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#1142396 - 12/09/07 11:10 AM Cocktail piano
Hanon_freak Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/08/07
Posts: 8
Loc: Berlin
Is "Cocktail" piano another word for "solo jazz piano" ? or like background music?
Which rules are to follow when playing a
jazz tune the "cocktail way"?

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Piano & Music Accessories
#1142397 - 12/09/07 11:58 AM Re: Cocktail piano
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
The term "cocktail piano," as I understand it,
is the kind of music you hear when you
walk into a cocktail lounge with with some
guy playing solo background music
on the piano. You also see this in a lot
of the movies from the 1940's and 1950's: the
scene shifts to a bar, and there's a guy on
the piano playing background music.

The actual music is varied but it generally
has the characteristic of being soothing
and intended for background effect rather
than purely solo performance. I've been
fooling around with this type of cocktail
lounge music and from what I've seen thus
far it seems fairly straightforward (that's
why there are no books specifically
on "How to Play Cocktail Lounge Piano,"
since the basics are covered in any jazz
or popular piano book): you just play a series
of similar basic chord patterns with the lt. hand
and improvise the melody with the rt. hand.
And there are many ways to do this.

For example, the series: C Eb G Bb/C Eb F A,
D F A C/D F G B, E G B D/E G A C, F AbC Eb/
F Ab Bb D, G Bb D F/G Bb C E, etc. Note
how in each chord pair the shift from
the first to the second is smooth since
there are notes in common.

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#1142398 - 12/09/07 01:20 PM Re: Cocktail piano
ktom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/07
Posts: 212
Loc: Somerset UK
I agree with gyro,. I would add that much cocktail music is improv' over standards. The main rule I used to apply when playing in venues that expected this style (mostly hotels) was not to play anything obtrusive, so gentle rhythms and equally gentle voicings. I think it is a deceptive style.. it looks very easy.. but it is not so easy to play like this through an evening without becoming boringly repetitive. Those who play this really well (not me.. I soon got boring and bored!) seem to be able to get the balance right - of course the other thing is dealing with requests, which tend to go with this territory..
_________________________
Steinway K - Kurzweil PC 88(wrecked and sold for spares) - Yamaha S90 - rhodes 760 - korg wavestation- Hammond XK1 etc..

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#1142399 - 12/09/07 04:04 PM Re: Cocktail piano
Pete the bean Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/04
Posts: 452
Loc: Canada
There are certain style techniques like stride, locked hand, 2 handed chords, R.H. octaves and fill that need to be learned so you can arrange the charts on the fly. Once you have those techniques down things get a bit easier to crank out the tunes at a 5 hour gig.
_________________________
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#1142400 - 12/10/07 09:55 AM Re: Cocktail piano
Diane... Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 3443
Loc: Western Canada
Can't say I've seen too many woman doing this sort of thing. Do enjoy watching a man playing some smooth jazz. Have seen it done well and there's nothing better!

Which brings me to a question! Shouldn't maybe ask it cause now will probably get a million and one answers here, but kind of curious as to the origin of the word "cocktail". Funny word don't you think!

Brings me to another question! Curious as how some of you handle people always talking to you while you are trying to play! I've played for fasion shows and such and it never ceases to amaze me how many people think I can be playing and hold a conversation at the same time! Don't want to be rude, but can't really do both! Right!
_________________________
http://www.pianoworld.com/Uploads/files/goldsparkledress.jpg
Diane
Jazz/Blues/Rock/Boogie Piano Teacher


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#1142401 - 12/10/07 11:57 AM Re: Cocktail piano
Hanon_freak Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/08/07
Posts: 8
Loc: Berlin
Diane that's really impressing sometimes, i think
this ability comes without reallising, like when
you don't look at your fingers while playing.

thx Pete.
can you tell me more about locked hands? I heard one way to play this is with four note voicing on the right and left hand doubles the melody tone an octave below.
do these "inner" notes move while the melody note changes (and how?) or do the remain constant?
Can you give me an example?

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#1142402 - 12/10/07 02:58 PM Re: Cocktail piano
pianojazz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/06
Posts: 359
Loc: dearborn, mi
Probably the key to being a successful "cocktail" pianist is adaptability. You will be expected to have a wide repotoire - classical, standards, show tunes, adult contemporary, classic rock, tv themes, pop, whatever. Its nice to be able to play in a "jazz style" - with more than the bare-bones fake book chord voicings and include an improvised solo over the changes - but we're not talking free-form jazz here. You should be able to play requests (within reason) and you will probably end up "faking" a lot of material i.e., being able to get through a song you don't have the music to but you can vaguely remember how the melody line goes; e.g. Winter Wonderland or White Christmas - its that time of year!
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www.myspace.com/michaelbreenpiano

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#1142403 - 12/10/07 04:17 PM Re: Cocktail piano
ktom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/07
Posts: 212
Loc: Somerset UK
Hi Diane
I think no-one knows the origin of "cocktail" - here are some suggestions
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocktail#Etymology
As for talking and playing - i guess its practice - I used to irritate my father by playing piano and reading a school text book at the same time:-)
_________________________
Steinway K - Kurzweil PC 88(wrecked and sold for spares) - Yamaha S90 - rhodes 760 - korg wavestation- Hammond XK1 etc..

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#1142404 - 12/10/07 04:23 PM Re: Cocktail piano
ktom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/07
Posts: 212
Loc: Somerset UK
Hi pianojazz
yeah "Winter Wonderland" and "White Christmas", two reasons why I swore never to play hotels ever again.. mind you I lost my last solo hotel gig when a guest came up and asked.. "Can you play something like Oscar Peterson?".. my witty reply.. "If I could play like Oscar Peterson, I wouldn't be playing in this ****hole".. the manager happened to be behind me.. unamused:-)
_________________________
Steinway K - Kurzweil PC 88(wrecked and sold for spares) - Yamaha S90 - rhodes 760 - korg wavestation- Hammond XK1 etc..

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#1142405 - 12/10/07 06:42 PM Re: Cocktail piano
Amnesia Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 116
Hi,

Unfortunately I don't really have any "advice" about playing "cocktail" style to give you..

But something I thought I might add (which has been briefly touched on earlier) is the demand for requests.

We have a restaraunt in a converted church not far from us, and I was dining there one evening and they had a live Pianist playing. Beautiful music, just some smooth jazz, perfect background music.

Anyway, a couple were there for their aniversary and requested a song, can't remember for the life of me what it was, but that's the point - I had never heard of it, but he knew how to play it.

At 11pm, his "gig" was up and he was getting ready to leave. I bumped into him on the way out and curiously asked how he knew what the song was... I was hoping for an answer along the lines of "Coincidence really, I just happen to know it".
But the answer he gave was
"I spend hours playing through the 'Top 100 love songs', 'Top 100 buskers songs', 'Top 100 ....' you get the picture" as he smiled.

His repotoire must be HUGE! And as mentioned, is something that I guess will come heavily with this sort of playing in these kind of venues.
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Amnesia

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#1142406 - 12/11/07 03:40 AM Re: Cocktail piano
ktom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/07
Posts: 212
Loc: Somerset UK
Yes - Although I passed over it briefly.. pianojazz and amnesia are both right.. repetoire is essential. A chap I knew built his by doing some cruises.. several sets a day.. every day.. for several weeks.. he went off with a pile of fake/busking books and came back with most of it in his head, plus a big cheque. A good way to do it if you want to build a pro career.
_________________________
Steinway K - Kurzweil PC 88(wrecked and sold for spares) - Yamaha S90 - rhodes 760 - korg wavestation- Hammond XK1 etc..

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#1142407 - 12/11/07 08:34 AM Re: Cocktail piano
Bob Newbie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 1549
Imagine playing cocktail piano at hotel by the beach..getting paid plus a free hotel room to boot! from May to Oct..not a bad gig.. \:\)

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#1142408 - 12/11/07 09:15 AM Re: Cocktail piano
Agathis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 420
Loc: Southwest
 Quote:
Originally posted by Bob Newbie:
Imagine playing cocktail piano at hotel by the beach..getting paid plus a free hotel room to boot! from May to Oct..not a bad gig.. \:\) [/b]
would be an awesome gig but it takes an awesome pianist to pull that off. it does seem to me though if one did it for 5 hours a day it would come. \:\)

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#1142409 - 12/11/07 01:09 PM Re: Cocktail piano
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1520
 Quote:
Originally posted by Bob Newbie:
Imagine playing cocktail piano at hotel by the beach..getting paid plus a free hotel room to boot! from May to Oct..not a bad gig.. \:\) [/b]
They don't pay much though.
_________________________
1966 Mason & Hamlin piano.

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#1142410 - 12/11/07 03:08 PM Re: Cocktail piano
Pete the bean Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/04
Posts: 452
Loc: Canada
Hannon Freak: Locked hand style. 4 note voicing in the R.H. melody on top voice, LH doubles the melody (unless it's a drop 2 voicing).
Try practicing C major scale C in the R.H pinky and voice a C6 chord below C on top -A-G-E below. LH doubles C. Moving up the scale-make any non chord melody note a diminished chord so your second chord is D in the pinky -B Ab-F Lh thumb D. The next note E is a chord tone -Voice C6 E-C-A-G L.H thumb on E .Next note F = dinminished F-D-B-Ab LH thumb F. For G- C6 voiced G-E-C-A LH thumb G. Next note A= C6 chord A-G-E-C LH thumb A. Next note B= diminished B-Ab -F-D LH thumb B.
Use this on scalar melody passages.
For arppegiated melody use chord inversions.
When I play locked hand, I try and keep the inner voices the same on eighth notes but it all depends on the melody.
I will rarely play a whole section locked hand but it is a great tool for changing the texture of the arrangement for a short passage.
There is a bit more info in Sarah Jane Cion's Modern Jazz Piano book. Drop 2 voicings can be found in a new Mark Levine publication.
Listen to George Shearing. He is credited with this style.
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http://www.poppianopro.com/

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#1142411 - 12/11/07 03:13 PM Re: Cocktail piano
Diane... Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 3443
Loc: Western Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by ktom:
As for talking and playing - i guess its practice - I used to irritate my father by playing piano and reading a school text book at the same time:-) [/b]
Say you bring over the "textbook" and I'll supply the piano, cause this I just gotta see! \:D
_________________________
http://www.pianoworld.com/Uploads/files/goldsparkledress.jpg
Diane
Jazz/Blues/Rock/Boogie Piano Teacher


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#1142412 - 12/11/07 03:27 PM Re: Cocktail piano
ktom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/07
Posts: 212
Loc: Somerset UK
I just had a go to see if I can still do it.. no problem.. I can play 12 bar stuff and read a novel - out loud to prove it, if need be:-) I am not sure I
_________________________
Steinway K - Kurzweil PC 88(wrecked and sold for spares) - Yamaha S90 - rhodes 760 - korg wavestation- Hammond XK1 etc..

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#1142413 - 12/11/07 03:27 PM Re: Cocktail piano
Johnny-Boy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 661
Loc: PA
I've always had a yearning to play cocktail piano on a cruise ship like the "Love Boat", but settled for a smoke-filled tavern with a sultry lounge singer like this:
"Bluer Than This"[/b]
Lyrics: Cal Francis DiFalco
Music: John Lawrence Schick
Sung by Teresa
http://www.artistcollaboration.com/~johnny-boy/bluer.mp3
_________________________
Stop analyzing; just compose the damn thing!

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#1142414 - 12/11/07 03:29 PM Re: Cocktail piano
ktom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/07
Posts: 212
Loc: Somerset UK
Ooops.. hit the wrong button.. I am not sure I would do so well reading Kant, or playing Beethoven:-)
_________________________
Steinway K - Kurzweil PC 88(wrecked and sold for spares) - Yamaha S90 - rhodes 760 - korg wavestation- Hammond XK1 etc..

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#1142415 - 12/11/07 04:44 PM Re: Cocktail piano
Hanon_freak Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/08/07
Posts: 8
Loc: Berlin
Thanks a lot Pete

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#1142416 - 12/12/07 08:03 AM Re: Cocktail piano
Bob Newbie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 1549
check this guy out..gives a good description of cocktail piano..listen to the "tenderly" sample
I'm somehow hearing a "bass" sound?
http://cocktailpiano.com/volume_1.html

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#1142417 - 12/12/07 04:41 PM Re: Cocktail piano
westarm Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/09/07
Posts: 63
Loc: Indiana, USA
I'm just an adult beginner, but this style of playing is where I want to head.

Any recommendations on books?

Thanks.
David
_________________________
"The human brain can be quite wasteful." Chang, Fundamentals of Piano Practice

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#1142418 - 12/12/07 08:34 PM Re: Cocktail piano
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1520
\:\)
_________________________
1966 Mason & Hamlin piano.

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#1142419 - 12/13/07 06:54 PM Re: Cocktail piano
Diane... Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 3443
Loc: Western Canada
My dad sent me to a musician friend of his who played for cocktail bars and such! Best thing I ever did was take lessons from him! He plays lots of gigs, weddings, private parties, you name it!

Anyways, his favorite saying was, "An amateur practices till he gets it right, but a professional practices it till he can't get it wrong!"

And he once told me that he has 450 songs ready and memorized whenever he needs them! Mostly standards from fake books. Should also add that his rhythm and timing are absolutely amazing!

450! is that possible!
_________________________
http://www.pianoworld.com/Uploads/files/goldsparkledress.jpg
Diane
Jazz/Blues/Rock/Boogie Piano Teacher


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#1142420 - 12/13/07 11:26 PM Re: Cocktail piano
Agathis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 420
Loc: Southwest
 Quote:
Originally posted by Johnny-Boy:
I've always had a yearning to play cocktail piano on a cruise ship like the "Love Boat", but settled for a smoke-filled tavern with a sultry lounge singer like this:
"Bluer Than This"[/b]
Lyrics: Cal Francis DiFalco
Music: John Lawrence Schick
Sung by Teresa
http://www.artistcollaboration.com/~johnny-boy/bluer.mp3 [/b]
incredible performance by pianist and vocalist alike!!

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#1142421 - 12/14/07 05:16 PM Re: Cocktail piano
Johnny-Boy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 661
Loc: PA
Thanks Agathis! I'll pass the word to Teresa.

Best, John
_________________________
Stop analyzing; just compose the damn thing!

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#1142422 - 12/15/07 03:03 PM Re: Cocktail piano
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1520
_________________________
1966 Mason & Hamlin piano.

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#1142423 - 12/15/07 03:17 PM Re: Cocktail piano
Johnny-Boy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 661
Loc: PA
I always tested the club's piano out before I accepted gigs. Probably a good idea.

Otherwise, have a Yamaha digital warming up in the bullpen.

Good luck Rintincop! Maybe you'll get lucky and it will be a great piano.

Best, John
_________________________
Stop analyzing; just compose the damn thing!

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#1142424 - 12/15/07 03:48 PM Re: Cocktail piano
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1520
_________________________
1966 Mason & Hamlin piano.

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#1170056 - 03/27/09 10:25 PM Re: Cocktail piano [Re: rintincop]
survivordan Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/09
Posts: 844
Loc: Ohio
I'd like to re-start this thread. Does anyone now have any reccomendations on books (music or text) to learn about cocktail piano playing?
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