What do singers want in a pianist?

What do singers want in a pianist?

Jenna Simeonov

There was an interesting post on Reddit the other day, from a pianist asking for some beginner’s tips on working with a singer. Presumably coming from singers or more experienced coaches, some of the comments mentioned:

  • the importance of translating foreign-language texts,
  • knowing some basics of diction (arguably a bit of a can of worms),
  • policing the singer’s pitch and rhythmic accuracy,
  • figuring out where the singer will breathe, and
  • breathing with them when they do.

It’s a good list, even if each item inevitably branches off into a life-long pursuit of its own. A pianist who sticks to this list is certainly more valuable to a singer than a pianist who doesn’t, but grasping the basics doesn’t necessarily make for an indispensable partner.

Pianists who work with singers tend to pride themselves on being an anticipator of needs. A great pianist seems to know before the singer does if they need an emergency breath, could use some extra hang-time on a high note, or wants a friendly push in tempo. Yet just as married-for-decades couples can still manage to surprise each other, even the best of pianist-singer relationships aren’t perfectly telepathic.

The question has us thinking: what is it that singers really want - even need - in their pianists? Do they want an agile dance partner of sorts, who stays flexible and ready to follow a singer’s lead? Do they want backbone, even resistance in their music-making? Do they want a pianist who will err on the faster side of a tempo? Do they want more left hand? Quieter page turns?

Readers, we know that there are singers among you. So, we’re sending the questions your way:

What do you want in a pianist? And how can pianists make themselve indispensable to singers?

Related Content


Unlike other sites, we're keeping Schmopera ad-free. We want to keep our site clean and our opinions our own. Support us for as little as $1.00 per month.