“There are many accompanists who are very good pianists, but there are not many pianists who are good accompanists!”

Irwin Gage

Any soloist will tell you that a good accompanist is worth their weight in gold. A good accompanist provides support for the soloist without overshadowing or dominating the performance, and provides a safety net when things don’t go according to plan.

Accompanying also teaches many vital skills to student pianists, including keeping a steady beat, following another musician’s interpretation, and sight-reading and transposition skills, among others. Many students of mine are currently accompanying school and community choirs, Church congregations and beginner string ensembles, as well as instrumental and vocal soloists.

My top tips for becoming a wonderful accompanist are –  [···]

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Jump Start Your Creativity!

…with Mozart or Beethoven! At one time, using another artists idea to build a masterpiece was considered an homage, a great honor! (These days it’s called plagiarism!) So, we won’t need to take it straight off the page, but gleaning another artist’s great idea and using it as a springboard into improvisation or original composition, is something quite worthwhile.

I would like to share just a few improv/composition exercises that use previously written music as a starting place. Since I have discussed in my earlier articles more specifics on motifs, development and form, please refer back to Parts 1 and 2 of “Get It Going” if you haven’t previously had a chance to read them!

Theme & Variations

This is probably the most obvious place to start. I’d suggest to start by listening to some examples. Here are a few suggestions:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman” (K. 265 / K. 300e)

Ludwig van Beethoven, 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120

Max Reger, Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Mozart, Op.132

Make a simple lead line chart of a familiar tune (I like to use Twinkle, Jingle Bells and Jesus Loves Me, to name a few).

  • Write (or have the student) write out the melody line. You may choose to use just the starting note for the melody, and then only the lyrics.
  • Using the most basic chord choices (I, IV and V in the given key), play the melody, and let the student  [···]
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