Guidelines for a ‘Sideman System’


This post details and specifies guidelines for “Sideman System”. A Sideman System is any system that abides by a philosophy that ALWAYS puts the Musician in complete control of his/her performance. That is, it is the the user’s performance that dictates and controls the system. A well-designed Sideman System will NEVER take control away from the musician and attempt to ‘drive the performance’.

There are literally hundreds of “user performance features” that a good Sideman System must recognize and abide by. Here are just a few examples:

  • volume variations
  • Pause, Halt and Resume
  • Tempo variations
  • ‘Feel’ (amount of ‘swing’, legato, staccato,…)
  • Time Signature
  • Chords (from three-note chords to chords containing extend scale degrees such as 7th, 9th, 11th, altered dominant, and even ‘rootless’ chord)
  • Chord Voicings (there are hundreds to be analyzed)
  • Bass Notes that accompany chords (such as FMaj over C)
  • Chord Progression (eg. II-V-I)
  • Key Signature
  • Various combinations of LH Bass, Chords and RH soloing.
  • Chord Arpeggiations


When a Sideman system accurately captures all this information, it can then use this information to ENHANCE the user’s performance – NOT LEAD IT. Possibilities include such performance enhancements as:

  • Bass accompaniment
  • Chordal accompaniment
  • Percussion accompaniment
  • Guitar accompaniment
  • Brass and String accompaniment
  • Melodic accompaniment

A key feature of a Sideman System is that the only ‘input’ required is a MIDI performance. As such, there is no requirement for physical controls such as buttons, switches, sliders, LEDs, displays, or menus – only MIDI IN and MIDI OUT are required. This system can be used either for personal use or as part of a professional setting. It is also ideally suited for the Visually Impaired (VI) pianist.

None of a Sideman System’s generated accompaniment is “canned” or “pre-recorded” – but rather generated in real-time in response to the user’s performance. A trivial example might be when the performer ‘pauses’ his playing: all accompaniment should likewise ‘pause’. Or if the performer plays an unrecognizable chord (aka ‘bad chord’): all chordal and melodic accompaniment is silenced and suspended. Modal accompaniment that depends on the user’s Key Signature is immediately silenced and suspended when a Key Signature changes or is ‘lost’.

The software included in the Sideman System from Pro-Piano predates the MIDI 1.0 specification published in 1983. This software is written in C (using the ‘gcc’ compiler) and will run on any Linux laptop (or even an inexpensive single board computer (SBC) such as the Raspberry Pi). It will work with any MIDI piano (such as the Yamaha MX series, which includes an internal Tone Generator). For those who prefer the superb voices of a high-end Tone Generator, simply connect Sideman’s MIDI OUT to the tone generator of your choice.

The Magic 12 (Repost)

In this lesson we explore the piano keyboard with our left hand. There are only seven white notes and five black notes that we need to locate and learn. We discuss how the group of five black notes are arranged into a group of 2 and a group of 3. We learn to scan and find these five black notes (‘Home Position‘) in order to locate Middle C. We then slide our hand down from the five black notes to land with our little finger on Middle C, and then play the seven white notes C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. At this point we can play all twelve notes of the piano (the Magic 12). The ability to find Home Position and Middle C is extremely important because it prepares our left hand for playing jazz chords in a range just above Middle C.