Accompanying on the Piano

Playing the piano is fun, but it’s even better when you’re playing with other people!

However, accompanying on the piano is not exactly intuitive.

In fact, it takes some skill and technique!

Do you want to learn to accompany on the piano?

You are in the right place!

Keep reading to learn several useful accompaniment secrets and tools.

1. Get a Good Grip on Key Signatures so You Can Play Anything

If you are accompanying a singer, you are almost guaranteed to need this tool.

After all, singers use the key that is easiest for their voice - not your fingers.

Guitarists also like to switch things up with capos.

However, you will need to be comfortable with a variety of key signatures no matter who you accompany.

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to try to play with other people when I’m not prepared to play in right key signature!

To avoid feeling this frustration or embarrassment, spend time regularly practicing the most common key signatures and learning new ones, as well.

Once you know key signatures like the back of your hand, you can learn another useful skill:


If you can transpose on the fly, you’ll be able to do accompany just about anything.

2. Don’t Play the Melody

This is a huge no-no when it comes to accompanying!

However, it’s also something that a lot of pianists do when they play alongside singers and other musicians.

If you are the accompanist, you are not the main deal.

So don’t steal the show with a melody that doesn’t belong - or worse, sounds terrible.

Instead of the melodies, play patterns.

Here’s the easiest way to learn finger patterns for accompaniment:

3. Memorize a Few Go-To Patterns to Diversify Yourself

Don’t panic if you don’t know the proper accompaniment for a specific song.

Music is an art!

Besides, there are plenty of note patterns that can work for almost any song.

For example, let’s say you’re playing piano for a guitarist and a singer.

You know the right chords for the song, but you don’t know the right harmony tune.

That’s ok!

Play the chords, but don’t press them over and over in a blocky staccato rhythm.

Instead, do this:

4. Use Broken Chords and 9th Chords for a Nice Sound

Break up those chords, and roll them!

If you are playing a C, for example, there are two easy ways to roll the chord:

First, you can play C, E, and G.

Then you can either repeat, or go back down.

Another way is to play a 9th chord.

Here is how to play a 9th chord:

Widen your reach and play C, G, and then the C on the next octave.

Play with these patterns, find a few others for various music styles, and you will be good to go!

5. Listen to the Original Version Until You Know it Inside and Out

If you know what you will be playing ahead of time, use technology to your advantage.

I always use Youtube to help me learn the sound of song!

Listen to the original version, and pay attention to what the pianist is doing.

You don’t have to match it exactly, but you can get an idea of how to make your playing sound!

6. Don’t Panic-Fake it Til You Make it!

What happens if you can’t prepare, or if you forget the right notes for the accompaniment?

No worries! Accompanying isn’t a science.

The important thing is that you don’t distract from the lead musician - or worse, distract the lead musician herself!

If you get lost, follow as best you can with notes that work.

If you can’t remember the right notes, play around within the scale until you find your place.

7. Follow the Leader

Accompanists aren’t supposed to set the tone.

If you try, you’ll end up frustrating everyone else and yourself!

Don’t force a singer to catch up with you.

Accompanying is a dance, and everyone has to go with everyone else.

Follow the tempo and volume of the leader.

Here’s why:

Even if it doesn’t seem quite right to you, it will sound better to the audience than you banging around and trying to correct it.

8. Have a Plan

Have a plan, but:

Don’t carve your plan in stone.

It’s always a good idea to prepare, but you can’t predict that things will go the way you intended!

So study the music and practice, but be flexible.

Sometimes I have a hard time with this.

Nobody likes it when I’m not flexible, though, and they won’t like it if you’re rigid, either!

9. Keep your Sight-Reading Skills Sharp

Oh no! Sight-reading!

Yep, that’s right.

Sight-reading is an important part of many aspects of piano.

Including accompaniment.

Often, you will be asked to play a piece of music that already has a piano score.

This can be daunting.

If you can’t play a certain score, you can always try accompanying using chords.

However, you’ll thrill the rest of your musical group if you can play just about anything!

So learn to be a versatile pianist, your fellow musicians will thank you!

Now that you know the essential tricks to accompanying on the piano, all you need to do is practice your piano skills!

In order to build a good foundation and learn techniques like sight-reading, playing the harmony, and chords, you need to take piano lessons.

Are you taking lessons?

If not, why not try online lessons?

They’re less expensive, more convenient, and right at home!

Playground Sessions is an excellent program that will teach you how to read and play music well.

Review the Playground Sessions program here, and you’ll be equipped to accompany on the piano in no time!

Breana Johnson
Breana Johnson

I’m Breana, long-time piano player and casual guitar strummer. I grew up on Moezart and the Beach Boys, and I love all types of music! My day job is writing, but I moonlight as a piano teacher and occasionally play for events.