Ideally, all of the pieces for cello and accompaniment available in the Repertoire Library will come either with a play-along accompaniment audio file or with a link to another website from where this audio file can be obtained. If the audio accompaniment is made by cellofun.eu, then it will be downloadable for free on this site.
WHY USE PLAY-ALONG ACCOMPANIMENTS ?
Learning to play an instrument (or a piece of music) requires many hours of solitary dedication. This is unfortunate: not only is it not very enjoyable to play music all on our own, but it can also even be unhealthy, both musically and socially. Playing with real, live musicians is much more fun than playing with prerecorded ones, but when we have nobody else to play with, a prerecorded accompaniment is a better companion than silence or a metronome. From a social point of view, playing with a pre-recorded accompaniment is no different to practicing alone, but from a musical point of view, it is much healthier than playing alone. The pre-recorded accompaniment allows us to hear all the music – not just our own voice. This is absolutely essential if we are to understand a piece musically and not just play it like a metronomic autistic prima-donna machine. To get an even better appreciation of what is going on in the accompaniment it can be very useful to simply listen to it, without playing a single note on the cello: we can just sing the cello part or imagine ourselves playing it.
RUBATO AND AURAL REFERENCES
Most of the accompaniments offered on this site are made by cellofun.eu and use considerable rubato. We wanted them to be as musical, as human and as expressive as possible. Sometimes, to avoid the need for an intrusive click-track (metronome), extra notes have been added to the accompaniments in order to make the cello entries (and the rubato) absolutely clear. These extra “musical references” are indicated in the cello parts. By avoiding clicks and other non-musical noises in the accompaniments, we can actually use these accompaniment tracks to perform with when we have no accompanist.
CHANGING THE ACCOMPANIMENT SPEED
Changing the speed of the accompaniments is easy. The “Amazing Slowdowner” from www.ronimusic.com is a truly excellent program and costs around 40€. This program can also change the key of the accompaniment as well as alter (fine-tune) the basic pitch (A = 440hz or any other pitch we want). An alternative free option for speed changes can be found at www.abrsm.org/speedshifter.
PLAY-ALONG ACCOMPANIMENT WEBSITES
Many of these now exist, with different degrees of quality and success. There are more sites available for vocal music than for instrumental music. Here is a list of some of them. For instrumental music, piano-accompaniments.com is one. Unfortunately the click-tracks here can be quite disturbing, and sometimes I wonder if it is a computer playing rather than a real pianist. Virtualsheetmusic.com has a huge library of both scores and play-along accompaniments which can be accessed for free after paying a small annual fee. The accompaniments are MIDI files so the sound quality is not sufficient for performance but perfectly adequate as an aid to learning our pieces.