In music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

, accompaniment is the art of playing along with an instrumental or vocal solo
Solo (music)
In music, a solo is a piece or a section of a piece played or sung by a single performer...

ist or ensemble
Musical ensemble
A musical ensemble is a group of people who perform instrumental or vocal music. In classical music, trios or quartets either blend the sounds of musical instrument families or group together instruments from the same instrument family, such as string ensembles or wind ensembles...

, often known as the lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

, in a supporting manner. The accompaniment can be performed by a single performer--a pianist, organist, or guitarist--or it can be played by an entire ensemble, such as a symphony orchestra or string quartet
String quartet
A string quartet is a musical ensemble of four string players – usually two violin players, a violist and a cellist – or a piece written to be performed by such a group...

 (in the Classical genre) or a backing band or rhythm section
Rhythm section
A rhythm section is a collection of musicians who make up a section of instruments which provides the accompaniment section of the music, giving the music its rhythmic texture and pulse, also serving as a rhythmic reference for the rest of the band...

 (in popular music) or a Big Band
Big band
A big band is a type of musical ensemble associated with jazz and the Swing Era typically consisting of rhythm, brass, and woodwind instruments totaling approximately twelve to twenty-five musicians...

 or organ trio
Organ trio
An organ trio, in a jazz context, is a group of three jazz musicians, typically consisting of a Hammond organ player, a drummer, and either a jazz guitarist or a saxophone player. In some cases the saxophonist will join a trio which consists of an organist, guitarist, and drummer, making it a quartet...

 (in jazz). It may be considered the background to the foreground melody
A melody , also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity...

. The term "accompaniment" is also used to describe the composed music, arrangement, or improvised performance that is played to back up the soloist. In most Classical styles, the accompaniment part is written by the composer and provided to the performers in the form of sheet music. In jazz and popular music, the backing band or rhythm section may improvise the accompaniment based on standard forms--in the case of a small blues band or jazz band playing a 12 bar blues progression--or the band may play from a written arrangement in a jazz Big Band or in a musical theater show.

The accompaniment part usually provides the harmonic background and the rhythmic structure for the piece of music or song. The harmonic background is usually provided by one or more instruments that play a chord progression. Instruments commonly used to play chords (also called harmonic
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

 accompaniment) include the (acoustic or electric) guitar
The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with...

, piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

, organ
Organ (music)
The organ , is a keyboard instrument of one or more divisions, each played with its own keyboard operated either with the hands or with the feet. The organ is a relatively old musical instrument in the Western musical tradition, dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria who is credited with...

 and electronic keyboards. An accompaniment can also be provided by instruments that normally play the melody, such as the violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

 (e.g., if a musical arrangement is written for several violins which will set out the chord progression). The accompaniment often includes a bass instrument which plays the bass notes of the harmonic progression (e.g., bass guitar
Bass guitar
The bass guitar is a stringed instrument played primarily with the fingers or thumb , or by using a pick....

, upright bass, etc.). The rhythmic structure of the piece or song is typically provided by drums or percussion in most types of popular music, jazz, and blues. In Classical music styles, there are many types of pieces which do not include percussion instruments, such as string quartets and organ trios.

In most tonal music the melody and accompaniment are written from and share the same group of pitches, while in much atonal music the melody and accompaniment are chosen from entirely separate groups of pitches, often from different hexachord
In music, a hexachord is a collection of six pitch classes including six-note segments of a scale or tone row. The term was adopted in the Middle Ages and adapted in the twentieth-century in Milton Babbitt's serial theory.-Middle Ages:...

s. See also: chord-based.

An accompanist is one who plays an accompaniment. A number of classical pianist
A pianist is a musician who plays the piano. A professional pianist can perform solo pieces, play with an ensemble or orchestra, or accompany one or more singers, solo instrumentalists, or other performers.-Choice of genres:...

s have become famous as accompanists rather than soloists; the best known example is probably Gerald Moore
Gerald Moore
Gerald Moore CBE was an English pianist best known for his career as one of the most in-demand accompanists of his day, accompanying many of the world's most famous musicians...

, well known as a Lied
is a German word literally meaning "song", usually used to describe romantic songs setting German poems of reasonably high literary aspirations, especially during the nineteenth century, beginning with Carl Loewe, Heinrich Marschner, and Franz Schubert and culminating with Hugo Wolf...

er accompanist. In some American schools, the title collaborative pianist (or collaborative artist) is replacing the title accompanist.

An accompaniment figure is a musical gesture used repeatedly in an accompaniment, such as:
  • Alberti bass
    Alberti bass
    Alberti bass is a particular kind of accompaniment in music, often used in the Classical era, and sometimes the Romantic era. It was named after Domenico Alberti , who used it extensively, although he was not the first to use it....

     and other arpeggio
    An arpeggio is a musical technique where notes in a chord are played or sung in sequence, one after the other, rather than ringing out simultaneously...

  • Ostinati
    In music, an ostinato is a motif or phrase, which is persistently repeated in the same musical voice. An ostinato is always a succession of equal sounds, wherein each note always has the same weight or stress. The repeating idea may be a rhythmic pattern, part of a tune, or a complete melody in...

     figures (repeated lines) or , in popular music, riff
    The Resource Interchange File Format is a generic file container format for storing data in tagged chunks. It is primarily used to store multimedia such as sound and video, though it may also be used to store any arbitrary data....


Notated accompaniment may be indicated obbligato
In classical music obbligato usually describes a musical line that is in some way indispensable in performance. Its opposite is the marking ad libitum. It can also be used, more specifically, to indicate that a passage of music was to be played exactly as written, or only by the specified...

 (obliged) or ad libitum
Ad libitum
Ad libitum is Latin for "at one's pleasure"; it is often shortened to "ad lib" or "ad-lib"...

 (at one's pleasure).

Dialogue accompaniment is a form of call and response
Call and response (music)
In music, a call and response is a succession of two distinct phrases usually played by different musicians, where the second phrase is heard as a direct commentary on or response to the first...

 in which the lead and accompaniment alternate, the accompaniment playing during the rests
Rest (music)
A rest is an interval of silence in a piece of music, marked by a sign indicating the length of the pause. Each rest symbol corresponds with a particular note value:The quarter rest may also be found as a form in older music....

 of the lead and providing a drone
Drone (music)
In music, a drone is a harmonic or monophonic effect or accompaniment where a note or chord is continuously sounded throughout most or all of a piece. The word drone is also used to refer to any part of a musical instrument that is just used to produce such an effect.-A musical effect:A drone...

 or silence during the main melody or vocal.

Basso continuo is a form of notation used especially in Baroque music
Baroque music
Baroque music describes a style of Western Classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1760. This era follows the Renaissance and was followed in turn by the Classical era...

 accompaniment parts.

The term accompanist is also used to refer to a musician (generally pianist) who will not necessarily be participating in the performance of a piece of drama that utilizes music (musical theater, opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

, etc.) but is used during an audition
An audition is a sample performance by an actor, singer, musician, dancer or other performing artist.Audition may also refer to:* The sense of hearing* Adobe Audition, audio editing software...

 or rehearsal
For other uses, see Rehearsal or Dress rehearsal A rehearsal is a preparatory event in music and theatre that is performed before the official public performance, as a form of practice, and to ensure that all details of the performance are adequately prepared and coordinated for professional...

in lieu of the actual musician(s).
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