Articulating the benefits of Accompaniment
Found in: Accompaniment
Joy O., Alabama
Please help me with what to say to this parent. Her son, age 7, doesn’t like Honey Dew and came back not liking Amazing Grace. “He doesn’t like the accompaniment ones”, mom said. I asked her, “Why do you think that is?” Mom admitted she doesn’t really like accompaniment either, as ‘it doesn’t sound like the song”. So I’m pretty sure they are not singing along.
I love the accompaniment program, but I’m not always good at articulating the benefits of it. I lost an adult student who refused to sing along. She “didn’t like” the accompaniments either. Maybe that’s not the primary reason she quit, but it seemed to bother her.
Yesterday I encouraged the group to use the audio recording and play along with it. What else can I do?
Ian M., Indiana
Do you sing during lessons? That’s step one to encouraging students to sing at home. Ham it up a bit, sing in different styles, imitate famous singers – make it fun.
When I have a student who doesn’t like a song, I say “what’s your least favorite subject in school? Okay, so they don’t make you do social studies at school then, surely, since you don’t like it? Oh, you do have to do it? Well, that hardly seems fair. My piano lessons are similarly unfair, but I’ll give you this option: any song you don’t like, the first thing you do is learn it really well, and then you practice it only just enough so that you can play it perfectly every time. That’s all you have to do. Spend the rest of the time playing what you do like. And yes, I will be checking”. Of course, this is all delivered with a smile. I try to keep things light and fun.
[answer author="Rochelle G., California"]
I try to make sure that the parents understand that chords are key, and open up thousands of songs to their ability to play.
When a student complains they don’t like a song, I tell them that they’re not required to like it but they are required to play it.
Gabrielle K., Iowa
I spend a lot of time in the opening conversations. I’ve been drawing the triangle used in the program but filling in the LH as bass at the bottom, RH as middle, and leaving the top part of the triangle blank, and asking students “what besides singing could go in that top part?” They go a little crazy listing instruments. Then I stress how important it is to have something providing the melody: someone else, or the recordings if they don’t want to sing, but it has to be done.
I also sing normally and then horribly and tell them I’m not a vocal coach so I don’t care how it sounds. I also describe how important it is to learn songs they want to learn down the road. When they hear that, at least in my studio, that’s enough to get them motivated and I don’t have any extra trouble with it.
To add to that, I ask them what shape it is if we don’t have the top part of the triangle. I tell them it’s a rhombus and rhombuses are ugly so I don’t want to see them.
Pat M., Canada
I tell my students it is a gift from Neil Moore to you! Right now you may not see the reason why we are doing this, but trust Neil and trust me.
Susan M., Canada
I’ve had a few students with the same situation. And we’ve gotten over initial resistance in all cases, but it took consistent reminding them that we’re heading somewhere and it’s foundational. Music is either line or chords and these types of songs give us strength in working towards the future.
I sometimes use the “athletes” analogy: not all training is perceived as ‘fun’ but it strengthens them for their sport. We’re heading somewhere and it’s important to push through all projects and trust the method. And I’ve found that using an app like Loopz or drum rhythms is helpful when the ability to play with singing is not yet developed.
Joanne D., Australia
Does your student/mother have a favorite pop artist or like pop music? You could mention that the songs we hear on the radio are accompaniment style mostly. Pop artists don’t play the melody while they sing.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
They don’t necessarily have to sing – this can be pretty challenging for some to sing and play concurrently. They just need the melody provided from somewhere. I routinely have my students use the audio from SHMs to play along with. I think it’s good practice for accompaniment skills – e.g., you can’t stop and fix mistakes because the singer isn’t going to.
It does require a setup conversation, because it can be a frustrating experience at first. Here are a few suggestions that help when asking students to play with the audio:
- Don’t even try until your playing is completely solid with an even rhythm.
- Listen to the audio first before trying to play along. You need to know when to come in and how fast to play.
- Start with a small goal – e.g. get through the first line (first 2 measures, or whatever) only with the audio, and don’t go past that until you can do that much confidently.
- If you make a mistake, practice coming back in on the next chord, or wherever you can follow.
I work on this in class sometimes, I think it’s a valuable skill. Later when your student has completed some of the the Accompaniment program and is ready to learn songs she loves, she can jam along with a recording.