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pogo97

flat-tops and pianos

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I recently was playing piano behind a flat-top playing singer. Luckily she's a great singer. But I've been thinking lately that, for acoustic reasons, flat-top guitar and piano are a challenging mix: too alike, mostly, a strummed guitar punches a gigantic hole in the middle of the piano. The pianist is expected to deal with this.

 

Two questions: 1) what are some outstanding and successful examples of piano and flat-top recorded together

2) what can I (and she) do to minimize stomping on each others' feet?

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I recently was playing piano behind a flat-top playing singer. Luckily she's a great singer. But I've been thinking lately that, for acoustic reasons, flat-top guitar and piano are a challenging mix: too alike, mostly, a strummed guitar punches a gigantic hole in the middle of the piano. The pianist is expected to deal with this.

 

Two questions: 1) what are some outstanding and successful examples of piano and flat-top recorded together

2) what can I (and she) do to minimize stomping on each others' feet?

 

1. Probably way too many to name. There's loads of songs that use both acoustic piano and a flat-top acoustic guitar as part of their musical arrangements.

 

2. Watch the arrangement. Make sure you're playing different (or at least complimentary) chord inversions and / or rhythmic patterns, don't play unison lines (or chords), and try to stay out of the same octave - unless you're trying to blend the two instruments together to create a composite sound; in which case, playing in unison is exactly what you want to do. One very common approach is to let the piano handle the bass lines and do minimal comping, with more emphasis on right hand fills and embellishments, while letting the acoustic guitar handle the more straight-ahead rhythmic parts / strumming.

 

 

Here's just a few songs that use both piano and acoustic guitar in their arrangements... there's zillions more out there.

 

 

[video=youtube;iX_TFkut1PM]

 

 

[video=youtube;DtVBCG6ThDk]

 

 

[video=youtube;fao953vyeIM]

 

 

[video=youtube;LZHJajD6T-M]

 

 

[video=youtube;rAtDrFdomN4]

 

 

[video=youtube;DupyAkOZLYA]

 

 

[video=youtube;bKh6hbLGj3o]

 

 

[video=youtube;VyK1bZZ7E-s]

 

 

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Wow! thank you, Phil. Great examples. I skimmed them just now and caught some ideas:

 

- EQ the guitar to be pure jangle -- in the ride cymbal range and give the mids to the piano

- once EQed treat the guitar as part of the drum kit -- in the Freddie Green tradition of harmonizing the beat

- put the two instruments piano hard left and guitar hard right (piano on the right is just wrong)

- the above is best used in a full band setting so the guitar blends with the kit

Elton John does this in a pretty huge setting

the Stones *really* get this

 

Burritos in a smaller setting without the high pass EQ on the guitar -- I think removing the guitar entirely would have improved the mix at this point in the song

 

(Tom Petty) moves from the above to the opposite -- muffled guitar and kinda jangly piano in a sparse setting -- works very nicely as a sonic break

 

American Pie is pretty jumbly and high-school gym sounding but separates by sending the NOL-style piano to the back of the sage and putting the strummed guitar about a foot from your face. The piano plays an octave or so above the guitar as well.

 

Do you have any examples where it's *just* flat-top and piano? Even for a little bit?

Edited by pogo97
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pogo,you have a couple of things to deal with. The guitar, for all its marvelous aspects, sits primarily in the range of the human voice, whereas the piano has much more range. Because you have a singer, an acoustic guitar and a piano, it is typically incumbent on the pianist to get out of the way...like Phil said, work the left hand on the bass line, work the right on fills and leaders.

I work with a number of keyboardists, and singer/guitarists, aside from my solo work and band work, and have learned over the years that it is a lot like playing with a horn section: playing big fat chords is not the best approach when working with another polyphonic instrument. Spend some time looking at how she is playing guitar, and suggest she 'narrow' her strumming to 3 or 4 strings, or to pick arpeggios, leaving some space for everything to breathe. It is all about the dynamics, and if all you are doing is projecting a big fat constant wall of sound, the audience will feel inundated, and likely will not stay for long. :wave:

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