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#1004794 - 09/13/08 05:47 AM What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
al_spinner Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/21/05
Posts: 129
Loc: San Francisco
What piece do you usually play if someone with a piano/keyboard asks you to "play something"? I was recently at a friend's party and mentioned I was taking piano lessons, which inevitably brought about the dreaded "play something for us!" Apart from doing part of a Bach invention I couldn't think of a single thing I could play! Embarrassing! Of course I had nothing memorized and didn't have any music with me... :rolleyes:

Has anyone run into this "problem" of having to "impress" people? Given all this, does anyone have any suggestions on relatively simple fail-proof pieces that are easily memorized that isn't "Chopsticks"?!

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#1004795 - 09/13/08 09:20 AM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
bluekeys Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/07
Posts: 1337
Luckily, for me that problem only happens once -- after people hear me play, they seldom ask again. \:D

Two pieces I use for that purpose are Comptine 'd une Autre Ete (Yann Tierson) and Imagine (John Lennon). Both are pretty easy but sound harder than they are, and I've been playing them long enough that I rarely make a lot of mistakes.

There's also the dreaded Fur Elise, but I hate the way everyone cringes as soon as they hear the first 5 notes. :rolleyes: (One trick on Fur Elise is to start with the B section, which is a lot less familiar and a lot more impressive.)

LOL!

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#1004796 - 09/13/08 09:40 AM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
Nannerl Mozart Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/19/08
Posts: 732
Loc: Australia, Melbourne
Happens all the time. Whats worse is "sing something!" ... I'll normally say "I dont have an accompanist!" ... its no excuse, I end up doing accapella things ... I've gotten into the habit of predicting things ... any party, I WILL bring a backing CD to sing if requested.

With playing I take my music with me everywhere where I will predict someone will ask. Either that or you can memorise.
_________________________
http://colouredsilence.wordpress.com/


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#1004797 - 09/13/08 12:20 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
RaGe Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/27/08
Posts: 26
Loc: Paris, France
I fake an injury or pretend I am expected on the other side of town in like 5 minutes. \:\)


Usually I play something most people already know like Someday My Prince Will Come or Autumn Leaves.

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#1004798 - 09/13/08 12:33 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17698
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
I fall down and kiss their feet, because usually I have chase after folks and ask to play for them. \:D

I really do enjoy requests to play, as I know that the only way to become comfortable with playing for others is to do it regularly and as often as possible.

I tend to memorize just about everything I work on, and at any point in time I have an hour and half's worth of material I can play by memory. So I normally choose to play the Einaudi piece I feel most comfortable with, in terms of having the fewest tricky parts technically and having it memorized cold. That's usually "I due fiumi" or "I giorni."
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1004799 - 09/13/08 04:01 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
Rickster Online   content


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8067
Loc: Georgia, USA
Interesting thread.

When no one is around I can think of lots of tunes/songs I can play reasonably good enough to tell what the tune is (not that I play it all that well \:D ). When someone else is watching and listening, I lose my train of thought.

A quick little story… I work at a small community college. Several weeks ago a lady came to my classroom and asked me if I would play the piano for a Rotary Club luncheon. I say, “I’m flattered that you would ask me to play the piano for your luncheon, but I can’t play that well”. She says “you can play well enough as for as I’m concerned”. I say, "well, thanks, but I can’t play that many songs”. She says, "well, just play everything you know and then start over and play it again”. I say, “You all must be really desperate for entertainment” \:D , and then I agree to play.

So, there I was in the college cafeteria area that they also use for an auditorium area. They have a small platform where they have a small Checkering baby grand (that was out-of-tune). I look out at the audience of about 200 Rotary club members, (doctors, lawyers, business professionals, community leaders, etc…), the college administrators, and guests, among whom included the State Commissioner of Labor. After I assess the situation and try to get my heart to slow down a bit and my hands to stop shaking and trembling, I begin to play. I start out with “Amazing Grace”. I get some smiles and a nod from the lady who asked me to play.

So-far-so-good. Then, I begin to play what I know of Beethoven’s’ Fur Elise; I get more smiles. When I realize that the audience is more interested in what they are having for lunch than my piano playing, my confidence level begins to build. I start playing a little blues boogie woogie; I get more smiles. After I play everything I know how to reasonably play, I start over again with Amazing Grace.

After about 45 minutes of playing, the speaker gets up and starts the meeting and thanks me publically for playing the piano for them. It was a great experience (but I don’t know if they will ever invite me to play again \:D ).

Sorry for the long post, but I thought you all might enjoy the story. \:\)

Take care,

Rickster
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#1004800 - 09/13/08 04:59 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
AnthonyB Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/28/07
Posts: 659
Loc: Center City, MN
I've not played for anyone else outside of my home environment. I did play "I due fiumi" when we had some company over for my nephew's third birthday party. I might have also played "Limbo" but I don't remember if that was before or after the guests were here. The company weren't in the same room that I was so I didn't have to deal with them watching me play.

I play on a digital at home and I'm not sure how I would adjust to an upright or a grand.
_________________________
Roland FP-7 / Pianoteq 4.5.1


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#1004801 - 09/13/08 05:07 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
Schubertian Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 937
Loc: Dallas, TX, US
I had a teacher years ago who insisted that I have something memorized and up to speed at all times for just this circumstance. It has never happened but it's not a bad idea. I chose the Chopin Op 9 No 2 Nocturne because 1) it is not Fuer Elise 2) it is a pretty likable piece that most people wont mind sitting through.
_________________________
'Always remember: the higher we fly the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.""
- Nietzsche

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#1004802 - 09/13/08 05:13 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
If you want to decline, this usually works:

"I'll play if you'll sing!"

Say it with a big grin, leaning forward in your chair as though you're going to rise, it's pretty convincing.

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#1004803 - 09/13/08 05:16 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
Mike White Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/22/05
Posts: 518
Loc: 90 miles West of New Orleans
That's funny, Betty. Since I play by ear, I usually say, "if you can sing it, I can play it". Not many take me up on the offer because they can't sing.
_________________________
My Recordings. Please feel free to comment or to ask a question.

Yamaha G3 & P-80 Digital

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#1004804 - 09/13/08 05:18 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
This is the best argument I can think of for memorizing all your pieces. You can sit down anywhere and play for yourself, or others, without being hopelessly tied to the music. You can also impart more emotion and fluidity to the piece, since you are not using your vision to read the notes and keep your place. It is much like the difference between an actor reading his lines from a script versus naturally delivering them as if he were having a conversation. Which would YOU rather hear?
To answer your original question, I play as many of the following as the audience would like to hear:

Elegie by Rachmaninoff
Fantaisie Impromptu by Chopin
Five Chopin Waltzes from opus 64
Four Chopin Nocturnes from opus 9
Five Bach two and three part Inventions
Ten Chopin Preludes
Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven
First Movement of the Schumann Piano Sonata #1
Claire de Lune
The Swan by San Saens
Send in the Clowns by Sondheim
Prelude #4 by Shostakovich
_________________________
Piano Technician/Tuner

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#1004805 - 09/13/08 05:24 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4667
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Most of the time I find "play something" means play a popular tune for us so we can all sing and tap our feet. Since I don't touch this kind of music my usual response is to demure because my prospective audience clearly does not want to hear a long, complex classical piece. On the other hand, if I know they like classical, I might play a Bach prelude and fugue or perhaps a movement of a Mozart sonata...something not too long. I'd love to find a attentive audience who would sit quietly and really listen for 30 minutes but that's rare.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#1004806 - 09/13/08 05:48 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17698
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
 Quote:
Originally posted by Rickster:
Sorry for the long post, but I thought you all might enjoy the story. \:\)
[/b]
Absolutely!! And congratulations to you on performing in such a high-pressure context!
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1004807 - 09/13/08 06:27 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
Mati Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/05
Posts: 1276
Loc: Lodz, Poland
I got all my pieces I know memorized, because I hate being tied to the music. oh, well - that's not really true! In fact it's because I am a hopeless sightreader, therefore playing fluently without memorizing first never come clean.

That means when I am asked to play, I do one of the following:

- Chopin Nocturne in C# minor posthumous
- To Zanarkand by Nobuo Uematsu (Final fantasy)
- Comptine ... by Yann Tiersen
- 1st Movement of Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven

I have some more pieces started, but I don't feel confident with them to play for anyone \:\) I, unfortunately, forgot some pieces I knew and I would have trouble playing them from music without one - two days of re-learning.

Nice thread - it's great to hear what others do in such situations \:\)

M.
_________________________
Mateusz Papiernik
My youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Maticomp
"One man can make a difference" - Wilton Knight
Kawai CN21 (digital), Henryk Yamayuri Kawai NX-40 (grand)

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#1004808 - 09/13/08 07:15 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
SAnnM AB-2001 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/20/04
Posts: 2022
Loc: Canada
Well...if I could actually calm my nerves enough to play for anyone, my 5 or 6 two(ish)-minute pieces would soon become monotonous after a very short while.

Hey you guys who can throw off a Chopin Nocturne or two and those who can "I'll play it if you can sing it".......wow!! Kudos!!
_________________________
It's the journey not the destination..

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#1004809 - 09/13/08 07:24 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
Cyborg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/19/05
Posts: 270
Loc: Charleston, SC
Well, part of my problem is that I try not memorize any pieces on purpose. I keep thinking my sight-reading will be better for it. I actually have to work at not memorizing pieces since I tend memorize things too well.

Of course, I've been burned by the "play something for us since you take lesons" request. I had a couple of pieces memorized for my fomral recital but as soon as it was done I moved on.

I'm currently working on an arrangement of "The Star Spangled Banner" and my wife has requested that I keep that one available. I really should build a repetoire of memorized pieces but I'm always working on so much current material that I don't want to spend time going over older stuff. It's a bad attitude to have but I'm being honest.
_________________________
I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.

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#1004810 - 09/13/08 08:37 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
miss sharon Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/24/08
Posts: 28
Loc: colorado
I adore classical music but most people who ask me to "play something"...don't! So I play a few songs I call "coctail lounge songs" that people seem to like and even break out dancing to at times. Songs like Old Cape Cod, Misty, I'll Take Manhattan and my favotire Beatles song, Yesterday. Happy dancing you guys!
_________________________
Peeples Piano Instruction

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#1004811 - 09/13/08 10:07 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
Roger Ransom Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/19/05
Posts: 1227
Loc: SouthWest Michigan
It depends on where I am. If I am away from home (and thus away from my piano and music) I usually just play some variation of the 12 bar blues in C. You can do it in almost any style and make it fit most tastes except classical.

If I am at home I have thousands of songs in Fake Books and usually ask them what type of music they like and I can easily find music to fit it.

Almost the same with classics except I don't let them make requests because I almost certainly would not know it. I have a hard cover library I bought many many years ago that has most popular classical pieces. Or I get our my Chopin Nocturnes and a few others I can do pretty well.

If they don't like it they certainly will not ask again.
_________________________
Laugh More
Yamaha G7 - Roland FP7

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#1004812 - 09/14/08 12:54 AM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1484
Loc: NY
Years ago, I used to play for my local organ clubs. The favorites/requests were always the oldies and especially Latin tunes such as "Spanish Eyes", "Brazil", "Besame Mucho", "Tico-Tico", "Cumana", "Granada", etc. \:\)

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#1004813 - 09/14/08 03:18 AM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
RaGe Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/27/08
Posts: 26
Loc: Paris, France
One of my ex teachers, a jazz guy, knew hundreds of songs by heart. He knew all the jazz standards, most of the Real Book, lots of classical and all-you-can-eat pop songs. I think it comes more from good ears than memory.
Like I said before I always play popular tunes and keep them short.

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#1004814 - 09/14/08 08:33 AM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
BearLake Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/16/08
Posts: 144
Loc: SE Idaho
Since I enjoy sight reading, my first inclination is play music that might be available at the piano. If nothing is available I play a medley of pieces. I've developed a repertoire of highlights of various genres from classical to ragtime. My goal is to keep it short with a lot of variety.

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#1004815 - 09/14/08 09:39 AM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
Donna R. Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/26/07
Posts: 794
Rickster, I loved your story. al_spinner, at the moment I have three pieces that consistently pass the AAA test (anywhere, anytime, for anyone), the Petzold Minuet in G from Anna Magdalena, an easy piano arrangement of "Octopus's Garden" and a piece called "Paris" from a collection by Daniel Hellbach, a Swiss pedagogical composer. (If it's anywhere near the holidays I can add two more, "Silent Night" and "The Coventry Carol", but I draw the line at playing those for others in spring or mid-summer!) My aim is to eventually have a Beatles medley (I'm currently working on "Strawberry Fields Forever" and have "Here Comes the Sun" in my sights after that) and an Andrew Lloyd Webber medley (currently polishing "I Don't Know How To Love Him", which on a good day already passes the AAA test) of easy piano arrangements that I can whisk out to wow non-piano players with at the drop of a hat (anyone who can play wouldn't be fooled for a moment). I'm fortunate enough to have the kind of memory that absorbs things easily, so by the time I've reached the polishing stage my pieces are memorized. On the other hand, if someone handed me a piece of music anywhere above early elementary level and said "can you play this for me?" I'd be up a creek without a paddle!

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#1004816 - 09/14/08 10:47 AM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
derekp Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/08
Posts: 106
Loc: Chicago Area
The only non-classical one that I've got memorized and reasonably polished is Yesterday by John Lennon. Simple melody + chords arrangement. The biggest problem I have is that I'll want to finish it, but usually the person that I'm demoing it for starts talking which distracts me. Worse yet is if they start singing (badly) -- then it completely screws me up.

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#1004817 - 09/14/08 11:03 AM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
Chardonnay Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/12/07
Posts: 505
Loc: Boston, MA.
 Quote:
Yesterday by John Lennon.
??

"Yesterday" was written by Paul McCartney.

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#1004818 - 09/14/08 11:12 AM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
Strat Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/07
Posts: 569
Loc: Toronto, Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by derekp:
The only non-classical one that I've got memorized and reasonably polished is Yesterday by John Lennon.[/b]
FYI, *McCartney* wrote Yesterday. Not Lennon. He had absolutely nothing to do with it at all, whatsoever.

Now, if you want to learn a nice Lennon piano tune, learn Jealous Guy.
_________________________
Started playing in mid-June 2007. Self-taught... for now. :p

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#1004819 - 09/14/08 09:09 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
derekp Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/08
Posts: 106
Loc: Chicago Area
My bad. I was just going through a McCartney/Lennon book I recently, meant to type McCartney but had Lennon on the brain.

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#1004820 - 09/15/08 01:11 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
rodmichael Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/08/08
Posts: 334
Loc: Maryland
After about 7 months of lessons in the Alfred Adult Book #1, I don't really have the repertoire that would be greatly entertaining to anyone. But I do welcome the opportunity when people (rarely) ask me to play. I think that such opportunities help reduce the nervousness associated with public performance, as does the weekly playing for my teacher to a lesser degree.

As do some in this thread, apparently, I hope to be able to memorize at least a small repertoire that I can satisfy anyone's curiosity about what I'm doing on the piano. I already have a fair number of pieces from Alfred memorized; although, as many of you know, that's "no great shakes." I've also memorized "Minka" a piece that Bruce Potterton at SummerKeys gave me this summer.

I always look forward to anyone asking me to play. It's fun.
_________________________
Rod Michael
Mason & Hamlin AA, SN 93018
Yamaha CGP-1000, SN UCNZ01010
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#1004821 - 09/15/08 01:24 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
rodmichael said: "I always look forward to anyone asking me to play. It's fun."

Yes it is!

And, if you're new to piano and still in short pieces as in method books, you could always say:

"Do you want me to play the 60 second piece, or, two 30 second pieces?" \:D

In the spirit of it, don't wait until you have a couple of concertos under your belt to play for people.

Encouringly!

Betty

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#1004822 - 09/15/08 01:36 PM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
Matt H Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/26/07
Posts: 170
Loc: Indiana
This actually just happened to me recently. I am in the same situation as Cyborg. I haven't kept up my repertoire, so I have very little that I can play cold. I played Angels' Voices by Burgmuller, because I had learned it recently, and it sounds good at just about any tempo (though it should be fast).

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#1004823 - 09/17/08 10:59 AM Re: What do you do when someone asks you to "play something!"
musiclady Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/19/05
Posts: 431
Loc: Toronto, Canada
I make sure I have at least a couple of pieces memorized, and with people who I know own a piano, I will sometimes bring one of my books along. I usually play "To a Wild Rose" a piece I have learned long ago but I absolutely love playing. (I might record myself playing it for youtube!)

Meri
_________________________
Clarinet and Piano Teacher based out of Toronto, Canada.Web: http://donmillsmusicstudio.weebly.com

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