Where / How to learn piano accompaniment to ITM

Where / How to learn piano accompaniment to ITM

I would really appreciate some serious replies to my query.

Can someone tell me where I could learn piano accompaniment for ITM ? I’ve completed all the grades on the piano (classical) and can sight read. I can play ITM (flute and whistle).

I want to know if I can TEACH myself or is it worth my while
getting a few lessons. (As it would be a real shame to waste my ability to play the piano.) There doesn’t seem to be any provision for this in the Schools of Music in Dublin (Waltons etc).

I’m actually very curious as to how pianists learn this skill, in the first place.

I’ve been curious about this for a while and “Sharon the Flute’s” thread (thanks Sharon!) has reminded me about this.

By the way, I live in Dublin (Ireland).

Re: Where / How to learn piano accompaniment to ITM

There are a lot of ways to play piano with ITM, but the way I was shown by someone playing along in a Chicago session was a simple “oom pah” style, bass note of chord with left hand (single note or doubled), followed by three finger chord with right hand, followed by fifth note of chord with left hand, followed by right hand chord, etc. On reels, you play on each of the four eighth note of the measure, bass/chord/bass/chord. On jigs, you also play bass/chord/bass/chord, but you play bass notes on one and three, and chords on three and six, which gives it kind of a loping feel. This approach gives you a real old-fashioned ceilidhe band feel--a simple place to start at least. Although there are some that will point out that overly simplistic accompaniment was a problem Michael Coleman suffered from!.

Re: Where / How to learn piano accompaniment to ITM

Most folks learn by doing it, and playing by ear, not by reading music. You absolutely can teach yourself.

If you’re persistent, you can find someone in your area who already plays piano accompaniment and can show you the basics. Ask around in sessions. Perhaps someone on this list will respond. Also, check back with the local schools of music and elsewhere to see if there is a *Celtic harp* teacher who might be able to help you, particularly one who is also a pianist. The same basics apply to accompaniment with either instrument. Or even a piano accordian player or teacher. Keys is keys.

If you can’t find anyone immediately (or even if you can), find some recordings that include piano accompaniment and listen to them. Type “piano” into the search box on this site and you’ll be able to find some. I would expect to be able to find some of them in local public or university libraries, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money.

Start by learning some basic chords in the usual ITM keys (D,G,A, Em, Am, etc.) Learn the at least the root and the first inversion plus the open version (minus the 3rd). (See, that music theory does come in useful sometimes!) Practice playing some chord progressions, playing the octave in the left hand and the chord in the right. Don’t forget to use your little fingers. Play the octave in the right hand too.

Now, try doing this while you hum a very familiar tune. It’s okay to “cheat” and use the chords indicated on a sheet music version of the tune -- it gets you started and its one less thing the worry about. Put on a recording, preferably one not at light speed, and try to match some chords. Once you’re comfortable with a few chord progressions, try to play along to a recording. Pretty soon your brain and your fingers will start working together.

You have a leg up on this because you already play ITM on a melody instrument. One “secret” to good accompaniment is familiarity with the tunes. Another is to have practiced common chord changes in advance -- developing kinetic memory. I don’t remember which jazz great said it, but it went something like: “Your fingers don’t go where they ain’t never gone before.”

These are some basics that worked for me, and they are really basic. There is much more to accompaniment, as you will see in the discussions on this site. For instance, I didn’t even get into rhythmic patterns. However, what I described was the exact process I went through when I *began* to teach myself accompaniment, first on harp, then on piano. And yes, I can keep up with even turbocharged sessions on a harp (madly flipping levers, of course). Other folks may have different approaches -- try them too. And listen to a lot of music.

Re: Where / How to learn piano accompaniment to ITM

Once you have your basic chords down, I would think you would want to find a person to help you along. That seems to work best for me, anyway.

Here’s a question: What’s the difference between Cape Breton piano accompaniment and ITM accompaniment?

I’m under the impression that Cape Breton is fancier in some, mysterious, alluring way… That I really want to learn!!!

Posted by .

Re: Where / How to learn piano accompaniment to ITM

Well, it’s not ITM, but…

Tracey Dares has an instructional video on piano accompaniment in the Cape Breton style, called “A’Chording To The Tunes”. It’s available through her website
www.castlebaymusic.com, and there’s a more detailed description of the video there.

I haven’t seen the video, but can vouch for her prowess on piano. She was great when I saw her backing Natalie MacMaster some years back, and her solo albums are very good.

Re: Where / How to learn piano accompaniment to ITM

Flauta Dolce,

You could probably teach yourself how to do this, given your piano background. In my opinion, the steps would go like this:

1) identify the harmony of each tune. Most ITM melodies I can think of move stepwise, not scalewise, and therefore “suggest” certain chords. (example- Road to Lisdoonvarna-the melody outlines chords in E minor going to D major)

2) get used to playing the melody in the outer fingers of the right hand, so you can play the entire chord on the downbeat (example- Road to L. again- play the E minor chord in first inversion- GBE- so the E is the starting note of the melody)

3) back up the chords with a simple bass line in your left hand (example- Road to L. again- E E E E D D D D)

4) this is how I teach jazz improv. from lead sheets to my middle school kids (ages 11-14). Ain’t easy, but well worth it. It works for me, and I hope it can work for you.

Re: Where / How to learn piano accompaniment to ITM

I’ve heard it referred to as “Driving the piano”.
As in all music, the best can add a great lift to the general performance. The worst remains pedestrian - see earlier remark re Michael Coleman.
Unless you’re in a place with a tuned and quiet instrument, I would ask “Why?”.

Re: Where / How to learn piano accompaniment to ITM

Listen to Beryl Marriot,the best in my opinion.

Re: Where / How to learn piano accompaniment to ITM

geraldine cotter from co clare has a cd and book. good if you want to learn the basics…obviously you can throw in your own stuff then if you feel like it……

Re: Where / How to learn piano accompaniment to ITM

There is a person somewhere in county Clare who gives lessons in using piano in ITM. Maybe you have heard about him, but if not: I think he uses piano mainly as a melody/ solo instrument instead of accomp., but since he is very good at it, I guess he knows alot about different ways to use it and different ways to practise etc. His name is Padraig O`Reilly, and he was releasing a CD (piano) a few years ago, called “Down the Ivory Stairs”

Re: Where / How to learn piano accompaniment to ITM

Thanks for your helpful suggestions. I guess I’ve a lot to getting starting on.


Re: Where / How to learn piano accompaniment to ITM

Accompaniment is about the easiest way to play. I thought most professional players rarely played the melody unless they were doing a solo performance. Whatta do I know.

Anyhow, I learned to play accompaniment before ever playing melodies. By reading and playing chords from a Lead sheet is the best way to learn. Next is learning patterns. First pattern I ever learned in 3/4 time was Bach’s. I understand he practiced pentatonic scales using this 6 note pattern.

If you’re really interested in learning accompaniment, there is a course I highly recommend but its rather pricey. Check out the web site: http://www.pianostar.com and good luck.

Re: Where / How to learn piano accompaniment to ITM

Greetings. New here and am reading up on piano accompaniment. I have just started doing Irish Sessions. I’ve mainly been doing bass lines with the left hand. I have a synthesizer that allows me to change sounds.

Has anyone had any luck with the pianostar program mentioned in this discussion? I’m very reluctant to spend $400 on something like that.

Re: Where / How to learn piano accompaniment to ITM

When some local musicians started an Irish Session here in 1995, I came to the second session and sat there quietly whil I listened to them. At the end of the session, I told them that I played piano and bass and asked if I could bring one or both instruments to the next session. I was asked to bring my genuine imitation piano (a Roland EP-90 Digital Piano) to help “fill out” the sound as my contribution to the general cacophony. Since I already had a bachelor’s degree in music (which included some ear training classes) and several years worth of experience playing piano at various jam sessions (especially the blues), it was easy for me to learn how to accompany the other instruments at the Irish Session despite my lack of experience with Irish music. Before I began playing piano at the local Irish Session, I had never participated in an Irish Session before. In 1981, I bought a copy of O’Neill’s and had tried to play some of the tunes by myself but this was the first time I had tried to play Irish music with other musicians. Since the other musicians have never asked me or tried to make me leave, I am going to assume that I am accompanying them correctly.

Re: Where / How to learn piano accompaniment to ITM

lessons are always a good idea. if you are in dublin, jesse smith may have a suggestion or two for you. he’s a great fiddler with great taste in music. his mother taught me to play and i’m sure he has a pianist or two lying around somewhere to remind him of home.