I am delighted to launch this new series A Pianist’s Alphabet
A is a beginning word, an adventure. Not knowing what will come next.
A is for a moment in time – how long should it last?
A is for all those Italian musical terms for tempo or expression, so hard to distinguish at first: Andante, Allegro, Adagio, Andantino, Allegretto, Amoroso.
A is for the space before, between, and around the notes, the ether that connects them, the breath of vitality and rhythm.
A is for Anacrusis, the anticipation, the article before a noun, leading to things new and unexplored.
A is for Acciaccatura, the fleeting sound that brushes or crushes into something else, making it pretty or cool, somehow different from the plain note that was there before.
A is for Appoggiatura, the note that makes us wait for resolution, but for how long.
A is for a world of possibilities at the piano
Jane Lakey, pianist and piano teacher
A is for Accompanying
You will all, I’m sure, be familiar with the saying “those who can do; those who can’t teach”. I expect this attitude is as familiar to piano accompanists as it is to piano teachers. In many ways, piano accompanists are the unsung heroes of the music world. Often thought of as failed performers, they are in fact the backbone of so many concerts and recitals, not to mention millions of graded examinations and diplomas.
Being a piano accompanist requires a great degree of skill and patience; as with teaching, being a brilliant concert pianist doesn’t necessarily make you a great accompanist. Accompanists need to be as quick-witted, with the ability to react in the moment: a necessary skill when your soloist skips two verses of a song, six bars of sonata, or one beat in every bar of a sonatina. Only recently, I read of the accompanist whose soloist had managed to convert the time signature from 4/4 to 5/8 for the entire musical theatre song!
Perhaps the greatest quality of a good accompanist is the ability to be sensitive, not just to the soloist, but to the music too. A good accompanist should enhance and support a performance, not drown it out. Above all, teamwork is a necessity. Both soloist and accompanist have to work together to support and help each other.
So let’s sing the praises of the millions of piano accompanists, so often the general dogsbodies and unsung heroes of the music world.
David Barton, Music Teacher | Composer & Arranger | Freelance Writer | Piano Accompanist