Welcome to the Piano World Piano Forums
Over 2 million posts about pianos, digital pianos, and all types of keyboard instruments
Join the World's Largest Community of Piano Lovers (it's free)
It's Fun to Play the Piano ... Please Pass It On!

Gifts and supplies for the musician
SEARCH
the Forums & Piano World

This custom search works much better than the built in one and allows searching older posts.
(ad 125) Sweetwater - Digital Keyboards & Other Gear
Digital Pianos at Sweetwater
(ad) Pearl River
Pearl River Pianos
(ad) Pianoteq
(ad) P B Guide
Acoustic & Digital Piano Guide
Ad (Piano Sing)
How to Make Your Piano Sing
Who's Online
79 registered (angga888, AZNpiano, ando, Anne H, Baroque Style, 25 invisible), 1039 Guests and 13 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Quick Links to Useful Piano & Music Resources
Our Classified Ads
Find Piano Professionals-

*Piano Dealers - Piano Stores
*Piano Tuners
*Piano Teachers
*Piano Movers
*Piano Restorations
*Piano Manufacturers
*Organs

Quick Links:
*Advertise On Piano World
*Free Piano Newsletter
*Online Piano Recitals
*Piano Recitals Index
*Piano & Music Accessories
*Music School Listings
* Buying a Piano
*Buying A Acoustic Piano
*Buying a Digital Piano
*Pianos for Sale
*Sell Your Piano
*How Old is My Piano?
*Piano Books
*Piano Art, Pictures, & Posters
*Directory/Site Map
*Contest
*Links
*Virtual Piano
*Music Word Search
*Piano Screen Saver
*Piano Videos
*Virtual Piano Chords
(ad) Estonia Piano
Estonia Pianos
Page 1 of 10 1 2 3 ... 9 10 >
Topic Options
#1571694 - 12/07/10 12:49 AM Let's Talk Cocktail Piano
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 711
Loc: Germany
Hello Cocktail Pianists of the Future,

This thread is a response to requests I've received from readers of the Let's Talk Weddings thread. I suggest we use it as a place to discuss the technical challenges of playing background piano in lounges, bars, and hotel lobbies.

Thanks to those of you who have read and mentioned my book. Piano Girl is not a technical manual, nor did I intend it to be one. I'm not a teacher (I barely know what I'm doing myself). My goal with Piano Girl was to provide a behind the scenes glimpse at the trials and triumphs of an often-ignored (but very noble) profession.

If I’m reading your requests correctly, you’re more interested in technical tips, right? Here’s what I can offer as a start: Pick a style of music you love and learn how to play four hours worth of it without the music in front of you. Memorizing what you love is one of the keys to success in this business. When the music is in your fingers, the fun begins.

If you love what you’re playing your listeners will love it, too. It’s pretty much that simple. I was never a good enough player to mimic other lounge pianists. I was eighteen, knew about ten songs (nine of them were Bach) and lacked any basic knowledge about what to do with a cocktail lounge full of people expecting to hear piano music.

The key to sounding good is to know when you sound bad, so I’ve tried to stick to simple things. This has paid off for me. I’ve kept it simple over the years, adding more complex harmonies as my musical personality has evolved. I have my own style. That’s the best piece of advice I can give you—find a style (you probably already have one)— and stick with it.

Make a list of songs YOU love and start learning them. Elssa is right—hire a chord doctor or a teacher who can help you with arrangements. Put the time in. Memorize the songs. Make set lists (which you will one day ignore). Learn how to improvise and stretch a two-minute song into a six-minute song. When you start out the hours will crawl by and at the end of four sets you’ll feel like you’ve run a marathon. Once you’ve done a few years (yes, years) of this, you’ll start slipping into the Piano Zone and time will fly.

Listen to yourself and enjoy what you’re playing. On many nights you will be your only listener. So it’s helpful to actually love what you’re doing.

Most important? Once you’ve got those four sets under your belt, find a gig that suits your style of music, because the only real way to learn how to play a solo piano cocktail gig is to play a hundred of them.

I'm hopeful others (more qualified than I ) will chime in here with actual technical tips. Looking forward to it!
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

Top
Piano & Music Accessories
#1571696 - 12/07/10 12:52 AM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21926
Loc: Oakland
I have one from a friend who has been there: Do not take drinks as tips. Best not to drink at all.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

Top
#1571740 - 12/07/10 03:50 AM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
cruiser Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/19/07
Posts: 1172
Loc: Cornwall, England
Quote:
If I’m reading your requests correctly, you’re more interested in technical tips, right? Here’s what I can offer as a start: Pick a style of music you love and learn how to play four hours worth of it without the music in front of you.


Robin, thanks so much for starting this thread, which I'm sure will become just as popular as your "Let's Talk Weddings" thread smile

As for myself, I'd love to get into the "cocktail/lounge" style of playing and I think the advice you've given in the first post is great. My first question, related to the above quote is, can you - or anyone else - offer more specific guidance on how best to go about building a memorized set of pieces?

I've sort of given myself the goal of learning (memorizing) 20 - 40 pieces (standards, jazz, pop, classics, film etc.) within the next year or so, but I'm unsure of the "best" way to tackle this. Would it be advisable to concentrate on mastering the chord families (a huge task in itself!) and go the "Fake Book" route? Or to learn pieces as written from the many collections available (e.g. Hal Leonard)? Or a combination of these methods? I realize this largely depends on the individual (sight-reading skills, knowledge of harmony etc.) but as time isn't on my side (!) I would like to make progress as quickly and efficiently as possible. I'm prepared to work hard at this - a labor of love - and I don't want to waste a moment of my time in the process.

I'll be retiring from my regular job in January 2011 and I'd like to think that I could, perhaps, supplement my small pension from playing cocktail/lounge piano in the not-too-distant future.

...I've made a start with Cole Porter's "True Love", and "Autumn Leaves"

Top
#1571849 - 12/07/10 08:33 AM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
josuff247 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 169
This is great Robin. I fully intend to participate.
I am off to work now, but will write later. I read your first few chapters on my kindle and will be purchasing your book.
I follow your wedding thread and love it.
Hope this thread becomes as popular as the wedding one!
_________________________
http://frostykeys.wordpress.com/

Top
#1571853 - 12/07/10 08:44 AM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 711
Loc: Germany
BDB, that's excellent advice. Better to stick with the cash tips!

Cruiser, by all means get yourself a teacher who can help you master the chord family. (I like that name for it—the Chord Family, with their children Bea and Dee). I grew up with this knowledge, having had a classical teacher who also played jazz and made theory a major part of my lessons. So when I started playing jobs, I was able to read lead sheets. It's really fun to do this, and you can make your own arrangements out of the bare bones structures offered by fake books.

In addition, it's always nice to have a couple of show piece arrangements in your fingers. My goodness, I had this big bashy arrangement of McArthur Park that I played about a billion times back in the late seventies. (I can hear you laughing from this side of the Atlantic). But most of my sets included simple arrangements of nice little songs that I could fool around with.

Once you start learning chords, you'll start to recognize patterns and won't have to start from scratch with every new song.

One other thing—when I started out I sang while I played, about 50% of the time. I was never a great singer, but singing and playing was much easier for me than just playing. I could sing the melody and bang out the chords. Not particularly artistic, but it got me through the early years. I'm just bringing this up because, if you have any singing ability, now might be the time to use it and make things a little easier on yourself.

Greg Guardino, if you're reading this, I hope you'll chime in—Greg has a knack for explaining these things!
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

Top
#1571892 - 12/07/10 09:52 AM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
Piano World Offline



Registered: 05/24/01
Posts: 5653
Loc: Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
I think we should all consider ourselves lucky that the girl who literally wrote the book is a member and more than willing to share :-)


At the risk of sounding like I'm shilling for the author (I'm not, I happen to love the book),
if you're interested in the business, get the book.
If you'd just like to be entertained, get the book, if you enjoy laughing (a lot), get the book.

That said I have a couple of observations of my own. Keep in mind I'm nowhere near the level Robin is at, but I
do play my share of parties and events.

~ Don't assume people will not like older (or newer) music. I once played for a group of senior citizens. At first I played
mostly older tunes (big band era, that type of thing). That is until a few of them came up and asked me if I knew
any rock and roll. Turns out many of them were fans of 50s/60s rock.
~ Robin is right about memorizing, but until you have a lot of tunes in your head, keep some
books handy. I filled in a couple of times for a pianist on a cruise ship. She had a laptop with her, loaded with tons of sheet music. It was her backup so she could play requests even if she didn't know the piece in her head (and trust me, she knew a ton of pieces).
~ It's true there will be times when you seem to be the only one listening to you. That doesn't mean there aren't
people enjoying your playing, they just don't feel compelled to come up and tell you. There's a big difference between
being the "featured entertainment" where people have come specifically to see/hear the music, and providing "background" music while people eat/drink/talk.

This thread is a great idea!
Hopefully others will chime in, and Robin will continue to share with all of us.


And if you're interested in the book, please use the link below (we are an Amazon affiliate)...

_________________________
- Frank B.
Founder / Host
www.PianoWorld.com
www.PianoSupplies.com
Find Us On:
Facebook.com/PianoWorldDotCom
Twitter.com/PianoWorld
www.youtube.com/PianoWorldDotCom
Skype: PianoWorldDotCom
My Keyboards:
Estonia L-190, Yamaha P-80, Hammond XK-3, Hammond A-100, Estey 1895 Pump Organ, Harpsichord (kit), Clavichord (kit), Bilhorn Telescope Organ c 1880
-------------------------
It's Fun To Play the Piano ... PLEASE Pass It On!
Invite everyone you know to join our piano forums!
Coming to Maine? We're in Parsonsfield let's get together!


Top
#1572277 - 12/07/10 08:28 PM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
josuff247 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 169
Hi, hope to learn a lot from this thread and to offer what little help I can at the time. I am taking classical lessons for the past 1.5 years and hope to use that knowledge to help me toward my goals, which is to be a cocktail/lounge pianist. I just picked up a book called "Beginning Jazz Keyboard". I also have the Piano for all course. My current plan is to continue my classical lessons and learn cocktail piano on my own, on the side. My teacher knows my plans, and he already teaches me a lot of theory and chords. When I learn a piece, he explains what is going on (progressions, Chords, etc) rather than just how to play the notes. Hopefully he will be willing to teach me this style when I make the switch.

An tips on memorization, other than playing it over and over?

And Robin, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to start this thread as well as contribute. And to all the other forum members as well. It is nice to have a forum like this to discuss these things with other musicians.
_________________________
http://frostykeys.wordpress.com/

Top
#1572393 - 12/08/10 12:06 AM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 711
Loc: Germany
Thanks, Frank Baxter, for your enthusiasm and support, not just for my book, but for for all things piano.

Frank makes some excellent points in his post. I particularly like the one about not "assuming" what people want to hear. Spot on. This is the thing: people really don't know what they want to hear. In most cases your music is a happy "accident" in the evening. They are at the venue to meet friends, talk, eat, drink—and the music is secondary. This is why I contend that you can guide guests into enjoying the music by playing things that you love playing.

Fact: Most people do not make requests. So don't be nervous about being able to play everything. A lot of musicians entering this field get hung up worrying about requests. Fear not.

Carrying a good fake book with you is nice for request emergencies. (The iPad is extremely hip for this, btw) I carried a fake book when I started out, but haven't done it for decades now. I know enough songs that if I can't honor a particular request I can come up with something else by the same composer or in the same style that will satisfy the guest. I've discovered over the years that the request is really just an excuse to talk to the musician, so if you're pleasant and engage the person in some sort of chit-chat, play something close to what h/she has requested, you'll make the person happy.

For example, if you love Cole Porter, then learn the whole songbook. If you're neutral about him, learn a couple of your favorite Porter tunes. That's enough. If someone requests Begin the Beguine (a bitch to learn because it has like a 132 bar form with slight changes in every section that make it almost impossible to memorize!) you can say: "Oh that's a great song. That one isn't in my fingers right now, but how about Night and Day (or whatever your favorite Porter tune is)?"

Old joke that only musicians laugh at: "Gee I don't know that song, but here's something with a lot of the same notes."

Mister Rogers and pianist Robin Spielberg both said to me at separate times: "You never know who is listening." I like the mysteriousness of that statement. Frank is right. But I believe that if you have high standards and you always play for yourself, then what you put out there will be beautiful. Playing music that doesn't "get in the way" but still manages to be music of substance is a tricky balancing act, one that can only be mastered with a lot of experience.

Note for those of you further along in process: Frank mentioned the difference between being the "featured entertainment" and background music. It's pretty crucial to understand this difference, and that anyone hiring you understands it as well. If they want a SHOW they don't want you (unless you know how to switch gears and do that). If they want artistic background music, then they're found the right musician. It's important to be very clear about this when booking the gig.

In the last decade I've started performing actual concerts, so when I get a call for a job, the first thing I ask is whether the client wants my concert program or my background music services. I am genuinely happy doing either of these things, although I really do prefer the cocktail gigs!

Okay, back to CP 101:

Memorizing? Really important, unless you want to spend twenty hours a week with your head in the notes. No fun. You'll miss everything that's happening around you, and believe me, that's one of the great fringe benefits of this work.

I had a, uh, strict teacher, who convinced me it was NOT COOL to play solo in public with music in front of me. I don't know whether he was right, but he did me a big favor by insisting I learn how to memorize very early on. I also have had serious acting training, and I know that playing with music is like acting with a script in your hand---there's only so far you can go if your eyes are glued to a paper.

How to memorize? Everyone has a different process, but I like to memorize the chord structure first. Patterns being patterns, this will be pretty easy if you have good theory knowledge. Then learn the melody. Then play the song a thousand times and and you'll start to hear an arrangement. If you're a pretty good pianist and have a few hours a day to devote to this process, I think you could memorize and arrange 3-5 tunes a week. Set a goal. If you have less time, make it 1-2 songs. Memorizing is like exercise--it gets easier once you're in shape.

Hope some of this was helpful!
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

Top
#1572414 - 12/08/10 01:25 AM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
cruiser Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/19/07
Posts: 1172
Loc: Cornwall, England
This thread is off to a great start - thanks Robin and thanks to you too, Frank (another sticky perhaps?) smile

Robin, I would like to clarify here that I am by no means a beginner. I've had several recent years of classical training as well as having had lessons as a child. Also, I already have a good knowledge of harmony and my chord knowledge which as you say is so important for this style of playing, is also quite good - at least in theory. Putting this growing knowledge into practice at the piano is the challenge. I am not a very good sight reader although I can read the melody lines from a fake book without too much of a problem. Anything else requires patient application on my part - you should know that it took me the best part of a year to learn Schubert's Gb Impromptu!

I make these points to put my earlier post, about the the most effective way to practice, in perspective. Your advice on memorizing has gone a long way in addressing my initial concerns - thank you!

I hope others will join us here, to take advantage of Robin's kind and valuable guidance.

EDIT: Robin, could you recommend a particular Fake Book (or series thereof)?

Top
#1572627 - 12/08/10 11:27 AM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
Piano World Offline



Registered: 05/24/01
Posts: 5653
Loc: Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
I'll never forget the first time I played a Christmas Party , it was in a private home.

My only previous experience was playing in rock bands, so this would be my first "solo" gig.

I practiced some Christmas tunes, and brought along Christmas books and sheets. I knew the piano would be in tune because I was their tuner (that's how I got asked to play their party).

I sat down at the piano and began playing Christmas tunes, slow ones, fast ones, novelty songs.

After about 20 minutes are so of my playing, the host came over to me and asked "Aren't you going to play anything but Christmas music?".

I said I thought this was a Christmas party.
It is she said, but nobody wants to listen to Christmas music all night!

Houston, we have a problem.

I can either continue to play Christmas music, or play the keyboard part of the rock tunes I know (minus the rest of the band, which trust me isn't nearly as entertaining).

Luckily I only lived about ten minutes away.
I took my first "break" and sped home, grabbed some fake books, and sped back.

I survived the night and the guests seemed to enjoy themselves (helped no doubt by the drinks they consumed).

Lesson Learned!

Kathy and I went to a Christmas party for Palladium Theatre volunteers the other night (a local theatre in St. Petersburg where we volunteer).
After a 4 piece band played one set it was open mic/open stage for the rest of the evening.

I played, Kathy sang. We did Christmas music, we did rock music, we even did original music.

Nobody booed so I guess we did ok :-)
_________________________
- Frank B.
Founder / Host
www.PianoWorld.com
www.PianoSupplies.com
Find Us On:
Facebook.com/PianoWorldDotCom
Twitter.com/PianoWorld
www.youtube.com/PianoWorldDotCom
Skype: PianoWorldDotCom
My Keyboards:
Estonia L-190, Yamaha P-80, Hammond XK-3, Hammond A-100, Estey 1895 Pump Organ, Harpsichord (kit), Clavichord (kit), Bilhorn Telescope Organ c 1880
-------------------------
It's Fun To Play the Piano ... PLEASE Pass It On!
Invite everyone you know to join our piano forums!
Coming to Maine? We're in Parsonsfield let's get together!


Top
#1572633 - 12/08/10 11:38 AM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
Parties are not quite cocktail lounges, but they are close.

I've always had delusions of grandeur. When I was about 23 I created an ad, a drawn picture of me holding a sign that said

"Piano playing at parties absolutely free! Grands preferred"

I sent it to the newspaper and they printed it for free. I got about 15 bookings.. 2 or 3 times a week for all of the holiday season. Every one paid me.

I really could hardly play.. I was playing Christmas music... fakebook songs and Chopin. I'd play Chopin backwards, forwards and upside down.

Once a very drunk lady sat down with me and started playing along. She was a good pianist but could hardly hold her balance and mostly leaned on me while she played.

(I'll have to find that pic)
_________________________
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)

Top
#1572688 - 12/08/10 01:23 PM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: josuff247]
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1601
Loc: NY
Great thread!! smile

Originally Posted By: josuff247

Any tips on memorization, other than playing it over and over?



Just to echo the great advice given here already about learning common chord progressions, if you learn the 'Ice Cream Progression'/1-6-2-5, for example, you'll have dozens of songs ready to play. thumb

Learn/memorize the Circle of Fifths/Fourths (BEAD GCF)

CIRCLE OF FIFTHS: http://www.angelfire.com/fl4/moneychords/circle.html


Edited by Elssa (12/08/10 01:27 PM)

Top
#1572965 - 12/08/10 09:14 PM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Elssa]
Hop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/24/08
Posts: 654
Loc: Hudson, FL
Originally Posted By: Elssa
Just to echo the great advice given here already about learning common chord progressions, if you learn the 'Ice Cream Progression'/1-6-2-5, for example, you'll have dozens of songs ready to play.


I've never heard this called the Ice Cream Progression, but I certainly recognize it from "Earth Angel", among many others. This week, I'm practing comping with this chord progression in all the various keys.

Robin,

Thanks for this thread. Many of us aspire to be Cocktail Pianists, and it seems like there is a void. I've looked for such in my area just for entertainment, and have found none. That's sad.

Hop
_________________________
HG178, Roland FP-5, Casio PX 130

Top
#1573009 - 12/08/10 10:54 PM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
Glock fan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/19/09
Posts: 32
Loc: Texas
Thank you Piano Girl! This is just great. I got a copy of your book as a Christmas present last year, and I highly recommend it. You are the only professional musician/writer I can understand and relate to. Plus I admire you for striking out on your own and creating success.

Top
#1573051 - 12/09/10 12:18 AM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 711
Loc: Germany
Thanks, Glock fan! Very kind words from you.

Elssa, I was SO hoping you'd jump in here. Your advice will be very helpful to so many players.

Frank, your story is a riot! That's the thing about Xmas music. If you don't play it, they complain; if you do play it they complain. At this time of year I open and close each set with a Christmas tune. That seems to keep everyone happy. And thanks, too, Frank, for pointing out the huge difference between playing in a band and playing solo. Both types of playing have their challenges!

Cruiser, sounds like you have all the basics for a great start in the business. Put in the practice time and you'll be on your way. Glad to hear your teacher is cooperating.

Apple, I LOVE your spirit. What a great way to get started. Only a 23 year old could get away with this. At the risk of repeating myself, I'll say again, the only way to learn how to do this—once you have the repertoire— is to get out there and do it. Find a cocktail piano apprenticeship (that's something you won't see in the course listings of most college music departments) somewhere. Trombone Al volunteered at a nursing home, for instance (he is now ready to pitch a fit because they won't tune the piano, but that's another story). There are more opportunities than you might think. The trick is to turn a start-up training type of situation into a paying gig.

Note: Please don't ever offer to play for free at a venue that is already paying a pianist (union or otherwise). Bad form, bad manners, and bad for business for all of us. But you know this.

If you're ready to go "pro," and you're investigating a place that already has music, talk to working musicians and let them know that you're available to sub. Over the years I've had to hire lots of substitutes and I've found quite a few of them this way. Enterprising and polite musicians who have handed me a business card or CD and told me they're available score big points with me. I also like when musicians send reminder emails to me every few months—it's keeps a name fresh in my mind and is not at all intrusive.

Something I didn't mention at the top of this thread, and I should have. You will never get rich doing this kind of work. From the beginning of time steady gigs have paid about 100 $ a night, give or take a few bucks. But, here's the thing, once you have a steady gig, you will begin to pick up private parties and (OH NO!!) weddings, which will pay much much more (then you hire the enterprising sub to cover your steady gig and go play the big bucks job). A few years of this, and all of the sudden you have a career.

So, what tunes are all of you learning this week? I am working on Keith Jarrett's "Country" and writing a new piece called "Castle Dance." In addition, I'm practicing for Sunday's big concert. I play cocktail gigs on Friday and Saturday this week, so I'll use that time to play through my program, in a cocktail-y kind of way.
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

Top
#1573068 - 12/09/10 01:21 AM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
cruiser Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/19/07
Posts: 1172
Loc: Cornwall, England
Well Robin, my embryonic repertoire (still in the learning stage) consists of:

1. True Love - (Cole Porter song from the show/film "High Society"). I want to learn it for my 84 year old father who, when he sings this song, sounds more like Bing Crosby than Bing Crosby! It was a favorite of his and my dear mother's, who sadly is no longer with us. A real labour of love this one, with some tasty diminished 7ths.
2. Autumn Leaves - but not in a too jazzy style.
3. Moon River - because my wife loves it and, since I love her...

I'm learning these three pieces more or less 'by the numbers' from a fake book, although a little improvisation/embellishment would be nice when I'm able.

Additionally I have a dozen or so classical pieces memorized (though not all are suitable for a 'cocktail lounge' situation I think).

Top
#1573111 - 12/09/10 03:03 AM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 711
Loc: Germany
Great choices, Cruiser. Just keep playing them until they're in your fingers, then you can start to mess around with improvising.

I'm most impressed with your reasons for learning these songs. Way to go.

People will love your classical repertoire mixed in with the standards. Wonderful.
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

Top
#1573182 - 12/09/10 07:47 AM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
Filibogado Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/17/05
Posts: 29
I love this thread, and had just 2 basic questions:

1. I find active memorization (like closing your eyes and meditating or mentally remembering) too burdensome - I wonder if passive memorization works just as well. By that, I mean if I play a tune while reading the chord symbols off a fake book a thousand times, will the constant repetition also burn the tune in your brain so you can't help but memorize it? I guess I'm asking if muscle memory by using your fingeers and your eyes substitiute for mental memorization, and

2. Is the IPAD screen clear enough for reading fake books by someone with prescription glasses for reading?

Thanks,

Fil

Top
#1573325 - 12/09/10 12:10 PM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17815
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Originally Posted By: Piano Girl RMG
In the last decade I've started performing actual concerts, so when I get a call for a job, the first thing I ask is whether the client wants my concert program or my background music services. I am genuinely happy doing either of these things, although I really do prefer the cocktail gigs!


This piqued my curiosity, Robin; what is it about the cocktail gigs you prefer? It can't be the money, so maybe it's the reduced performance anxiety? But then again, you've been in the business so long that surely--maybe?--performance anxiety's not an issue any more?
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

Top
#1573370 - 12/09/10 01:45 PM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 711
Loc: Germany
Hey there Monica! No, performance anxiety. Voice of Doom hasn't plagued me for a long time now, but I do suffer from performance exhaustion— a condition that arises from pressure and rehearsal and preparation. Call me a wimp, but I really do LOVE walking in the door, sitting down at a good piano and just playing for nice people for a few hours without any pressure. Yes, the money is much better with concerts, but I've come to the conclusion that I really enjoy being in the background. I like being part of the scene and contributing to the big picture, but I don't need to be the star, in fact I don't want to be the star.

Think about it, most of us got started playing the piano because it pleases us. Making music is a beautiful thing---it's therapeutic and wonderful and a way to express ourselves with art. When I think about my earliest experiences at the piano, I never fantasized about concerts or audiences or any of that. I just wanted to play. I feel the same way about writing. It's the process that I love, not the applause.

Does that make sense? Some of my friends need to perform for an attentive audience. I completely respect and admire that. But I think those of us who are successful as background musicians really enjoy being on the sidelines.
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

Top
#1573389 - 12/09/10 02:37 PM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
Piano World Offline



Registered: 05/24/01
Posts: 5653
Loc: Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
I like to be on the sidelines.
As long as there is a spotlight on me and I have everyone's attention :-)

Top
#1573404 - 12/09/10 02:51 PM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
RayzKane Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/20/10
Posts: 11
Michael/cruiser said:
1. True Love - (Cole Porter song from the show/film "High Society").
2. Autumn Leaves - but not in a too jazzy style.
3. Moon River - because my wife loves it and, since I love her...

I'm learning these three pieces more or less 'by the numbers' from a fake book, although a little improvisation/embellishment would be nice when I'm able.
================
Michael, I may have for you just what the doctor ordered! For about the same price of a book, you can own two fantastic instructional video on how to play all the beautiful runs, fills, and progressions that make cocktail piano what it is. Here is the link:

http://www.learnpianowithelssa.com/

Elssa is also a frequent contributor to this forum, even in this particular thread.

Moon River is covered in one of the videos. Autumn Leaves will probably be available in the near future.
She also has a forum that is dedicated solely to cocktail piano. It is free to those who buy even one of her vastly underpriced lessons. There are no monthly fees or any other ploys to try to more of your money.

If you join the forum, I will personally make you an arrangement of "True Love" in the key of your choice, complete with sheet music and a midi file of the tune.

I'm a 67 year old beginner to piano. I am affiliated with Elssa only as a deliriously happy customer and an admirer of her talent and hard work. I hope to see you there!

Ray

Top
#1573650 - 12/09/10 10:41 PM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 711
Loc: Germany
Frank, spotlight (for those of us on the sidelines) should have an amber or rose-colored gel. Ha.

Regarding memorization—everyone has their own technique, and yes, playing the piece a bunch of times with the music in front of you will help your muscle memory, but as long as the notes are there, you will look at them, so I think it's best to get rid of them early on in the process. This will cause you to think about the harmonic structure of the piece and you won't be relying on pure memory as much because you'll be using your musical knowledge and intellect to guide you (assuming you've stayed away from the second glass of wine). In any case, this helps me a lot. I also find it useful to sit down with a piece of music before I ever attempt to play it—look at the structure and do a little pre-playing analysis.

Thanks, Ray, for your tips about Elssa. She is also a frequent contributor to the Wedding forum, and I've seen some of her videos. They could be very helpful to some readers here.

A friend of mine just sent me an email about his first cocktail piano job. He said he sat down at the piano at 5 p.m. and played and played and played, looked at the clock and it was 5:07. This happens when you start out. It takes about 12 hours for an hour to go by.

_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

Top
#1573667 - 12/09/10 11:20 PM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1601
Loc: NY
I just came back from a local Music Meetup (open mic)... I played Blue Christmas, Christmas Time Is Here, and Carol of the Bells. I even cajoled one of the guitar players there (who warned me he only plays by ear) to do a duet with me, but as usual, I was the only piano player. It's so wonderful to play for and/or with others, though. We don't have any venues for solo cocktail piano players around here, unfortunately.. (I've had to move about an hour above NYC in the past few years).

I'm definitely more of a background cocktail piano type player, too. Not too fond of the spotlight. frown But it's all fun smile


Edited by Elssa (12/09/10 11:24 PM)

Top
#1574406 - 12/11/10 12:09 AM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1601
Loc: NY
I just wanted to add that I think cocktail piano music is the most challenging to play and teach, even more so than classical and jazz - less strict rules, more creativity but in the end the most rewarding. smile

Top
#1574431 - 12/11/10 01:07 AM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 711
Loc: Germany
The late great Henry Mancini once approached my piano at the Hyatt in downtown Pittsburgh. I was eighteen at the time, and playing "Charade" in 5/4, which, being eighteen, I thought was extremely hip. Anyway, he was very nice. I didn't recognize his face, and I almost had a heart attack when I introduced myself and he told me who he was. I my have been young, but even then I knew that the last thing a composer wants to hear is a whacky version of his beautiful waltz in 5/4.

But to my point (to back up Elssa): He said to me, "My dear, playing in a bar is one of the most difficult things a pianist can do. Everything will seem easy in comparison. I've been listening, and you're doing a nice job."

As he was leaving I played "Moon River" (in the right time signature), but I don't think he heard me.

I'm sure I wasn't doing such a great job, and that he was simply being a gentleman and offering encouragement to an obviously young and unpolished musician, but those words of his have stuck with me over the years. And even though I'm not famous I still try to offer support to other players in this same situation, because I know that a few kind words go a long way.

You know, or maybe you don't, some concert musicians (classical and jazz and everything else) will snub you or look down on what you do. It happens. "Bar music," they might say. "How can you play when no one is listening?"

I've learned to say: "I listen to myself. And I like what I hear. That's enough."

Here was last night's first set:

Greensleeves (always nice at Xmas)
Bach Air on a G String
Legends of the Fall
First Snow (my song)
Over the Rainbow (request)
What Is this Thing Called Love
Night and Day
Lerbach Nocturne (my song)
Wonderful World of Amelie (I play several pieces from this movie but I don't know what they're called)
Water Lily (my song)
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

So that's that. Have a great weekend, everyone—
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

Top
#1574569 - 12/11/10 08:13 AM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
this is going to be another wonderful thread I see.

A cocktail lounge apprenticeship? Kansas City has so many wonderful blues and jazz musicians.. bands, singers and pianists. It is a mecca for serious musicians and people come from around the world to play here. Tho competitive, the musicians seem to all be friends and often play together whenever and wherever. I occasionally have been known to play along on the same piano.

I'm going to be a church musician forever. The ceiling is so high here.
_________________________
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)

Top
#1575010 - 12/11/10 10:22 PM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
Piano World Offline



Registered: 05/24/01
Posts: 5653
Loc: Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
And now even Russian Premier Vladimir Putin it getting
into the cocktail piano act...

_________________________
- Frank B.
Founder / Host
www.PianoWorld.com
www.PianoSupplies.com
Find Us On:
Facebook.com/PianoWorldDotCom
Twitter.com/PianoWorld
www.youtube.com/PianoWorldDotCom
Skype: PianoWorldDotCom
My Keyboards:
Estonia L-190, Yamaha P-80, Hammond XK-3, Hammond A-100, Estey 1895 Pump Organ, Harpsichord (kit), Clavichord (kit), Bilhorn Telescope Organ c 1880
-------------------------
It's Fun To Play the Piano ... PLEASE Pass It On!
Invite everyone you know to join our piano forums!
Coming to Maine? We're in Parsonsfield let's get together!


Top
#1575097 - 12/12/10 02:27 AM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 711
Loc: Germany
I think I ran into some of his friends last month at the castle. Cabaret Vlad---gotta love that. I wish he had played without his shirt on, though, you know, just to maintain that macho vibe.

I played a concert at the US Consulate in Düsseldorf a couple of years ago when Bush was still in office. It was a riot---I had to stand in a receiving line next to the Consul General with an American flag on one side of me and huge portraits of Bush and Dr. Rice over my shoulder. I said this in my program: "I am very honored to be here tonight, and relieved to know that if my cocktail piano career doesn't work out, I can always be Secretary of State." Got a big laugh.

Played through my concert program last night on my cocktail gig. I am ready for this evening, I hope.

Apple, I love that last line of your post: "I'm going to be a church musician forever. The ceiling is so high here." The writer in me perked up when I read that . . . it's a perfect thought on so many levels.

Tonight marks the end of a series of high pressure events this season. The concert will be followed by a champagne reception and a four course dinner. I'll be sitting at a table with ten of my good friends. And I'll actually be able to enjoy it since everything will be OVER. Next up is a series of cocktail Xmas gigs, but they will be fun, fun, fun!

A musician pal of mine (a great bassist) just played his first cocktail piano gig. He put a tip jar out and collected 25 $ for charity. What a great idea!
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

Top
#1575141 - 12/12/10 05:09 AM Re: Let's Talk Cocktail Piano [Re: Piano Girl RMG]
RayzKane Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/20/10
Posts: 11
What's the different between a cocktail pianist and a modern
jazz quartet?

Answer: The cocktail pianist is all alone on the stage.
(s)He cajoles and brings forth from the instrument the most
satisfying harmonies and melodies the mind can imagine.
Everything is in tune with the machinations of the Universe.

The jazz quartet is four guys on stage, with each of them
playing a DIFFERENT song (sometimes in a different key)!

Ray

Top
Page 1 of 10 1 2 3 ... 9 10 >

Moderator:  sharpsandflats 
What's Hot!!
Christmas Header
Christmas Lights at Piano World Headquarters in Maine 2014
-------------------
The December Free Piano Newsletter
-------------------
Forums Rules & Help
-------------------
ADVERTISE
on Piano World

The world's most popular piano web site.
-------------------
PIANO BOOKS
Interesting books about the piano, pianists, piano history, biographies, memoirs and more!
(ad) Yamaha CP Music Rest Promo
Yamaha CP Music Rest Promo
(ad) HAILUN Pianos
Hailun Pianos - Click for More
Ad (Seiler/Knabe)
Knabe Pianos
(125ad) Dampp Chaser
Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver
(ad) Lindeblad Piano
Lindeblad Piano Restoration
Sheet Music Plus (125)
Sheet Music Plus Featured Sale
New Topics - Multiple Forums
Bottom of hammer hitting top of damper on upright
by JoeThePro
12/21/14 10:09 PM
Getting better
by Kekewak
12/21/14 07:35 PM
Pearl River vs. Samick
by Zekk
12/21/14 03:41 PM
Kawai vs. Yamaha: what to choose
by SeeSharp
12/21/14 02:19 PM
Disklavier Pro Alternatives? C5X Value for money?
by bryan77
12/21/14 01:15 PM
Forum Stats
77391 Members
42 Forums
160048 Topics
2350355 Posts

Max Online: 15252 @ 03/21/10 11:39 PM
Gift Ideas for Music Lovers!
Find the Perfect Gift for the Music Lovers on your List!
Visit our online store today.

Visit our online store for gifts for music lovers

 
Help keep the forums up and running with a donation, any amount is appreciated!
Or by becoming a Subscribing member! Thank-you.
Donate   Subscribe
 
Our Piano Related Classified Ads
|
Dealers | Tuners | Lessons | Movers | Restorations | Pianos For Sale | Sell Your Piano |

Advertise on Piano World
| Subscribe | Piano World | PianoSupplies.com | Advertise on Piano World | Donate | Link to Us | Classifieds |
| |Contact | Privacy | Legal | About Us | Site Map | Free Newsletter | Press Room |


copyright 1997 - 2014 Piano World ® all rights reserved
No part of this site may be reproduced without prior written permission