I'm a novice piano player. I know my chords, scales etc.... but I'm no professional. Just you guys know....

I wrote a song and I have the vocal melody but what I'm curious about is when I'm trying to compose a piano part that I will be singing to, is it necessary to play the melody or should I play a counter melody that will go with my vocal line? Please advise....

  • A Note - Remember if you are singing while playing, make sure that your playing is a springboard for your voice. – Raktim Biswas Jul 17 '16 at 20:30

You can play just supporting chords and rhythms. You can support the melody. You can "fill in the gaps" in the melody with melodic figures. You can play a complete counter-melody. The rule is to play sustained notes while the melody moves, be more active when it rests at the end of a phrase. All rules may be broken.

You will probably decide to do a combination of all of these.


It's not a question if you should or not (obviously!), since music is free, unrestricted will.

As far as i understood, according to your question you might be asking it differently "should i add a counter-melody?" or "is the first melody or counter-melody more effective?"

Most important thing is to consider that the counter melody is a "second voice" in the conversation, which is not just a harmony part to the first melody–It provides harmonic support for the first melody and it differs from simple harmony that it can stand on it's own and work as itself.

Counter melodies in compositions can either contrast or resemble the first melody, sound background (supposedly) to the first melody, respond in a "question-answer" type of manner to the first melody.

Since you thought of playing the melody only, or to play the counter melody with the first melody sought– Another thing to consider important is that counter melodies are written mostly after the compositional "meat n' potatoes" part (harmony and rhythm) and is a result of simultaneous voice leading.

So the two articles i thought to be both effective for your question and interest are both listed here:

Steps to writing an effective counter melody (the article is informing, not the consumerist-page design itself)

How do you write a counter melody?


The characteristics of the piano as a percussive instrument and the singer as an expressive continuous-tone interpreter are different enough that countermelodies don't tend to work convincingly as they don't merge in character and interpretation with the main melody, even when singer and player aren't the same person. It's similar with guitar. With either instrument, you tend to be off better by letting them work with rhythmic/harmonic patterns while leaving the melodic work to the singer. Of course, the fill-ins for actual pauses and breaks in singing (even if just at the end of lyric lines) can be more melodic in character again since then they don't compete with the lyric work.

Of course your mileage may vary, but in general making percussive instruments compete in the melodic space with vocals tends to be tricky, and it does not help that instruments don't have lyrics to convey either.

  • Um. The beauty of the piano is that it's able to imitate SO many instruments. Yes, it's technically a percussion instrument. And a stringed one. And it's perfectly capable of a legato melody. Think why those tenor-range sustained counter-melodies typical of Richard Rodgers' music are sometimes called "thumb notes". It's only on a keyboard that they'd be played with the thumb! – Laurence Payne Jul 18 '16 at 15:24

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