Tips for piano accompaniment

Tips for piano accompaniment

Hi,
I am wondering if there are any piano players that would be able to help me here. I have been learning to accompany ITM on the piano for a while, and I am quite competent at it. I want to play in the style of Ryan Molloy, Carl Hession etc, but my teacher plays in a completely different style, without playing any accidentals. I just want some tips on using chromatic bass runs, diminished chords and things like that to ‘jazz up’ my playing.
Thanks,
Jake

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Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

why not just play jazz with other jazz musicians? I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I hear a diminished chord or a chromatic run I (would like to) reach for my gun…

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Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

Could you tell us what instruments are being played in your session? Sometimes we have a harp player & it changes which tunes we play. I do like her playing.

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Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

Well I don’t play it in the session, but the session is usually 4 banjos (!!!!), a fiddle, 2 bodhrans and a guitar.

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Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

You got me now. I did not have a follow up.
With the harpist we play lots of O’Carolan. His tunes are jazz - trad & would be great for chromatic bass runs. Trick is don’t play him slowly. He was very rambuntious.
Also, Skinner breaks out of the box ~ t’s no accident. What about all the syncopated tunes from the Shetlands?
I am making this up as I go along.

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Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

HI Jake, I am not a piano player, but I suggest you listen to any recordings with Charlie Lennon or Brendan Dolan and his Father Felix .

Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

Well I like Charlie Lennon and Felix Dolan, that is the style I currently play.

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Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

After playing piano more-or-less irregularly at the local sessions for thirteen years and occasionally sitting in at sessions in other states, I would advise against using chromatic bass runs and diminished chords to "jazz up" your playing.
I would advise using non-chromatic bass runs and diminished chords sparingly.
Through experimentation, I have learned that chords such as an "A" minor seventh or "E" minor seventh will sometimes work if the tune you are playing is in "A" minor or "E" minor. You should try to follow the "Keep It Simple" rule of accompanying as well as trying not to clash with the guitarist or anyone else who is playing chords.
This music isn’t the infamous stuff known as "Rocket Science".

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Well I don’t really plan on playing in sessions.
I just want tips on how to play in the style of Ryan Molloy and Carl Hession, because my current style gets monotonous after a while.

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Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

Also, there are only a couple of different non-chromatic bass runs, so my style may be traditional, but it is also (in my opinion) boring. I do not want people telling me what style I should be playing in, I just want some advice relevant to the original question.

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Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

Perhaps I should have worded my initial question better. By ‘jazz up’ I meant ‘add interest’. For example, a style similar to the one shown in this video (even though it is Quebecois) is what I am aiming for. I would particularly like to know the chord sequence leading up to the end (starting at approximately 2:37).
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=lOef8pOVLO0

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Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

HI Jake, if you like Felix I think you will love Brendan!

Re: Tips

Feel like you are on a treadmill?
Keep listening to Andre. It is all there for you.

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Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

adding intrest ? ok well adding intrest and keeping traditional is not done by jazzing up chords but using the right chords in the right place for example heres a few rules i find useful in my piano accompanient

1) Always use chords ii and vi in the third bar abd at the end of the fourth a dominant seventh creates dissonance and perfect cadence to the second line.
2)Look at alternitave cadences eg.plagal for hornpipes (IV - I) with no lending note . use sparingly
3)Dont b shy of chord III but add a seventh to avoid soudin like a dominant minor

Stay away fromJazz chords eg. In one track on Humdinger i thik Ryab uses this sequence

G6-B7-E7-D7 to cadence

rathen than

G-D-Em-D

avoid these jazz chords directly

hope this helps.

Also try chords I-III(7)-IV-V
eg.D-F#-g-a, as used by john blake

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Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

Select a chord (1) that you know that finalises a phrase and count back either in bars or half bars and see if you can insert a series of chords (called progressive fourths) either major or minor (to your taste) adding the flattened 7th (dominant) to each chord. i.e (6,2,5,1,) or even (3,6,2,5,1.) Sometimes it works, and when it does gives a great lift. Jazz chords I feel don’t really sound right. If you’re vamping, on the fourth beat of a bar, you could sometimes play the note in the bass (instead of a chord) a semitone lower than the chord you’re moving to which gives a lift to the next bass note followed by the next chord. Hope that makes sense. Good luck.

Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

Thanks everybody!

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Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

Andre Bouchard is an excellent pianist as well as accordeoniste. He accompanied Eric Favreau at the last Danse Neige we attended. Ask him directly though the e-mail address he provides at the end of your video clip…I find that he is very personable and open to questions. Cheers~

Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

If you want to add zest to your playing without being overbearing, trying varying your bass lines. Personally, I love the Cape Breton style of piano accompaniment as it is more than simply playing chords along with the tune – you’re also the rhythm and, more importantly, the bass sections. Some great examples to listen to would include John Morris Rankin (he rarely ever played the same bass line twice) and Troy MacGillivray – excellent stuff.

For starters, try singing a bass line against the melody of a tune you know really well. Then try playing the bass line (using open octaves) along with a recording of the tune. Once you have the left hand down, add in triads or open fifths in the right hand. You could also trying using first or second inversions to change things up.

Using small chromatic runs in the bass line (ie 1 or 2 notes) leading up to a chord change can also give it a lift. For example, instead of using 1 4 5 8 as the bass line, add in the semitone below 4 and 5 and a small run leading up to 8. Say you’re playing a jig in the Key of D, you could use the following:

X:1
T:Bass Line
M:6/8
L:1/8
R:Jig
K:Dmaj
|"D"D,,3 D,,2F,,|"G"G,,3 G,,2^G,, |"A"A,,3 A,,B,,C,|"D"D,3 D,3

And while I love variation in piano accompaniment, please, please PLEASE avoid doing too much when with a large group of people (i.e. sessions) - I cannot emphasize this enough! Otherwise it detracts from the melody and just makes a mess of things, especially if there are other backers who are playing different chord progressions. Basic accompaniment and a few simple runs here and there is sufficient. However, if you are the only accompanist with one or two melody players, then you have more room for some creative improv. — but not too creative! Remember, the job of the accompanist is to enhance the melody, not to take over. You will always be “second fiddle” (sorry , couldn’t resist )

Oh, and try to avoid using too much damper peddle - It makes things too muddy. I press it down maybe a quarter to half way down, depending on the instrument, and I change it often (as if you were tapping your foot to the beat of the tune)

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Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

And I would use diminished chords VERY sparingly, although throwing one in the mix can add a (sometimes much needed) lift.

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Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

(….. if you are playing with one or two other people. In a session, keep it simple : ) )

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Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

Why don’t you want to play at a session, jakep?
Playing at a session can be challenging but it can also be enjoyable if you approach it with the right attitude.

Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

I am a guitar player, but there was a point, many years back, where I stopped listening to guitar players and started really studying piano backers, to apply what they did to guitar backing, I play fingerstyle backing, and liked what I heard on piano better than the straight chord after chord after chord most guitar players play. I studied CDs with Felix Dolan, and have sat next to him at sessions and lsitened closely as well.

I love the way a good piano player leads up to a chord, then plays partial melody, then back, how they seemed to KNOW every tune as well as any of the melody players or had the ability to pick the tune up quickly on the fly. That’s the trick to any kind of accompaniment, know the tune, or the structure of tunes in general too, be able to listen closely to the melody player, not only the notes, the key, but their mood as well. Good accompanists understand how to hear hear each player’s particular style of phrasing too and adapt their playing to it as needed. To follow the same moods they have, listen to where they stress notes etc.

Sligofan is right on about both Dolans. There is the old Shanachie CD, still available with Felix, Andy McGann and Joe accordion Burke. I used to play with all these guys in NY back in the old days and learned so much from them, though not a word was spoken about the music. Just being around them playing taught me so much, and how I came to study good pianists. There was another fellow, I haven’t heard a word of him in decades, Jimmy Mahan, who very nicely backed Kathleen Collins on her LP, now CD. That’s worth listening to and is still available on Shanachie. You can really hear the piano on that one especially.

In the Catskills this past summer, at a session at McGrath’s we were going along, the Kane sisters and many other great players were there, and someone sat down at the somewhat (or very some said!) out of tune piano… a few groans initially, then… wow… I had to stop playing here and there, just to listen. She was not one of the teachers, but knew the Kanes and many…she looked familiar but I couldn’t place her. She was one of the most amazing pianists I had ever heard, and out of all the greats at CIAW, I was most blown away by her for the week, and we had many good chats about backing.

I had a talk with her afterwards and learned she was Patsy Broderick, who plays with Arcady. Turns out we met maybe 15 years ago. I planned to hook up at a few more places she said she’d be at the sessions, just to study more what she was doing. so she is one to really listen too as well. Very intuitive… and that’s also another thing about backing on the fly especially, you need to almost develop a 6th sense about where the music is heading…. because, it is rare that anyone will ever tell you what is coming next. Sometimes they do and they are wrong about the key, most melody players don’t think in keys, they think in tunes, and that’s a skill a backer should develop as well.

Learning tunes first before thinking of backing may give you a better idea how to back. I have told people to pick out the melody line, not to performance ability, but to understand the tune, and buid their own chords or partial chords around the notes. This will develop spontenaiety later on and the person’s own style. And my preference is to keep away from the jazz chords and feel, I like trad to sound just like that…. though confess it can be interesting coming from some of the "super groups" in a more showy settings at times. I like it mostly straight up though, and play that way.

Charlie Lennon is really great too. He does a few tracks on Tony DeMarco’s new CD, Sligo Indians.

Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

"I would particularly like to know the chord sequence leading up to the end (starting at approximately 2:37)."

C
A7 (with Csharp bass hand)
G (with D bass hand)
E7
A7
D
G


Hope this is of some help.

Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

VDS about nailed it, methinks. However, I’d quit sweating the specific chords, and learn the cadences, instead (as someone alluded to earlier). I listened to the clip, and it sounds like a standard turnaround that goes through a bit of the circle of fifhs, probably: 3-6-2-5-1, just like an old Tin Pan Alley tune. If you can learn to hear those coming up, you can play a ton of old pop stuff with no sweat. You don’t necessarily need to play the root on every chord, as long as you hit the third and fifth - and/or seventh.

If you’re playing ITM at sessions, I’d lay off of the diminished chords until you know specifically where to place them, which is not too often. And the stacked forths, too. Try something more open, like stacked fifths.

I hope that this helps. Let us know how it’s going.

Like Iris said, Charlie Lennon is fantastic. I’d also check out Geraldine Cotter, amongst a host of others…

Take care,
Tom

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Re: Tips for piano accompaniment

Thanks again everybody.
Hopefully I will be playing the piano in the 15-18 céilí band competition at the Fleadh next year.

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