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Accompaniment: Wikis


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A typical accompaniment pattern of a Mozart concert or aria.

In music, accompaniment is the art of playing along with an instrumental or vocal soloist or ensemble, often known as the lead, in a supporting manner. The accompaniment can be performed by a single performer--a pianist, organist, or guitarist--or it can be played by an entire ensemble, such as a symphony orchestra or string quartet (in the Classical genre) or a backing band or rhythm section (in popular music) or a Big Band or organ trio (in jazz). The term "accompaniment" is also used to describe the composed music, arrangement, or improvised performance that is played to back up the soloist. In most Classical styles, the accompaniment part is written by the composer and provided to the performers in the form of sheet music. In jazz and popular music, the backing band or rhythm section may improvise the accompaniment based on standard forms--in the case of a small blues band or jazz band playing a 12 bar blues progression--or the band may play from a written arrangement in a jazz Big Band or in a musical theater show.

The accompaniment part usually provides the harmonic background and the rhythmic structure for the piece of music or song. The harmonic background is usually provided by one or more instruments that play a chord progression. Instruments commonly used to play chords (also called harmonic accompaniment)include the (acoustic or electric) guitar, piano, organ and electronic keyboards. An accompaniment can also be provided by instruments that normally play the melody, such as the violin (e.g., if a musical arrangement is written for several violons which will set out the chord progression). The accompaniment often includes a bass instrument which plays the bass notes of the harmonic progression (e.g., bass guitar, upright bass, etc.). The rhythmic structure of the piece or song is typically provided by drums or percussion in most types of popular music, jazz, and blues. In Classical music styles, there are many types of pieces which do not include percussion instruments, such as string quartets and organ trios.

In most tonal music the melody and accompaniment are written from and share the same group of pitches, while in much atonal music the melody and accompaniment are chosen from entirely separate groups of pitches, often from different hexachords. See also: chord-based.

An accompanist is one who plays an accompaniment. A number of classical pianists have become famous as accompanists rather than soloists; the best known example is probably Gerald Moore, well known as a Lieder accompanist. In some American schools, the title collaborative pianist (or collaborative artist) is replacing the title accompanist.

An accompaniment figure is a musical gesture used repeatedly in an accompaniment, such as:

Notated accompaniment may be indicated obbligato (obliged) or ad libitum (at one's pleasure).

Dialogue accompaniment is a form of call and response in which the lead and accompaniment alternate, the accompaniment playing during the rests of the lead and providing a drone or silence during the main melody or vocal. (van der Merwe 1989, p.320)

Basso continuo is a form of notation used especially in Baroque music accompaniment parts.

The term accompanist is also used to refer to a musician (generally pianist) who will not necessarily be participating in the performance of a piece of drama that utilizes music (musical theater, opera, etc.) but is used during an audition or rehearsal in lieu of the actual musician(s).

See also


  • van der Merwe, Peter (1989). Origins of the Popular Style: The Antecedents of Twentieth-Century Popular Music. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-316121-4.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ACCOMPANIMENT (i.e. that which "accompanies"), a musical term for that part of a vocal or instrumental composition added to support and heighten the principal vocal or instrumental part; either by means of other vocal parts, single instruments or the orchestra. The accompaniment may be obbligato or ad libitum, according as it forms an essential part of the composition or not. The term obbligato or obbligato accompaniment is also used for an independent instrumental solo accompanying a vocal piece. Owing to the early custom of only writing the accompaniment in outline, by means of a "figured bass," to be filled in by the performer, and to the changes in the number, quality and types of the instruments of the orchestra, "additional" accompaniments have been written for the works of the older masters; such are Mozart's "additional" accompaniments to Handel's Messiah or those to many of the elder Bach's works by Robert Franz. In common parlance any support given, e.g. by the piano, to a voice or instrument is loosely called an accompaniment, which may be merely "vamped" by the introduction of a few chords, or may rise to the dignity of an artistic composition. In the history of song the evolution of the art side of an accompaniment is important, and in the higher forms the vocal and instrumental parts practically constitute a duet, in which the instrumental part may be at least as important as that of the voice.

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