Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Two Options for Accompanist Backing Tracks

In the world of developing singers and instrumentalists, there is a huge need for accompaniment backing tracks. Two companies are looking to fill that need, Your Accompanist and PianoAccompaniments.com. From the samples I heard this evening, it appears that both companies offer a very useful high-quality product, although each has a slightly different focus.

Your Accompanist (find them on Facebook too) targets the market for rehearsal tracks for singers, with plenty of downloads of scales, songs, arias, as well as song-learning kits. Your Accompanist positions itself as a resource for early-stage note learning prior to the first rehearsal:
There are lots of ways you can use our MP3s: familiarisation on-the-go, in a singing lesson, preparing for a choir try-out, in an audition, at home, in the car, in the bath, it's up to you. The tracks enable singing practice in situations where live piano accompaniment is not readily available.
Singers know that nothing can ever replace the collaborative experience of working with an experienced accompanist. Preparing for performances means building an artistic relationship and developing interpretations together. Our tracks enable you to learn the piece before you start rehearsing, allowing you to save valuable rehearsal time for interpretation.
The cost for tracks is quite reasonable, priced at £0.99 (roughly equivalent to USD$1.47 and CDN$1.52 at today's exchange rates) and the quality of playing in the samples I heard was quite high (and sensitive too!). One thing that I found fascinating is that in spite of the fine playing and excellent audio, nowhere could I find who had played these tracks - you're definitely engaging with a brand rather than with a specific pianist here. [Update: The Your Accompanist team just unmasked their star pianist in the June 2010 newsletter: he's Michael Baron!]

On the other hand, PianoAccompaniments.com (also on Facebook) features the playing of Kristian Banatzianou and offers a much wider range of accompaniment products at various price points. In addition to an mp3 store, Kristian specializes in customized orders and can make CDs, MIDI, and Wave files, and also can transpose (w00t!). Although this might cost a bit more than purchasing single tracks, customised backing tracks can be a huge time-saver in certain cases, such as when a singer needs to learn a role on the road.

Here's a sample track of Kristian playing the piano part to Brahms' Sapphische Ode (feel free to sing along):

Are you a fan of backing tracks? If so, what are your experiences creating or using them?


  1. LaDona11:24 AM

    It's been awhile since I've been really active as an accompanist, but people asking me to make a practice tape always rubbed me the wrong way. Plain and simple - it takes away work. So I would charge a LOT to make a recording in order to compensate for the loss of practice hours. I'm sure there's another side to the story, though...

  2. Anonymous6:31 PM

    My least favourite thing that happens to me on a semi-regular basis is when a singer walks into a coaching with a fairly complicated piece of music that they haven't started learning yet. I haven't seen the music before (it's often obscure 20th century), and they ask me if they can record me playing the piano part right there, to help them learn the piece. Eek. Sight reading can be fun sometimes when you're doing it with someone singing/playing with you who knows the music, but I hate doing it alone and having my attempt be recorded!

    So I'm looking forward to the day when these companies get around to doing more 20th century repertoire! Then, for the singer who can't/won't give me a couple days to familiarize myself with the music, I can direct them to these resources!

  3. A few years ago, I decided to purchase a "Music Minus One" backing track of the orchestral accompaniment to help with my preparation of the Grieg Piano Concerto.

    Music Minus One offers two recordings - one at performance tempo and one at 80% performance tempo to use as a practice tool. Unfortunately, I found that the performance tempo was too slow, rendering the practice tempo version an absolute snail's pace.

    Also, the particular interpretation on the recording was a long way off from what I intended to do. Although I expected this to a certain degree with romantic repertoire, the backing track really didn't assist in my preparation because I spent more time trying to figure out the rubato of the orchestra than developing my own interpretation.

    Has anyone else used this company's tracks and had a better experience?

  4. Bryan, you hit the nail on the head. Backing tracks are useful only as a first step in the process of learning the other part. The experience of actual ensemble playing is something that cannot be learned from anything other than live interaction.