be afraid to edit.  Accompaniments fit roughly into three categories – good, difficult and impossible.

• Try to devise musical cuts for long introductions or interludes. Be sure that the phrasing and harmony makes sense.

• Maintain good eye contact with your associate artist.

• If your associate artist gets lost, try to play their line with your bass line part until a recovery is made.

• If YOU get lost, try to maintain one hand – usually the bass line.

• Always follow the solo part and be as familiar with it as you can.

• Endeavour to match phrasing where possible.

• Be wary of fluctuating rhythms – easier sections for the solo part tend to rush and more difficult ones can slow down considerably.

• From time to time, it may be beneficial for you to help your associate artist pitch their notes.  This can take time but must not dominate the rehearsal.

• Practise faster pieces faster than the required tempo just in case your associate artist wishes to go at a brighter pace.
• Be prepared for bars, lines or even pages that are skipped.

• Read at least one bar ahead – the more the merrier!

• It is important to note that instrumentalists especially string players use a different tuning system to the piano’s equal temperament tuning.  The lowest string on an instrument will usually have to be sharpened a little.

• A D Minor chord is standard for an instrumentalist to tune to.  However, violins and basses may tune to a DEGA cluster, whilst cellists and violists may like a CDGA cluster.

• Dynamics must be carefully observed but be aware of tonal balance at all times.  For instance a piece may be marked forte in both parts but if you are accompanying an eighth size violin, adjustments obviously have to be made.

• Page turns need to be addressed – it is fine to make a copy of a page if the turn is difficult.  There are some electronic tablets that can display an image by tapping the foot on a pedal.

• Try to develop good transposition skills.  Often singers like to try pieces in different keys.  Baroque instrumentalists will usually play down a semitone.
• Beginnings and endings of pieces need to be thoroughly rehearsed.

• Regular practise with a metronome is essential.  The keyboard part is like the foundations of a building and needs to be solidly supportive.

• Familiarise yourself with a wide range of styles – e.g. Contrapuntal, Rock, Latin, Jazz, etc

• Observe proper etiquette – your associate artist should acknowledge you and the conclusion of a work.  If you are playing a sonata with musically equal parts, then you should take a bow together.
PRINT – SOME TIPS FOR PIANO ACCOMPANISTS – By Mr Stephen Chin

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