Accompaniment: what is it in music & how to use it

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 3, 2022

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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, guitarist, or organist —or it can be played by an entire ensemble, such as a symphony orchestra or string quartet (in the classical genre), a backing band or rhythm section (in popular music), or even a big band or organ trio (in jazz).

It may be considered the background to the foreground melody. The term accompaniment also describes the composed music, arrangement, or improvised performance that is played to back up the soloist.

Accompaniment with guitar

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, as in the case of a small blues band or a 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.

Different types of accompaniment

In music, accompaniment can refer to an ensemble or group of musicians or a single instrument that plays along with the soloist. Accompaniment is often used as a generic term to describe parts played in harmony or rhythmically related to other instruments. In jazz, accompaniment is most commonly associated with playing chords on the piano.,

While the lead plays a melody, the piano or other instrument playing chords and rhythms is referred to as an accompaniment. The accompaniment usually plays with the lead artist by either following her/his part note for note, or imitating it at a reduced tempo.

Accompaniment can also be used more generally to describe any accompanying instrumental or vocal part, such as a background chorus or the strings in an orchestra. In general terms, accompaniment is created when a rhythm and harmony are played together to add depth and interest to a lead instrument or melody.

There are many different types of accompaniment styles that musicians use depending on the genre they play in and their own personal taste. Some of the most common accompaniment styles include:

•Chordal, which uses chords or a simple harmonic pattern to fill in the bass and/or harmony parts.

•Rhythmic, which creates an interesting rhythmic groove while the lead musician plays over it.

•Melodic, which applies short melodic phrases or licks to the accompaniment.

•Textural, which involves playing atmospheric pads or soundscapes in the background.

No matter what style of accompaniment you choose, it is important to make sure that you are not overwhelming the lead artist or taking away from the overall song.

The goal is to support and enhance the lead instrument or melody, not compete with it.

Many musicians who use accompaniment in their live performances rely on a second musician to play the bass and rhythm parts for them so that they can focus solely on the melody.

This often results in a more interesting and complex sound as well as enabling both musicians to have more freedom of movement on stage.

The benefits of musical accompaniment

There are many benefits to adding accompaniment to your live performances or recordings. Perhaps the most obvious benefit is that it can make your music sound fuller and more complete.

In addition, accompaniment can also:

  • Add interest and variety to your sound.
  • Help to cover up any mistakes you might make while playing.
  • Make your music more interesting and engaging for listeners.
  • Provide a platform for improvisation by giving you the opportunity to explore new melodies and rhythms.

So whether you are an experienced musician looking for a new way to grow creatively, or a beginner looking for ways to enhance your performances, accompaniment can be a valuable tool that helps you to develop your skills and take your music to the next level.

How to choose an accompanist

If you are a solo musician who is interested in incorporating accompaniment into your performances, there are several factors to consider when choosing an accompanist.

First and foremost, it is important to find someone who has the technical skills and musical ability that you need. You will also want to think about things like:

  1. Their overall approach to music and performance.
  2. The type of repertoire they are familiar with.
  3. How well they gel with your own personal style.

It is also a good idea to take the time to listen to some of their previous recordings or live performances so that you can get a better sense of their playing style.

Once you have found someone who you think would be a good match, it is important to communicate your musical vision for the project and make sure that they are on board with your overall concept.

Working with an accompanist can be a great way to add interest and variety to your sound, so don’t be afraid to experiment and see what works best for you.

Whether you are looking for a collaborative performance partner or simply want to add some background tracks, there are many ways to make accompaniment work in your favor.

So start exploring the possibilities and enjoy the creative journey!

Tips for working with an accompanist

If you are new to the art of accompaniment, there are a few tips that can help you to get the most out of your collaborations. First and foremost, it is important to be open and communicative with your accompanist.

Talk about things like:

  • Their role in the overall project—are they simply playing backup, or are they taking on a more active lead role?
  • Your musical vision and desired outcome for the project.
  • Any logistical considerations, such as the need to record live or travel to different locations.

It is also helpful to go into your collaboration with a clear sense of what you do and don’t know. This will help you to communicate your needs effectively and ensure that the two of you are on the same page musically.

Other tips for working with an accompanist include:

  • Focusing on rehearsal time. Unlike a band setting, there may not be as much opportunity for live feedback when playing music with an accompanist. So make sure to use your rehearsal time wisely and focus on perfecting your parts.
  • Listening closely. One of the best ways to learn is by listening carefully to what your accompanist is playing. Not only will this help you to better understand their musical style, but it can also give you ideas for your own playing.
  • Asking for feedback. If you have any doubts about your playing in a particular piece, it is always a good idea to ask your accompanist for their opinion or advice. They will likely be able to provide valuable insights that can help you to improve and take your music to the next level.

What are accompaniment tracks?

Accompaniment tracks, often referred to as backing music or backing tracks, are recordings of musical accompaniments that can be used to support a live performance or practice session.

These tracks can either be recorded by a professional musician or created using software, and they often include different parts for different instruments.

For example, a typical accompaniment track might include separate parts for piano, drums, and bass.

Accompaniment tracks can be a great way to add interest and variety to your sound, and they can also be used to practice different parts of a song.

If you are new to the world of accompaniment tracks, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it is important to find tracks that match your skill level and musical style.

Second, you will need to make sure that you have the proper equipment to play the tracks. And finally, it is helpful to rehearse with the tracks before using them in a live performance.

Where can I find accompaniment tracks?

Accompaniment tracks are widely available and can be found online or in music stores.

A wide variety of tracks can be purchased, like the Believe for it track by CeCe Winans:

Believe for it track by CeCe Winans

(view more here)


Whether you are collaborating with an experienced accompanist or simply working with pre-recorded tracks, there are many ways to make accompaniment work for you.

So keep these tips in mind and start exploring the possibilities today!

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:

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