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I'm having trouble writing piano accompinaments, how can this improve?


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I've been trying to set several texts to music as art songs. At this point I have 4 or 5 that are unfinished because while the melodies are great,  I have no idea what to have the piano do. Has anyone else ever had problems with this? How can I improve?

Edited by mercurypickles
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  • mercurypickles changed the title to I'm having trouble writing piano accompinaments, how can this improve?

It depends on how elaborate accompaniment you want and in what style/mood.

Have a look at accompaniments to songs you already know and which might be close to something you have in mind. You hit a snag with popular/chart songs because the sheet music is usually pretty simplistic. So you might have to listen to the song and try to decipher what the accompanist is doing - while picking up the chords from the music.

However....'art music'? Again it's finding music of the style you like, to see how it's done. For tonal settings you could do worse than Schubert songs. He wrote many in many moods and I dare say most are available free on line. You could also try Edward German, even Gilbert and Sullivan. For more modern settings...well, I can't help there as my knowledge is limited to late 20th century and ensemble or orchestral.

So much depends on tempo and mood to suggest a procedure. Even something like an up-tempo number could have any of several styles applied, like a stride bass, an alberti bass, rapid repetition chords but might also go with jazz chords. I presume you wouldn't have the vocal line doubled on the piano but remember to provide a pitch reference for the singer if it's a modern piece.

 

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It is like writing the piano accompaniment for a duet, which I have experienced when composing music for the violin and the piano.

I am sure that art songs refer to mostly classical pieces involving the voice and the piano, and I suggest you listen to Schubert and Schumann's works ‒ they had written plenty of art songs. In duets, including art songs, the piano plays a role in forming the song's harmony. Common accompaniment patterns may include arpeggios and broken chords. Here is a list of some of the accompaniment patterns I have found in many duets:

1173033399_AccompanimentPatterns.thumb.PNG.a245dc1dda7ecb0f948f40110d6b1f87.PNG

There are many more. Also, in most cases, the piano part does not double the vocal line, as Quinn has pointed out. However, sometimes, the piano part may play a previously heard tune or a new melody to make the music sound more interesting.

Edited by Carl Koh Wei Hao
Changed some words
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