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Why singing teachers says you must sing or practice a song with accompaniments or backing track (karaoke) ? I don't understand what is the point of singing with accompaniments, when i asked my teacher she said to help you stay on pitch but i still don't understand how will the accompaniments help me to stay on pitch. Can someone tell me how the accompaniments helps to stay on pitch and what is the importance of it for singing ?

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    This is by no means restricted to singers. Anyone exercising on its own without any reference is sort of doomed when encountering somebody else (no matter, how well that person is prepared) to play that piece with.
    – guidot
    Feb 7, 2022 at 13:07
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    I down-voted: because frankly, if you have to ask this question you ought to be paying more attention to your teacher. It implies disagreement with the method, without the comprehension necessary to have a valid opinion. It smacks of "I don't want to". One thing not mentioned yet in question or answers is that the track must be loud enough to sing to, otherwise it will just encourage dull mumbling. Many people don't actually live in an environment where that is really possible for extended periods. I often resort to practising in the car on the motorway. "On the M1, no-one can hear you scream"
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 7, 2022 at 16:05
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    @Tetsujin and Sarah—oh yes, perhaps we've all been forgetting the most obvious answer. Your teacher didn't seem to mind being asked "why use the recording," and said "because it helps you stay on pitch." Your question now is "How?," and surely your teacher wouldn't mind giving her own answer to that either. Feb 7, 2022 at 22:21
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    I remember in high school music class, us practicing a choir number, the sopranos let out a collective sigh, when, towards the end of a song, the teacher walked to the piano and start accompanying. The sopranos realized they had dropped the pitch two or three steps. The rest of us where simply following their lead. Feb 8, 2022 at 10:03
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    @Tim I also downvoted because this question is brutally naive and suggests the OP isn't even listening to their teacher. Feb 8, 2022 at 13:11

3 Answers 3

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As a violin teacher I often assign violin students to play along with accompaniments too (or recordings that include the solo part as well). Intonation (playing/singing in tune) is one of the reasons, but really there are a lot of other reasons too.

As Tim mentioned, learning rhythm and keeping a steady tempo is the main reason I assign it. For students who are new to music entirely, one of the challenges can be understanding and remembering note durations—holding half notes long enough, making eighth notes short enough, etc. A common beginner mistake is simply to play all the pitches without regard for duration. A recording that includes the solo part can make it very obvious when you make a mistake in the rhythm.

Another timing issue is when you know how the note durations are supposed to go, but you don't quite make the proportions truly accurate. You slow down a bit for the fast notes, and speed up the tempo to hurry through the easy stuff. Perhaps you do so unconsciously. You can improve this by working with a metronome, but staying in time with a metronome is itself a learned skill, that students new to music might not have fully learned yet. It's easy to accidentally slow down enough that you "skip" an entire beat and perhaps not realize it. An accompaniment makes it easier to notice, and also easier to intuitively stay in time with. If there's some kind of rhythmic accompaniment, be it Alberti bass or a four-on-the-floor drum groove, out brain has a recognizable pattern to lock into, rather than a single click per beat. If there is a chordal accompaniment, our subconscious starts to expect each downbeat and its new chord, and if we're off by a beat it's much more obvious.

And finally there is intonation. Very few people have the perfect pitch needed to just wake up in the morning and launch into a song and start on the right note. You could sing a whole song in tune—using all the right distances between notes—and still be in the wrong key. Eventually, after years of habit and after familiarity with a given song, you might generate the right note, but be off by a fraction of a step. And finally, holding that relative center of pitch while singing unaccompanied is definitely a learned skill. If each of your intervals between notes is just a tiny bit off, they might add up, and soon what started as A=440 HZ ends up as 420 or something. Accompaniment will help stabilize this, mainly on an unconscious level, and gradually help you develop that stability in yourself.

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  • Good point about rhythm and meter. Also, being in the wrong key isn't necessarily a problem, but if you're going to perform it in a particular key after having learned it in a different key, you will find technical challenges you never encountered before. For example, you'll be approaching one end of your range more closely than you had before.
    – phoog
    Feb 7, 2022 at 13:41
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    I used to know an amateur singer who would sometimes slowly drift out of tune even with accompaniment. She always started correctly, but by the end of a song she might have drifted half a semitone up or down. Sometimes more. It was an amazing "skill". Apart from this drifting habit, she was an OK singer. If the drift was big enough, it was possible for the accompanist to recover by moving to the new key and trying to get her to hold that. To avoid those kinds of problems, I would definitely recommend practicing playing and singing with backing tracks and with actual live accompaniment. Feb 8, 2022 at 8:35
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Singers must sing in pitch! They're not good singers if they can't. So, having an accompaniment to sing along to will aid this skill. Most people can hear if a singer is out of tune with reference to the backing track. Just listening to someone singing acapella it's quite difficult.

There's also the fact that the song needs to be within your vocal range, which an accompaniment should be able to do. It's going to be no use if the key is too high or too low for your voice.

Another factor is timing. Singing alone, you won't know if you're in or ut of tempo. A good accompaniment will help keep you in time - teaching breathing as well.

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  • Thank you, but i still don't understand how the accompaniments helps in staying on pitch, the accompaniments are chord progressions in most of the time. Do you mean that they hear and sing the notes that in the parallel chord to the melody that they are singing ? If yes, what about the notes that not in the chord how do they sing it ?
    – Sarah
    Feb 7, 2022 at 13:26
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    You know the vocal line of the song, the accompaniment will use chords that match that. Exactly like kareoke, or any recording, or you singing along to any recording for that matter. How could they NOT help keep you on pitch (and timing)?
    – Tim
    Feb 7, 2022 at 13:39
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    @Sarah even if you have to sing a D when the accompaniment is playing a C chord or an A chord (neither of which contains a D), the D can be more or less out of tune with the notes that are in the chord. In other words, the tuning of dissonances matters. (But for most novice singers, the most important point will be that most of the notes of the song do correspond to one of the notes in the accompaniment, and even if the notes that don't correspond may be seen as more precarious, they will invariably be followed in fairly short order by a note that does correspond and is less precarious.)
    – phoog
    Feb 7, 2022 at 13:40
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    @Sarah This happens mostly subconsciously. When we hear a chord, it's rather hard to sing out of tune with it. As phoog says, even if, say, the accompaniment is not even a chord, just a single A, and you're supposed to sing a D against it, it's much easier to sing that perfect 4th than to intentionally sing a fraction of a step higher or lower. And even for a dissonant note like a B, it's much easier to sing that whole step than to sing a fraction more or less. Feb 7, 2022 at 14:08
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i still don't understand how will the accompaniments help me to stay on pitch

Maybe it won't. Maybe you are lucky to have a very good sense of pitch already.

You can test yourself. Try singing a song without an accompaniment, but use a piano. Play the first note of the song, then sing the song unaccompanied, then play the last note of the song. Do they match? If so, great! Try another song.

If you can consistently sing the first and last notes on pitch, however, you might still be off pitch with some of the notes on the middle. Pick a note in the middle of the song and play it on the piano when you get to that point in the song, to check your pitch. This exercise is also useful to help find where you're going wrong if you aren't ending on the correct pitch.

But finally, unless you plan to perform without accompaniment, you should practice with accompaniment. This is because the precise tuning of each pitch can vary depending on the accompaniment. In particular, the third of a major chord usually sounds better when it's a little bit lower than it is on a piano. So you might sing a different D when the piano plays a D major chord from the one you single when there's a B♭ major chord. But you might not: whether the lower D sounds good in a B♭ major chord will depend on whether the piano is playing the same note along with you and in which octave. If you never practice with accompaniment, you will not learn how to adjust your singing most favorably to the accompaniment.

Such considerations are not typically important for beginners, however. In that case, the accompaniment is more like the second exercise suggested above, where you sing the song through while checking your pitch every so often, only in this case "every so often" means constantly, on every note.

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  • This answer reminds me of a point I forgot in mine: If you'll eventually perform the piece with accompaniment, then practicing with it familiarizes you with it. It can be disorienting to hear another part that you're unfamiliar with playing rhythms over your own, dropping out or coming in unexpectedly, etc. Feb 7, 2022 at 13:19

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