A piano player and a singer would like to perform a song together. A piano player knows the song they like ("Memory" from "Cats - the Musical", to be precise). However it is a complete piano piece intended to sound alone, not just accompaniment part. There is a right hand part and the left hand part, both have multiple notes sounding together at times.

If we then add a singer to this performance, is it necessary to modify the song trying to remove existing melody line, or it is ok to sing the sounding piano notes at the same time?

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    How skilled is the pianist? Can he improvise a counter-melody with that hand?
    – corsiKa
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 15:39
  • 1
    I personally would like to have all the notes, and make my own artistic decision on what to play. And of course the pianist will be rehearsing with the vocalist to come up with the best combination. I as a pianist would lean towards giving the pianist all the information, and letting them choose what to play based on their skill, the singer's style, and the audience.
    – J Sargent
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 19:20
  • Is omitting the melody line or not the only options in your scenario? In my opinion, the best thing to do is to rearrange the song to write a piano part that takes advantage of the fact it does not need to play the melody line.
    – user10268
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 21:03
  • Get a different piano arrangement.
    – user207421
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 1:50

6 Answers 6


It often sounds quite amateurish to play the melody while the singer sings the same line. it's as if the piano player is having to help the vocals. generally, when I'm accompanying a vocal, I avoid the lead line. In the dots, sometimes this means leaving out the top line of 3 staves, or the dots with tails pointing upwards on the treble line of a grand stave.If the rest of the right hand part is playable, missing the melody, I.e. providing some backing, then use this - it worked for the whole piece as a piano tune.

If the pianist is aware of the harmonic structure of the song - the chord sequence - then he can play block chords, arpeggios etc., under the vocals. On occasions, it's nice to play the melody along with the vocals, maybe an octave above, but as a general rule, don't just play what's sung. Try it and listen!

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    It's way too soon to say this is the best accepted answer - it's the only answer!
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 8:52
  • +1 This is good and simple song-writing theory. It's also exemplified in most MIDI tracks online where in place of the vocals, they'' substitute for a melodic instrument. There are a few exceptions to this though since some songs have melody that mirrors or compliments the singer's voice. Although it's for guitar rather than piano, the one song I'm thinking of is "Blew" by Nirvana. You can hear the interaction between vocal and instrument quite well. Same principle for piano. Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 22:09

Yes, remove the melody line. If you double the melody line, you tie down the singer's interpretation to your own, taking away rhythmic and melodic freedom. Instrumental voice doubling is often fine in a choir setting. But for a solo singer, particularly where a song is to be interpreted rather than reproduced, it's a distraction.

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    Right. Though it can of course make sense to double certain passages, or possibly add a parallel second voice. Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 11:16

It really depends on the song. I can tell you that most likely, you will NOT want to play the melody on the piano for the entire song - but when the vocal stops singing, and there's some space, that's a great time to add some melody back in.

On the other hand, sometimes during the chorus, that can be a good time to add in the melody or a harmony as an extra layer to the vocals. Experiment and see what sounds good. :)


For songwriters who leave the lyrics and melody towards the end of the process a piano melody track is used while the song is being developed.. Once the signer learns the melody track should be removed. However there are times when it just may sound better to have the melody and vocal together during some parts of the song.. There are no rules when creating original music. If it sounds good and others like it then thats all you have to go by as a songwriter.. Advanced songwiters and producers will also pull back and simplify a song once it would seam finished.. Elenor Rigby by the Beatles for example plays easily on acoustic guitar and could have been like that originally. The genius of Paul McCartney was taking a simple song and use a classical instruments that probably represented each string of the guitar and making it a classic..


There is an old saying, "Never play over the singer". Of course I heard that from a singer. There are occasions where it can sound good but in general the melody is the singer's part. So if there is a vocalist the piano should be taking a back seat and accompanying the singer, playing chords, orchestral cues, and possibly the "other voices" if the piece is a duet. It is rare that instrument parallel the vocals.


It's good to double the melody. It's good to not double the melody. It's good to do a bit of both. It's NOT good to fight the melody by playing a busy counter-melody when the melody is also active. When a song is as iconic as your 'Memory' from 'Cats' example, it's probably not a good idea to make up melodic material that isn't in the original. (This rule may be broken if you cone up with a really good original concept!).

If you're preparing a piano copy for performance, show the pianist what the melody is, even if he won;t be playing it.

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