FAQ Table of Contents


by Joe Kessleman
From my limited experience, it's basically the same etiquette as adding vocal harmonies.

Come in GENTLY -- start quietly, and always try to keep your accompaniment behind the lead performer -- and watch for their reaction. If you get a smile and a nod, you may want to bring it up a bit, still watching. If you get a frown, or a shake of the head, you're doing something that isn't working for them -- you may be stepping on their their rhythm/tempo, or not quite getting their chord changes, or they may simply find what you're doing a bit too distracting (even if they like it).

If someone else is already doing similar accompaniment -- same class of instrument, or just too close to what you'd do -- drop back or drop out to avoid swamping the sound. If too many people come in and they don't drop out, consider doing so yourself.

WATCH/LISTEN for the end of the song. If in doubt, it's probably safer to drop out early rather than late; you can come back in if there's another verse.

WATCH/LISTEN for tempo changes, modulations, variations, pauses, and other traps. As an accompanist, it's generally your job to follow the other performer's lead. There are specific exceptions -- if the drift is unintentional, the songleader may appreciate help staying on pitch -- but they may be deliberately doing something different from what you expect.

And never forget that it's their turn in the spotlight, not yours. Your role is to contribute to their performance, THEIR WAY even if it isn't how you'd perform the same song.

There's a discussion of performance ettiquette on cadhla's Live Journal.