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I was just wondering if there are certain qualities that makes a good piano accompanist for violin musicians? Can two musicians who just met be able to deliver a good music or do they need to establish a certain kind of relationship or rapport and understanding of the piece for them to be able to perform the music/song well? Thanks.

  • I’ve once heard that there are basically two different kind of teacher: a) focussed on the subject he is teaching, b) the relationship with the students. I think the cooperation among musicians is similar. People who have the same goal and the same interest in style and view of interpretation may become good friends. And when both aspects come together the work will be perfect. – Albrecht Hügli Apr 17 at 18:23
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  • being an accomplished musician.

  • being a good reader.

  • being a good listener.

  • being a good interpreter of body language.

  • being capable of 'going with the flow'.

  • being capable of playing as part of a team, rather than an individual.

Just some attributes of a player being successful playing with others. Particuarly someone whom they haven't met or played with previously.

It does happen at gigs where deps are used. A good dep will have the above qualities as a minimum. As long as any egos are not allowed to intrude - from either side - the gigs go successfully.

Of course, once a rapport is established, the players will complement each other even better. Some players need that 'rehearsal time' to establish a closer musical relationship. The times I've sat in with complete strangers, and the music has worked like magic, as if we'd all played together for years, are the best times to be had!

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    This list applies to both - or all musicians in a chamber ensemble. Even for sonatas, the soloist should be aware of the pianist, particularly in passages where the piano leads. – Carl Witthoft Apr 17 at 13:31
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    "Go with the flow" is important. For example, you may have to be able to figure out which pages the soloist just skipped and adjust accordingly. – Duston Apr 17 at 13:46
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    @CarlWitthoft - I aimed my answer at any musician playing with another - whether an acccompnayig pianist, a harpsichordist in an ensemble, a dep drummer in a band, etc. Same set of crieria for all, I believe. And there's probably a couple i've missed out. – Tim Apr 17 at 13:58
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It's also important to be able to transpose things like the Schubert Lieder (or Brahms) at sight. Sometimes the singer (or whoever is being accompanied) had a late night and one may have to move the key. (Of course, different singers may sing a piece in different keys.)

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    This is really just a "skill set." The instrumental soloist has to be able to handle whatever's written in their part as well. – Carl Witthoft Apr 17 at 13:32
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    @CarlWitthoft - 'skill set' - 'qualities' ? Not all (or that many) good sight readers can transpose. Who's splitting hairs? A dv as well? – Tim Apr 17 at 13:55
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    @Tim These things vary as the skill level of the participants increases. I wouldn't expect a lower-level singer to have transposed the voice part either. – Carl Witthoft Apr 17 at 14:05
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    @CarlWitthoft - skill levels weren't in the OP's question. This answer pointing them out is relevant. I've been asked many times to transpose on the fly, at different levels. Problems often were singer not knowing what key they needed. Shouldn't be a problem for a violinist, though - I doubt they ever play a set piece in any other than the written key... – Tim Apr 17 at 14:21
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You need musical rapport. It can come very quickly, or not at all. Sometimes one participant can feel a performance had enormous rapport, the other can feel they were railroaded!

Yes, there are particular skills useful to a professional accompanist. Transposition at sight WILL be required, but it shouldn't be in a performance. When a singer hands me music in the wrong key my position is 'Yes, I can transpose. But would you rather I used all my brain in playing WELL, or half of it in transposing? Of course, with experience, there will be many items in your particular field of music that are so familiar that playing in any key is a trivial problem. I'm thinking of theatre auditions. If a singer has mislaid their music, it's fine to say 'Can you manage Over the Rainbow in A? (Or any other key.) But it's NOT fine to hand me a Jason Robert Brown song and ask for it down a third :-)

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The best basic of making music together (apart of practice skills) is love, empathy and (self-)respect, staying modest and no leadership aspiration. When needed the leader function can be shared by job rotation.

(Almost always in a pair situation there is a difference of hierarchy or competence but it is good when this role can be exchanged by deceiving the functions: soloist - accompanist.)

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  • Not extremely useful, honestly spoken. But clear, yes. I’m sure the answers will be opinion based, because not everybody is focussing at the same objects. I can’t make music with others when the chemistry isn’t ok. Others are keeping their main emphasis on the music itself. Well, and in general I find most of the questions are not so useful: too specific (e.g. mine) or too banal, or formulated that hardly someone else will find it in the internet. I wonder sometimes how the system can identify the relation with other similar questions. – Albrecht Hügli Apr 17 at 18:05
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It takes a lot of different skills. Probably the best accompanist I ever encountered was the assistant organist at Holy Name Cathedral who, when I auditioned for the choir, took a piece of sheet music I had cobbled together from memory which didn't include a full accompaniment (just the melody and no chords for the first two lines) and knowing nothing more that it was Massenet and one of the missing chords from the melody-only section which I remembered, sight-improvised a perfect accompaniment for me.

I'm a slightly better than mediocre piano player but I ended up playing piano for a church gig for a few months—when I was gone one week for vacation, the teenage cantor's mother subbed for me. Despite being an arguably better piano player and having more access to her daughter, she found it really difficult to be able to handle the go with the flow aspects of accompanying her daughter as she sang.

Overall, I'd say that the most important skill is the ability to listen and react in real time while playing. It's not always correlated with musical skill, although at least some musical skill is essential.

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You can't go wrong by listening to this recording of "The Unashamed Accompanist" by the great Gerald Moore:

And then, I would find his books (listed in the Wikipedia article I linked) and wear them out.

Moore was every bit as great a teacher as he was an accompanist.

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