Sunday, October 4, 2009

Is It Asking Too Much for a Decent Pianist?

Sunday evening musings...

It's a two blog entry day!

I am asking the question - why can we not have just competent pianists for auditions????

A pet peeve that has once again reared its ugly head today...

Why is it asking too much for casting directors, producers and artistic directors and general managers, if running an open call and claim to have a pianist in house, to have a pianist who can play the repertoire?!?!?

Even if what the artist needs isn't important - don't you who sit at the audition table want your time used well? Why waste it with incompetence??? If the pianist cannot play well enough to support the singer then everything becomes a disaster and a fatigue. We are not asking for outstanding but competent would be lovely.

I did an audition about a year ago that was a disaster - the pianist didn't know the song (!) and said so (!!) and proceeded to GET LOST in a 32 bar cut! After the 3rd time pointing to the music as I was singing to show her where I was, I stopped asked if I could just play for myself...un-freaking-believable!!

Lately a student told me that the pianist looked at her selection and said "I don't think I can play that, what else do you have in your book?" Thank goodness that student had enough grit and centre to say "I am not here to give you something you know, I am singing this - if you can't play it I will sing it a cappella"!!!!

Why wouldn't the "powers that be" want to hear the singer at their best - therefore, provide a pianist who can PLAY THE REPERTOIRE?!?!?!?

What is the difference between getting a less than mediocre pianist and a decent pianist who knows the repertoire and can play it? $100? $200???? Are you KIDDING ME?!!?!??!

That's IT?!?!?! Why not pay the freight and get some decent auditions instead of a disappointing day????

Good and great pianists are worth EVERY PENNY they charge!!! They provide knowledge, support, understanding, musicality, sight reading skills, improv skills, and an incredible asset to both the singer auditioning and the people sitting at the table!!!

Don't just look at what something costs people - but look at what it is WORTH!!!

A good and great pianist is worth far more than what they charge for a day of auditioning. The difference between a poor pianist who doesn't play for singers or for auditions regularly or doesn't coach or know the repertoire and a great pianist is worth their weight in GOLD!!! It can make the audition day go smoothly - singers are happy and can relax and do their best work; the audition panel can sit back and really hear what the singer is capable of instead of guessing around the incompetence of a poor pianist...

Are there good and great pianists out there?!?!? OF COURSE THERE ARE!!!! And if they are treated with respect and dignity, will be more than happy to provide a much-needed service for their fee. They give no attitude, they are supportive and empathetic and will give positive feedback and understanding and provide a service and a spirit that a singer can relax into and therefore, do their best work in the circumstance. What a concept...

If CDS would provide a great pianist - artists would begin to have more respect for the process. They would offer what they really do well instead of trying to guess what to sing in case they get a crappy pianist!

Imagine, singing an audition with something you do well - and not worrying about whether the pianist could play it??!!!!

I would love to see these marvellous pianists being hired to play for auditions all the time - and be given their due! They need to be paid because they deserve to be paid well for their time and their expertise!!

Learn what expertise is worth and pay for it! Know that the results will be beyond your expectations and true artists will have an opportunity to truly show you what they are about in an audition instead of worrying whether the tempo is even close or the notes are right or the rhythms are there.

If it is simply a matter of a couple hundred dollars difference between poor and pathetic to great and marvellous - are you KIDDING ME?!?!?!?

HIRE THOSE FABULOUS PIANISTS!!!!!!!!!!!! We need them in the audition room as artists - and so does the audition panel! I will send you names and emails if you need them!!


  1. Even though I'm not in "the biz," (but have experienced poor accompaniment -- and then blamed myself), this just sounds like plain old COMMON SENSE to me.

  2. My only thought on WHY an incompetent pianist is hired (outside of the money factor) is some sick masochistic desire of the CD to see how we handle things under less than ideal circumstances. This is probably never the case, but....just the crazy way my mind works.

    I did an audition once where the accompanist wore SUNGLASSES, was condescending when I was telling him how I wanted the piece played, didn't play it that way, and to top it all off, the piano was so out of tune I couldn't even tell if I was on pitch.

  3. woooowwwweeee! I second Ariana's comment about masochistic Casting Directors. Just yesterday I went to audition with BOTH a CD and sheet music in hand, (we were told we could bring either one) the casting agents asked me to use the pianist, So I complied against my better judgment. The pianist played my music 4xfaster then I had coached her when she asked me "how fast do you want it?" and just butchered my music completely. Fortunately, I have a big mouth, but un-frigging-believable!

    Pre- recorded back tracks are PURE gold to me for this reason. A bad accompanist at an audition can ruin you so fast. I know I spend a lot of my free time and money, searching the Internet for fantastic backing tracks to protect me from this scenario. It is really hard to find back tracks for older more complicated orchestrations (operatic) or less popular music. I don't want to sing what is popular or what I can scrounge up a backtrack for! I want to sing what I sing well! I agree wholeheartedly Susan- why should an accompanists lack of skills determine what I choose to sing to showcase my talents at their best? It is infuriating.

    The true pianists need to be hired - AND YESTERDAY! No artist should be put in this position....thanks for all your comments!

  5. Wahine - Do you know about They are just piano tracks - they have a ton of stuff, and are brilliant in that - along with the accompaniment track, they also offer a vocal melody track and a pronunciation track. It's all downloads - so you get it immediately, and, of course, you can burn them to CD. They also offer a yearly membership which is only $39.99 which gives you unlimited downloads. For $49.99 they will produce a track you want that they don't have.

    I am primarily a musical theatre and operetta singer, but this site has been INCREDIBLY helpful to me when I've needed or wanted to learn an aria.