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  • Writer's pictureKiara Eijo

The Do's and Don'ts of working with a Pianist

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

In my 17 years of playing the flute, I have worked with a variety of different pianists. I didn't start playing major flute repertoire with a pianist until I got to my junior year of high school and it wasn't until I got to my undergrad (around my freshman or sophomore years) that I really learned how to properly work with a pianist. I should mention if I haven't mentioned it before that my undergrad actually took me five years to complete but in hindsight, that extra year actually helped me. Throughout my college years (grad school included), there are lessons that I had to learn about working with a pianist along the way. So if you are interested in the do's and don'ts of working with a pianist, then keep on reading!😊


1. Do Give your pianist the music that you're working on in advance

When working with a pianist, the best thing that you can do for them is to give them the music that you're working at least 3 months in advance. Doing this will give them time to learn the accompaniment of the piece that you're working on (especially if they are playing the piece for the first time). Your pianist will thank you for it.😁

2. Don't show up to rehearsal unprepared

The worst thing that you can do on your first rehearsal with your pianist is to show up unprepared. To give you a long story short, my senior year of high school I chose a piece that was too hard for me to play for Solo and Ensemble, my pianist was upset that I showed up unprepared (It was mostly because I didn't really know how to count compound meter yet) and she pretty much told me "I'm not here to teach you your part; I'm here to accompany you". Basically, that performance was a disaster for both of us and it manifested in me a fear of playing with pianists. My point is when you show up unprepared, you're not only wasting your time but you're wasting your pianist's time.😬

3. Do study the score

I find this to be extremely important because when you study the score of the sonata, concerto, or show piece (or Flash Trash Piece as my masters flute teacher calls them ) that you're working on, it'll be easier to communicate with your pianist about what you want in regards to phrasing, dynamic contrast, tempo changes, any cuts you plan to make, etc. My best performances with a pianist have occurred when I really studied the score and I communicated to them what I was looking for.😊

4. Don't treat them badly

What I mean by that is to treat your pianist with respect; a lot of pianists that I have talked to actually don't like the word accompanist because it makes them feel like that they are somehow below the person they're playing with. Playing with your pianist is a collaborative effort especially if you're playing something like the Brahms Violin Sonatas or the Reinecke "Undine" Sonata for Flute and Piano, or the Prokofiev Flute Sonata Op.94 or the Martinu First Sonata for Flute and Piano even because those pieces that I mentioned have very active piano parts. If you treat your pianist badly, then it's very likely that they won't want to work with you again.😔

5. Do Build a Rapport with your pianist

One of the best things that you can do as a young musician, is to network and that especially is important when working with a pianist. I can honestly say that some of my best performances happened with pianists I have already built a relationship with. For example, in my Junior Recital for my undergrad, I got to play with one of my good friends from school and the following year, I played my Senior Recital with two of my teachers which I mentioned in my performance anxiety story which you can read here .🥰

6. Don't Shoot down any suggestions that your pianist gives you

The most beautiful thing about working with a pianist is when the soloist and the pianist are exchanging ideas to each other. If you shoot down any suggestions that your pianist gives you, then it seems like you are telling your pianist what to do. Believe it or not, a lot of pianists that I've talked to love that aspect of playing with other instruments and as I mentioned in the second don't, If you disrespect your pianist in any way but especially if they're trying to collaborate with you, then it's likely that they will not want to play with you again.😕

7. Do ask your pianist if they need a page turner

Depending on what you're playing, I believe that it is important to ask your pianist if they need a page turner. Especially if the piece that you're learning has a challenging piano part (Most Common in 20th Century and Contemporary Music), even if your pianist says no, it's still nice to ask them in case they do need one. Your pianist will appreciate it☺️

In Conclusion,

A lot of these things I had to learn them the hard way because to tell you the truth, I didn't really know how to properly work with a pianist until I got to my undergrad and that was partly because of the fact that I didn't have consistent private lessons until I got to my undergrad. It was my first undergrad flute teacher Suzan Degooyer who showed me how to properly work with a pianist and I should add that on top of having a Masters in Flute Performance, she also has a second Masters Degree in Piano Performance so there were a few lessons where she would actually play the piano accompaniment of whatever piece that I was working on at the time.

Thanks for making it to the end!!!😁❤️

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See you Later!!!👋❤️😁💕

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