Accompanying Singers

When accompanying singers, is using two-handed open chord voicings one of the better methods to use ? If the melody note is part of the chord, should this always be played at the top ? If there is no melody note, what is the best way to voice the chords, i.e. root and fifth in the left hand and third and seventh in the right hand. Is there a preferred or “traditional” way for this method ?

Hi John :wave:

We have pre-released the first 4 lessons of Lyndol’s course on vocal accompaniment.

Based on your questions, lessons 1 & 2 below should answer everything for you. These 2 lessons explain the fundamentals of voicings, bass and melody when accompanying a vocalist.

The other 2 lessons focus on how to fill in the space and how to end the tune when working with a singer.

Take a look at the lessons below and let us know what you think. The full course of 7 or 8 lessons will be published in the next week or so and we will notify all students via email:

Lesson 1: Working With Singers - Goals & Expectations

Lesson 2: Accompanying Singers: Melody, Harmony & Bass

Lesson 3: Piano Accompaniment Techniques: Adding Fills

Lesson 4: Improvised Solos & Common Jazz Endings

Hi Hayden, Thanks for the reply. Very useful links. On a different topic, you have mentioned The Real Book as a useful tool ! There seems to be lots of versions available. Which one would you recommend ? I also read that relying on this book, could be detrimental to your development as a pianist ! It’s said that it becomes a “crutch” which is hard to do without ?
Best regards, John Oakenfull

My pleasure John.

I will email you shortly with my recommended Real Books.

Yes to an extent.

As you play the standards over and over, you will naturally memorise them.

If possible, try to commit the tunes to memory as soon as possible.

This is more of a requirement if you wish to play with other musicians, at a jam session for example. When playing in this setting, you must be present in the performance and not staring at a lead sheet.

If you need to constantly look at the score, then you will miss lots of the visual cues and communication from other musicians.

Also with improvising, you need to have the chords, the voicings and the form completely memorised. You simply to not have the time to be thinking about what voicings to play in your left hand. This should come from muscle memory which leaves all of your creative energy to focus on your right hand improvisation and soloing.

If you just play solo jazz piano for fun, or perhaps to friends and family or in a cocktail setting, then you could definitely get by from reading straight from the books.

Once you memorise a tune and move away from the lead sheet, you can get inspiration from records and learn aurally as oppose to reading from a lead sheet or transcription. That is the start of “Stage 2” jazz education.

So by all means use them to get started, but keep your eye on the end goal as described above.

Here’s something I would like to have covered in this set of lessons, although it could apply to any stream: how do you break down a song? I’d be interested in the process of taking a lead sheet - say from one of the Real books - and turning it into an accompaniment.

If it is already covered somewhere, apologies. Please point me in the right direction.



Have you every noticed that, just after you ask the question, you find the answer? Hayden, I just found this response to another question. I’m guessing it would apply here.

Some of the points would be a bit different for accompanying singers, so I think it could still be a good lesson for those of us interested in this section.

Thanks again,


Hi Scott,

That’s a great idea. I’ll pass it onto Lyndol.

The other jazz standard studies in this course are “Summertime” and “Body and Soul” and these lessons demonstrate the process of taking a lead sheet and turning it into an accompaniment.

I think that the more of these kinds of lessons that you watch, you will naturally pick up the process and technique of creating an arrangement.

Yes some of that guidance would certainly apply.

The listening part is particularly important.

With any tune you are working on, you should be listening to as many versions as you can find and use them for inspiration.

Perhaps try to imitate some of the accompaniment, or the fills. This is more of a self-guided approach and you might find it challenging to begin with. Remember that much can be learned from listening.

Yes as you point out it would certainly be worth covering this information purely from an accompaniment standpoint. I think it would be nice to create a ‘template’ that Lyndol can work through for each jazz standard she covers.

This ‘template’ would explain and demonstrate the steps from Lead Sheet to Accompaniment… leave it with me :slight_smile:

That sounds great, Hayden. I would look forward to it.