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Accompanying Other Instruments

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I often go to Play and sing .Sessions at different clubs .Very often it is dominated by Guitars who play all manor of Pop songs some are happy for me to play along .My Question .-Once I identify the key is it better to just play  a Pentatonic Scale and although for Major this excludes the 4th and 7th Interval can I play the 4th Chord of the Scale which I might play as an arpeggio or broken chord  .I am not very good at music theory so tell me how you deal with this situation  . Thanks Bob 

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As I see it, accompaniment has two purposes:

- to support the melody harmonically

- to support the melody rhythmically.

Guitarists do this by holding down chords (harmony) and strumming the strings energetically (rhythm).

Concertinists have a lot more options. However, the essence of accompaniment to a melody is the harmonic structure behind it - the sequence of chords that support each piece of the melody.

Sometimes, there are places in a melody when two chords would be possible, but would generate a different feel. In these cases, it's good to agree with the other accompanying instrumentalists on what chord to play there. Since you go to Play and Sing sessions, there are bound to be song-books around, and these tend to have chord symbols printed above the stave or text. Use these!

There are diagrams available in the Net showing how to form chords on the left-hand side of the Anglo (and similar ones for EC and Crane duet - probably for Hayden duet, too). You can press all the buttons shown, for a big fat chord, when necessary, or just a couple for a more sparse accompaniment.


The rhythmic options on the bellows-driven concertina (all systems) are manifold. There's the good, old "oom-pah" or "oom-pah-pah" for a start. As a variation, there's the "oom-rest-rest" or "oom-rest", i.e. playing a chord on the first beat of the bar only. By contrast, you can play "rest-pah-pah" or "rest-pah", i.e. supporting the off-beats with your chords. For slower tunes, you can just lay down a harmonic carpet by holding each chord until it's time to change to the next chord. A more subtle kind of rhythm can be produced by varying the hand pressure on the bellows while the chord is being played. This gives a sort of gentle surge or pulse.

And, of course, if you know the tune well, and have heard sophisticared renderings of it, you can try to play an alto or tenor line beneath it!


If you're really inprovising, and have no song-book with chord symbols, how do you know what chords you can use?

Speaking for folk music, the answer is "Practical Music Theory." For each key that is likely to crop up - in folk music, especially when accompanied by guitars, a small selection - learn the chords that are likely to be useful. These are the chords that can be formed with the notes in the scale of that key.

For the key of C major, they will be C major, F major, G major, G seventh, A minor, D minor and E minor.

For the key of G major, they will be G major, C major, D major, D seventh, E minor, A minor and B minor.

With this knowledge, you can't accomany everything, but you can take a good stab at most simpler pieces.  Minor keys and Irish modes also have their sets of appropriate chords. Ask you friendly neignbourhood guitarist what chords he/she uses for which keys, and use what you find on the fingering charts.


And if you're in a session situation, don't feel you have to accompany every piece right through. You obtain the best results when you keep quiet for a bit, and cut in when the song comes to a bit that you can manage. With time, you'll be able to manage more and more.😉



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