I think the way we play our piano parts should depend on who else is playing with us! If you’re like me you find yourself in many different situations and ensembles. Sometimes it’s just you on piano with a singer. Another time it’s you on piano with a singer and solo instrument. Other times it’s you on piano with a full band…and so on. All of that should really dictate how we orchestrate our piano arrangements so that we can have the best musical accompaniment.
Look at the two examples below. The first example shows how I might typically play this familiar song on the piano if I were the only instrument playing. It’s pretty ‘filled-out.’ In other words, I’m trying to make it sound as full as possible, by adding notes in between the strong beats and playing lower bass notes.
(If it appears too small, you can try this link) STT Example 1
The second example shows how I might play this song if there were guitars and percussion/drums playing along. There is no longer a need for me to fill it out as much. The guitar(s) would be strumming a 6/8 rhythm, the bass would be adding the low notes, the drums would be adding rhythm…so the piano can just play on the strong beats, maybe adding a ‘lick’ here or there.
Additionally, if a solo instrument is playing a melody (like in an intro or outro) let them have it. Don’t just double it because it’s in the piano part. Let your ears lead you.
I think many times we forget to change up our playing when we are playing with other instruments. We make the mistake of playing the accompaniment as we always do, and just end up competing and even clashing with the other players. We all need to leave room for each other. Pay attention to this the next time you have a rehearsal and see if there are any adjustments that can be made to tighten up the sound.