Accompaniment Basics: Melody, Harmony & Bass
When accompanying a singer, there are some really easy ways to make that singer shine. That’s the job of the accompanying pianist, to support and enhance the singer’s performance.
In this lesson, we explore the key elements of an effective accompaniment. To do this we will discuss your role in terms of the melody, the harmony and the bass. We will use the tune "Autumn Leaves" to demonstrate and apply the concepts.
Playing The Melody When Accompanying A Singer
An important point is to now lay off the melody when accompanying singers. In the tradition of Billy Holiday, Jazz melodies are not meant to be sung the same way every time, so if you play the melody whilst someone sings the melody, there’s a good chance you won’t be in unison!
Whilst there are some exceptions as we will explore later in the course, the norm is to allow the singer space to interpret the melody, whilst supporting with bass and harmony.
Chords & Voicings For Accompanying Singers
This is an area where many jazz pianists miss the mark. Whilst interesting and complicated voicings are the bread and butter of most jazz, when accompanying a singer, simple is best.
By sticking with the pillars of the chords… 18.104.22.168, you will be giving harmonic support without crowding the airways.
The extensions 9, 11 & 13 and their alterations add color that jazz cats love, but they can very easily clash with the melody, making the singer sound flat, or sharp, when in reality, it’s just disharmony.
Simple voicings often work best here. We will explore the exact types of voicings that work well and apply these to the form of Autumn Leaves.
The Importance Of The Bass
Assuming you don’t have a bassist, you will need to add the lower end as the singer will be much more in the middle ranger of the piano.
Adding the bass creates a floor underneath that will make a more complete sound for the voice stand apart from. It also helps keep the singer squarely rooted in their melody line. Singers often need to hear the 1 in the bass. They rely on this.
Triads Notation & Worksheet File Type: pdf
7th Chords In All 12 Keys File Type: pdf