Accompaniment (music)

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The accompaniment (formerly also often accompaniment of fr. Accompagnement ) is that musical material, in addition to a melody voice sounds in order to support harmonically and rhythmically. This can range from simple chords to accompany a folk song to the elaborate and differentiated orchestral composition of an opera aria .

Many pieces of music only really come into their own through the accompaniment: The first theme of the slow movement from Beethoven's 7th Symphony, for example, consists largely of a repetition of the tone e, which only makes sense through the underlying chords, but also songs like Somethin ' Stupid or the Beatles number Julia sound hollow and uninteresting without harmonies and opposing voices.

There are actually only two types of music without voices with accompanying character: On the one hand, pure monophonic music and, on the other hand, absolute polyphony made up of louder voices of equal standing, such as can be found in the Renaissance motet, for example .

Simple song accompaniment

Whether with the guitar by the campfire, on the piano under the Christmas tree or behind the keyboard of the school choir: wherever there is singing, a companion is always welcome. But if there are no notes or sheets (melody parts with chord symbols ), good advice is often expensive and a little knowledge of harmony is recommended. The basics are conveyed in the excellent articles on the theory of degrees and the circle of fifths.

Most folk and children's songs, but also many songs from so-called popular music , can be accompanied by three basic chords, those of the 1st, 4th and 5th degree. Anyone who deals with these harmonies in a quiet little room will soon develop a feeling for which chord goes well at which point and can later try to use the other four basic levels in some places, which can make the accompaniment more colorful and interesting .

Accompaniments throughout the history of music

Before 1600

The earliest forms of accompaniment are likely to have been percussive movements in the rhythm of sung melodies, which were first performed on one's own body and later on percussion instruments. The musical expansion took place only in terms of rhythm, which did not change when more sophisticated melody instruments emerged: In ancient times and other cultures (to this day, for example, in traditional Chinese opera ), the instrumental accompaniment of a song basically only consisted of Playing along with the melody, which could be more or less heavily decorated.

The term accompaniment in today's sense of additional musical voices could only arise through the development of polyphony . Even their early forms ( antiphon , responsory , canon ) do not yet differentiate between main and secondary voices, only with the emergence of the organum , especially the Provencal expression in which the upper part emerges through melismatic ornamentation, can one recognize from an emancipation of the main part and subordination of the speak to other voices to accompany you.

But even the art music of the Renaissance , with its strict polyphony, has no clear melody and accompanying parts; later, with the advent of baroque music , monody emerges , which enables this classification again.

Figured bass (basso continuo)

In baroque music, the basso continuo ( figured bass ) was mainly used to accompany solo instruments, for example in sonatas or monodic arias. The continuo also had its permanent place in the orchestra and served as the basis of the harmony, which of course was also carried by other instruments. In the typical Italian Baroque solo concert ( Vivaldi ), the passages of the solo instrument are only accompanied by the continuo, while the interludes ( ritornelle ) are played by the whole orchestra (with or without soloists).

Ostinato accompaniment in the Italian concert

In the music of the great baroque masters, there are of course a wide variety of forms and composition techniques for the accompaniment of a main voice, sometimes without including the figured bass, as in the Sonata for 4 violins without bc by Telemann . The following two forms are typical for Johann Sebastian Bach :

On the one hand, he often uses ostinati from simple motifs over which long melodies spin, as in the middle movements of the violin concertos and the depicted Italian concert .

Polyphonic accompaniment in the Bach aria Quia respexit

On the other hand, there are cleverly built, polyphonic structures, where the accompaniment and solo functions alternate with several main voices. This is often the case in the arias with obbligato solo instruments from the cantatas and passions. The illustration shows an excerpt from the Magnificat , in which the soprano and oboe d'amore share the main voice.

Compulsory accommodation

In the middle of the 18th century, the importance of the basso continuo gradually declined. In orchestral music, church music (organ) and opera, the practice of basso continuo (harpsichord or fortepiano) persisted until around 1800. However, composers increasingly began to precisely notate and orchestrate the accompaniment of their works - first in the Chamber music and in song. This obligatory Accompagnement was directed against the freedom of instrumentation of the figured bass on the one hand and against the freedom in execution and decoration of the accompaniment on the other. There was no longer any room in classical music for improvisations such as the harpsichordists or theorbo players in the baroque ensemble were allowed to do, but the way was cleared for the psychologically motivated accompaniment, which was essential for the development of the song and the opera .

Accompanying sample from Mozart. Play ? / iAudio file / audio sample

Often the obligatory accompanying parts were designed artistically and with further development of the baroque contrapuntal technique, but sometimes the masters also resorted to simple accompanying patterns. A typical example is the 4 / 4 -Stroke accompaniments in the strings, resulting in many solo concerts and arias find Mozart: On the stressed first and third beats playing cellos and basses the root, while the three subsequent quavers of violins and violas are filled with chord tones.

In many works, the Alberti bass was also used as an obligatory acompagnement, which creates an appealing combination of harmony and rhythmic structure, especially in piano music.

Song and opera

Even in the first opera of Monteverdi shows that the emotional content of a sung melody and its text message can be reinforced by a suitable backing. With chromatic passages, fanfare-like chords or tremolos , sadness, triumph or fear can be expressed in baroque opera.

Mozart goes one step further in his operas and reveals the unspoken thoughts and feelings of his characters with subtle accompanying ideas: In the tragicomic disguise of his opera Così fan tutte , in addition to the superficial level of the libretto text, there is an additional emotional world through the accompaniment does not always coincide with the sung claims of the people.

In the song , the “psychological accompaniment” already hinted at by Haydn and Mozart was perfected above all by Franz Schubert , who can put the listener in the mood of the poem set to music with a few bars of a piano introduction ( Der Lindenbaum ) or tensions that the Text builds up, dissolves again in the aftermath (spring dream in the winter journey ) . Robert Schumann , Johannes Brahms and Hugo Wolf continue this tradition.

With the development of the leitmotif as the main element for the design of the orchestral composition of an opera, composers such as Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss had a powerful tool at their disposal, with which not only the people on the stage and their motives for action are expressed, but also those who are absent are reminded can: When, for example, at the end of the Rosenkavalier the Marschallin sings about “Men, so in general”, the listener senses that she is referring to Octavian in particular , because his leitmotif is heard.

Dances and light music

Waltz accompaniment Play ? / iAudio file / audio sample

The dancers of the baroque period differentiated the individual dance forms by the tempo, typical rhythms in the main voice or simply by the sequence within the suite . Even the minuet of classical music has a feature the 3 / 4 - stroke , the moderate pace and ABA form, but not a typical accompaniment patterns.

Only at the Viennese Waltz , the characteristic accompaniment with the low note at the beginning of measure, the two will lookups in higher instruments follow the sound forming element. This proverbial Hum-pa-pa While pattern is already at Landler available, but now it is the primary distinguishing feature of the dance.

Rock'n'Roll accompaniment

Like the waltz, the polka can also be easily recognized by its accompaniment, in which low key notes and high endings alternate eighth-by-eight (based on the onomatopoeia above, this could be called the hum-pa-hom-pa pattern), and the same applies for most of the other 19th century dances.

The styles of light music of the 20th century can also be distinguished primarily on the basis of their accompaniment: Typical rhythmic patterns, characteristic harmonies and the line-up enable the listener to assign an unknown number to a specific genre . Rock 'n' roll -music example, can be disassembled at the seventh chords in plucked bass and Swing - offbeat seen in harmony instruments.

Drum figure in rap

Further examples are the short, timed guitar add-ons of reggae or virtuoso e-bass runs in funk . In rap , in whose spoken song melody and harmony naturally play a subordinate role, the typical accompaniment is also a purely rhythmic pattern.

In jazz , the accompaniment is usually played by the so-called rhythm group , which can consist of drums , double bass , piano or other instruments. Here, too, it is very often the case that individual musicians occasionally emerge from this group as soloists. Rare, especially in through-composed Big Band - Arrangements , other jazz instruments are entrusted with the accompaniment function.

About accompanists and soloists

A social discrepancy runs through all phases of music history between the players of melody instruments and their accompanists. The second, although its function is irreplaceable, is never in the limelight like the soloist and, since his voice is usually less demanding, is ridiculed by the virtuoso melody players. Classical musicians like to make viola jokes or jokes about double bass players, in jazz the rhythm guitarists are sometimes victims of teasing.

Many musicians and theoreticians have thought about the nature and personality of a good accompanist, Johann Joachim Quantz devotes an entire chapter to the duties of all accompanying instrumentists in his attempt to instruct him to play the flute traversate . Here it says among other things:

Every concertist, when he plays a ripien part (accompanying part), has to renounce in a certain way his skill, which he possesses in concert and solo playing; and from the freedom which, when he alone excels, is allowed to be put into slavery, so to speak, at the time when he only accompagniret. So he mustn't add anything that might obscure the melody: [...] Otherwise he would cause a great deal of confusion in the melody

But that companion must also have important virtues describes Leopold Mozart in the trial of a thorough Violin School :

A solo violinist can play his concertos tolerably, even with fame, without much insight into the music in general; if he only has a pure performance: a good orchestral violinist, however, must have a great deal of insight into the whole of music, the art of composition and the diversity of character [...] in order to preside over his office with honor.

Today the responsibility lies more with the conductor than with the individual musicians, and it can actually be observed that certain maestros like to accompany soloists, while others prefer to play symphonies alone with the orchestra. A conductor also naturally needs a good sense of accompaniment when conducting operas, and one can recognize the great opera band masters by the fact that they succeed in their own interpretation of a work without depriving the singers of all their freedom.

The task of the (classical) song accompanist is just as difficult , who on the one hand has to cope with the demanding piano parts of Schubert or Wolf songs, but on the other hand always has to step back behind the singer and know exactly when, what volume and what tempo is pleasant to sing. Masters in this subject were, for example, Irwin Gage , Gerald Moore , Günther Weißenborn and Erik Werba , about whom numerous famous singers tell anecdotes in their memoirs.

Listening tips

Focusing only on the accompaniment while listening can be a rewarding experience for any music lover. In principle, every piece of music is of course suitable for this, but some works are particularly recommended for the genres and composers dealt with in the article:


Web links

Wiktionary: accompaniment  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on August 25, 2005 .