Investigating the role of score following in automatic musical accompaniment

Anna Jordanous, Alan Smaill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When suitable accompanists are not available to a soloist musician, an alternative possibility is to use computer-generated accompaniment. A computer accompanist should interact with the soloist and adapt to the soloist's playing as a human accompanist would, both reacting to expressive nuances of tempo and to unintentional errors such as wrong or mistimed notes. Over the past 25 years, accompaniment systems have been developed, all of which employ some form of score following: the process of following a musician's progress through the score of a piece during performance. This work considers the role of score following in automatic accompaniment. In this investigation we developed a computer accompanist that employs score following. Our computer musician uses Hidden Markov Models to model the score by metrical structure and to provide accompaniment to a soloist playing monophonic music in real time, as the soloist is playing. Working with MIDI input/output, it tracks tempo fluctuations, anticipates the soloist's next note and supports some amount of unintentional deviation from the score. Qualitative evaluation, by human testers, and quantitative evaluation, using measurable criteria taken from MIREX, reported that the system performs adequately. We then used interviews with eight human accompanists to consider how well a score following system models the accompaniment process. This evaluation raises questions about the musical interaction between soloist and accompanist that have received relatively little attention. The information we gathered from interviews suggests the importance of other aspects of accompaniment, such as the sharing of shape of the performance between musicians, rather than treating the accompanist as purely subservient. We discuss the implications of these issues for the design of automated accompanists.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-209
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of New Music Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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