Accompanying strategies (Part 2)

Last week, I posted three tips for accompanying and it has been the most popular blog post ever here. Almost 900 people have “Liked” it and that really helps me by the way. Please take a second to “Like” this post too by clicking on the Facebook “Like” button just under the title above.

Now that housekeeping is out of the way, let’s talk more about accompanying. Perhaps the only complaint I heard about last week’s post was that those strategies do not always work for some singers. And several people kindly asked me how I handled a certain situation.

Here is the situation there was a concern about: let’s say you are accompanying a singer who is challenged in ummm singing. Last week, I told you to avoid the melody but what if the singer needs to hear the melody to stay somewhere in the general area of the correct pitches?

I am aware that some accompanists think they need to spoon-feed the notes to weak vocalists but in general, I don’t agree. I think most vocalists that would be considered weak can handle a non-melody accompaniment better than they think. And if they can’t, I am not at all sure that they should be singing solos in the first place.

Before you send me hate mail, I know that church music is not perfect music and sometimes for any variety of reasons, weak singers sing in church. So let’s talk about what you can do.

First of all, I don’t want you to do this:


Even for weak singers, this is way overkill. A singer doesn’t need those all those pickups. Even if you play them, they are happening too fast for the singer to hear and adjust to them.

So, go ahead and give the singer some melody notes but just give her the important ones. For example, play the downbeats like this:


No, this isn’t fancy. But it is a step in the right direction. If you want to put some movement into your accompaniment, change those dotted half notes into three quarter notes of the same chord. If you do that, the singer will get the melody notes on the downbeats and some of the other beats. That is not a bad compromise.

Or you can go here:


Of course, in this example, we are moving away from the melody again. My suspicion is that almost all singers can handle this just fine though. Try it if you don’t believe me. I think you will be surprised.