5 Tips for Communicating Pop/Rock Music to Your Accompanist

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When I was writing my book, “Rock the Audition,” I had the great gift of sitting in on many Broadway and Off-Broadway pop/rock auditions and watching all the mistakes people make regarding communicating with the piano player. In fact, I wrote an entire chapter just on that subject matter! So I wanted to give you guys these quick tips before you show up to your next pop/rock audition, so you can look awesome and professional in something that is clearly very, very tricky!

Here are five tips you need to know about communicating a popular tune to you audition accompanist!

1. Take the time before you come in to run your music with a piano player. The sheet music you often get online rarely sounds like it does on the radio, so you can’t have the first time you sing it be an audition for Telsey + Co.! You have to hear what it sounds like and get in it!

2. Please show your accompanist respect by having a clean organized book with double-sided sheet music. I am shocked at the state of your books! Especially with pop/rock music. Please clean your house before company comes over! Also, you do not want the piano player turning 20 pages, flipping back and forth from the bridge to the coda, etc. You want their hands on the keys, so cut and paste it like you do with your musical theater material and put it on two or three pages. Popular music deserves the same respect as legit. Highlight important spots, give dynamic markings, and as rude as it is to have to create an ending out of a repeat and fade…create an ending! Make your music so clear that the accompanist can be a great musician and express himself with you.

P.S. Did you know I’ve created great Equity and non-Equity cuts of tons of pop music for you on my new site, www.rocktheperformance.com?

3. Communicate the feel, not the tempo. There is a big difference between the two. With legit songs, we show the cut first, then give the tempo of the beginning so they know how fast or slow the song is. But because popular music is all feelings, you have to give the feel first—the vibe of the song. Give them the feel of the hook first. That’s the catchiest part of the song. Next, show them the cut. That way the accompanist can think, Oh, I know this song, or, Cool, this is how the song feels. Now what’s the cut? The hook is most often the chorus! Have a listen to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” See? The chorus is the hook. Once in a blue moon the hook is the beginning, like Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.” So, give the feel of the hook first, then the roadmap of the cut!

4. Slap and tap the feel of the hook on the two and four! With the exception of country music (which sometimes is on the one and three), all popular music is on the two and four. Slap it on your thigh and tap it in your foot with feelings in your body and voice so we hear how the song feels. Is it gentle? Is it a rock gospel tune? An ’80s rocker chick song? Feel what it is in your body and voice so they play it that way! How do you identify the feel?

5. Be a good musician! It’s about how you live in this music, so don’t just listen to the melody line. You’re not gonna get feel from that! Listen to the horns, the base, the drums—any of those things can help you give the correct feel to the accompanist. That way, they can give you the feel you need! This ultimately creates a relationship between you and the groove— you and the accompanist. I’s about how you two relate to each other. If you do this, the accompanist will love to jam with you!

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