Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

Hi,

I’ve looked all over the internet for months and go through phases of trying videos etc that are supposed to help, but it hasn’t done me much good.

I’m based in Galway (17) and have been playing trad piano for 2/3 years (Grade 8 piano done) and am a bit lost as to what to do. Basically, I’ve played in groups where I’m given accompaniment and told what to play - perfect. I can do that very very well (most probably could). The problem is that I want to go to a few sessions or just play with friends but for that I need to know how to improv accompaniment.

Does anybody know of teachers in Galway (city or west Galway) that teach trad piano? I can’t seem to do it on my own - just how to improvise accompaniment with something more than a very boring and stationary accompaniment. I feel like I’m at a bit of a wall now and can either keep going as I am and not improve or just go and try and find help - many teach instruments for melody, but piano accompaniment is seldom found!!

Any help would really be great.

Go raibh maith agaibh.

Re: Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

First off, how are your ear skills? I know the ABRSM system incorporates more ear training than it used to, but it’s kinda essential in this field.

There’s a book, Interview with a Vamper, by Peter Barnes - it’s more about how to do dance band accompaniment but I think it’s worth digging through.

I think the two things you could listen to that might start to give you ideas are (1) good guitar players (start with John Doyle, perhaps) and (2) regulator playing on Uilleann pipes. If you had a good grasp of how those are used you could do something quite interesting with a keyboard.

Bear in mind at sessions people can be quite suspicious, for good reason, when they see someone with a relatively uncommon instrument. Be prepared to be circumspect…

Posted by .

Re: Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

Thanks for the reply, ear skills I think are what I may be lacking (in terms of intervals and identifying them, although I’m trying to work on that)

I’ll check out the book.

Yes I’ve listened to a bit of regulators but never thought to listen more closely, same goes for guitar. Understand the whole potential session problem - this one has one regularly thankfully!

Thank you

Re: Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

I would get a recording with no accompaniment and then practice behind it.
And listen to good and maybe bad accompaniment.
Start with say Charlie Lennon who I love listening to. I think his piano works so well because he’s such a good fiddler as well. So maybe pick up the whistle or some melody instrument to learn the tunes as well.
Then maybe listen to the stuff from the 78 era.
A lot of which gets a bad rap but some of it is actually quite nice.

Posted by .

Re: Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

I’ll second Charlie Lennon for listening material - also Paul McGrath, Violet Tulloch (Shetland) and any Cape Breton piano playing.

You might also find it helpful to try coming up with your own self-accompanied arrangements of tunes at home. Go overboard with the harmonisation, just because you can - I’m talking Bach, Mozart, Gershwin… The results probably won’t be suitable for session accompaniment, but it will give you some insight into how you can get into the nooks and crannies of a tune and make your accompaniments more tune-specific.

Re: Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

A few names you could "Google", or try a "Facebook search - Patsy Broderick, Carl Hession - both Galwegians, although I’ve no idea if they still live in the county. John Blake was also in Galway at one time, but I don’t know that he still is.
I’m going to disagree with CMO’ suggestion that you listen to Violet Tulloch or Cape Breton piano playing. It won’t help you any with Irish music. IMHO. Thumbs up to Charlie Lennon, of course.
Also I don’t know of any Paul McGrath. I think he might have meant Brian McGrath, whom I would also recommend.
Best of luck in your search.

Posted by .

Re: Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

When I was first starting out learning to accompany Irish music on guitar I learnt a lot by listening to music with piano back-up. Many of the recordings of Shaskeen have great piano accompaniment, and anything by Josephine Keegan is well worth a listen. Also there was an LP put out many years ago by three row accordionist Kevin Loughlin and fiddler John Gordon called "Irish Traditional Music From Belleek". The piano player on that recording was Mairead McCann, I know nothing about her but her back-up is phenomenal. And the piano is acoustic with a rich tone……

Re: Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

You actually learning the tunes? Or just trying to learn to comp without learning the tunes?

Start arranging Dow’s List for solo piano, or the 100 or so most recorded/downloaded tunes from this site (they’ll overlap a lot) and all will soon be revealed.

Re: Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

Tunes? You mean there are notes that go with those chords I’m strumming?

Re: Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

Besides Anton & Sully, it’s worth to have a listen to Darren Checkley or Stephen Walker.
You can find them both on Spotify.

Posted by .

Re: Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

Another thought is ABRSM practical music - https://gb.abrsm.org/en/our-exams/other-assessments/practical-musicianship/ - grade 8 should cover a lot of what you want - part A is

To sing and play from memory a short melody. The key-chord and starting note will first be sounded and named. The examiner will play the melody twice (the first time in harmonized form, then the melody only) and the candidate will be required to sing the melody from memory. The examiner will then play the test a third time and the candidate will be required to play the melody on an instrument of his/her choice. The examiner will choose a key and pitch suitable for the instrument. Candidates who choose to play the piano for this test will be expected to play the melody with the harmonies in outline.

OK it’s not ITM but the skills should be useful.

Re: Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

Be patient with yourself. It’s more important to be playing suitable chords at suitable times and keeping steady rhythm than to be doing anything interesting. Melody-instrumentalists, if they like piano at all, want ‘solid’ back-up before ‘interesting’ back-up. Just keep playing; you’ll be improving whether you feel it or not. (No harm in looking for a teacher, though!)

Re: Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

Go to people that do it best, explain your problem and ask their advice, eg ask Charlie Lennon, Brian Mcgrath, Geraldine Cotter etc..

you should find a way of getting in contact with these people…

Re: Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

I took my Blue Book CD to my piano lesson. It has Brid Cranitch backing the fiddle. My teacher, who doesn’t play a lick of trad, was able to work through the basics with me, using just ear. Any good teacher with an ear should be able to do the same for you.

First step we did was to pick out the key and the chords. Then we dissected the specific recording. We found that the left hand and right hand mostly alternated. Left hand takes the (single) root note on the downbeat, then the right hand does a power chord with whatever inversion makes sense. Rinse and repeat. Insert the occasional walk up/down, and you’ve got the basics. If you work through a few tunes like this, you’ll start to learn to hear the chord changes. You will also develop basic chord inversions/shapes that you use as sort of default mode when you dont know the tunes that well.

Vincent Griffin has some recordings that are played with piano accompaniment. Very similar style to my aforementioned CD.

Posted by .

Re: Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

I play in a couple of ceilidh bands: usually just have written tune + chords - NO left hand written out, but that is enough for me. I did classical piano up to Grade 7, which meant that I had to do theory as well, so if you know your chords and arpeggios it is possible to construct your own left hand accompaniment. I usually use a lot of inversions of chords (without really thinking that they ARE inversions) as this allows you simple one finger moves e.g. from G chord in 1st inversion to Em chord in 2nd inversion (all you do is move middle note from D to E). What I did find very helpful was going to the week-long course at "Blazin’ in Beauly" (Scotland) for 3 years in a row, which helped me into what was, admittedly, a whole new way of playing piano: taught by Andy Thorburn and Angus Lyon, piano/keyboard players with the Blazin’ Fiddles band.
For tunes such as waltzes, I usually DO play melody, plus left hand based on chord structure (Bass- chord-chord or arpeggioid). For faster tunes, more likely NOT to play melody but just bass and chord patterns: but sometimes I’ll play first time with chords only, second time with tune, third time up or down an octave, just for some variation.
I do also play guitar, after a fashion, and this also helped in understanding where to go with chords, when hopefully your ear tells you which chords work.

Re: Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

I’m really happy with the replies - confirming my thoughts which is great to hear. I’ll get in contact with some names above who I have a connection with in family and friends.

Also yes the whole ‘sustainable backing before interesting’ is a solid point.

Thanks for the links and names everyone. Helping a poor soul out in our musical world!!

Re: Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

Some good advice from Trish. I’ve also found that you can play melody as well as chords for waltzes (and slow airs). But with fast jigs and reels, chords only (melody instruments must set the pace, and they wouldn’t want melody doubled anyway). Thanks to others for ideas about books on trad accompaniment, I have ordered one. A lot of enjoyable posts!

Re: Piano Trad Accompaniment - where to go now

My partner has a university degree in piano. Since our main interest now is in Irish and Scottish music, she looked herself for on-line lessons for piano accompaniment. Here is a link that she finally found usefull
https://gaeliccollege.edu/study-with-us/online-video-lessons/ .

We comes from popular music, traditionnal English and French Canadian (mainly Québécois) background. Our learning curves may be different from yours.