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#1706702 - 07/03/11 03:04 PM How to play "cocktail piano"
PoleStar Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/16/09
Posts: 35
Loc: Ireland
Hi

If only perhaps Piano Girl would write a book!

Anyway, Im learning classical piano, going for Irish grade 6 later this year (similar to UK ABRSM).

However, like many classical students, the whole playing for friends/family never works out as my Mozart and Chopin dont appeal to the masses!

Are there any good books on playing cocktail piano style, something that is not aimed at a beginner?

Thanks

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Piano & Music Accessories
#1708563 - 07/06/11 04:41 PM Re: How to play "cocktail piano" [Re: PoleStar]
Dave Horne Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5276
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
PoleStar, I don't normally hang out in this forum but will add my two cents.

I've made my living from playing cocktail piano and can honestly say I didn't learn very much about the style of playing cocktail piano from books; I learned a great deal of theory from books, but learning how to play cocktail piano comes from doing it and listening to others who do it well.

Until I approached cocktail piano seriously I played combo organ and piano. I remember one job where I had to play an hour of cocktail piano before the combo started and that was an eye opener for me, I realized just how weak my solo playing was.

If you want to learn how to play in this style, and there are many sub types as well, just start playing on your own. It also helps, and will save you a lot of time, if you study with someone who plays in this style and who can help guide you.

You'll need a thorough grounding in theory and many many hours of simply listening to as many pianists as you can. Every single first rate cocktail pianist learned his craft by listening, copying and doing - having an excellent practical grasp of theory is a given.
_________________________
website

mp3\wav files

AvantGrand N3, CP5

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#1708580 - 07/06/11 05:00 PM Re: How to play "cocktail piano" [Re: PoleStar]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
To put what Dave has said in a different way:
There isn't a book - the reference material is the music itself, whether live or recorded. The styles of ornamentation and voicing of chords that different people employ are all caught from listening and watching. Probably you CAN find a book of tunes suitable for this kind of treatment, but the how-to type of book would be hard to write and harder to read.

The reason for the strong mention of theory is that you will need to be able to understand what you hear. There is no special "cocktail piano theory" at all, just exactly what you learn from harmony class, but taking it seriously this time because you actually want to use it for something. wink

I will refrain from joking that to play cocktail piano you drink three martinis and then play whatever you like.
_________________________
(I'm a piano teacher.)

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#1708636 - 07/06/11 06:37 PM Re: How to play "cocktail piano" [Re: PoleStar]
Dave Horne Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5276
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
Originally Posted By: PoleStar
Hi

If only perhaps Piano Girl would write a book!

Anyway, Im learning classical piano, going for Irish grade 6 later this year (similar to UK ABRSM).

However, like many classical students, the whole playing for friends/family never works out as my Mozart and Chopin dont appeal to the masses!

Are there any good books on playing cocktail piano style, something that is not aimed at a beginner?

Thanks


At the risk of starting a flame war, I was curious to hear this Piano Girl. I've listened to three recordings via YouTube.

What I've heard is New Age piano - basically pure diatonic music. For those here who do not know what diatonic is, limit yourself to playing just in the key of C major\A relative minor, and only play the white keys. That's not cocktail piano, that's mood setting, mind numbing, very simple, background music.

I would be most interested in hearing a medley of tunes by Richard Rodgers, Hoagy Carmichael, George Gershwin or Cole Porter ... with some interesting harmonies.
_________________________
website

mp3\wav files

AvantGrand N3, CP5

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#1708753 - 07/06/11 10:20 PM Re: How to play "cocktail piano" [Re: PoleStar]
Norman Cotterell Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/08/06
Posts: 141
Loc: Elkins Park, PA
Well unfortunately, the Sudnow Method isn't a book, and it is aimed at beginners.

But... it does provide a simple formula to generate open voiced cocktail style arrangements of songs you find in jazz fake books. It also provides a figured bass style method of notation that I found useful. It's definitely not everyone's cup of tea. Still, I tried it, I liked it, and it led me to a deeper immersion and appreciation of Jazz. And it started a journey or maybe even a detour into improvisation.
_________________________
Every disease is a musical problem. Its cure, a musical solution. -- Novalis

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#1708833 - 07/07/11 01:19 AM Re: How to play "cocktail piano" [Re: PoleStar]
Piano Girl RMG Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 702
Loc: Germany
This is a little insulting, Dave. I play all styles of music in many different keys, including the aforementioned Rodgers, Carmichael, and Gershwin. I also play a little classical, and write many of my own pieces. Perhaps they are mind-numbing to you , or even—dare I say it—doomed to stay in the background, but I enjoy what I do, what I play, and the people who buy my records and hire me for gigs seem to agree. I have, you know, a career.

I am a huge fan of anyone who plays with passion, regardless of style. It's fine to have opinions, but even better to have open ears, I think. Judging my musicality on a few youtube videos doesn't seem quite fair, even though I happen to like those videos. Oh, and I what I play is not New Age, although people who insist on classifying my music have been known to put it in this category. Just yesterday I was (incorrectly) labeled a jazz pianist by a reviewer for International Piano. I have also been called a classical pianist. As Marian McPartland said, "It's all just music, isn't it?"

There is a nice thread on this forum called Let's Talk Cocktail Piano. Polestar, you might want to check it out. We've gone over a lot of this and it might be beneficial for you to take a look. And we welcome all types of pianists, classical, jazz, new age—there's room for everyone.
_________________________
Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist

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#1708838 - 07/07/11 01:48 AM Re: How to play "cocktail piano" [Re: PoleStar]
AlphaTerminus Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/08/09
Posts: 549
Loc: Iowa, USA
I will have you know Dave that Piano Girl is a classically trained Aussie that had a wonderful Russian teacher.

Ha Piano Girl I just happened upon your username and did not know you were on Piano World.

I read your book last year and really enjoyed it, and your music. You are very talented. I'm still mad for you about the dummy propped up at the player piano!

Play any castles lately?

From a fan.
_________________________
Lessons since September 2009
Yamaha C6

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#1708874 - 07/07/11 03:41 AM Re: How to play "cocktail piano" [Re: PoleStar]
Dave Horne Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5276
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
This is a little insulting, Dave. I play all styles of music in many different keys, including the aforementioned Rodgers, Carmichael, and Gershwin. I also play a little classical, and write many of my own pieces. Perhaps they are mind-numbing to you , or even—dare I say it—doomed to stay in the background, but I enjoy what I do, what I play, and the people who buy my records and hire me for gigs seem to agree. I have, you know, a career.

My apologies. The only links I found at YouTube were New Age stuff. I only mentioned this because your name was mentioned in context of cocktail piano music and all I heard was New Age.

I'm sure you play in many keys, my explanation of diatonic was easier when using the key of C major and only playing the white notes. Of course, New Age music can be played in Db major though in that case it's more than likely we'd hear only notes from Db major.
_________________________
website

mp3\wav files

AvantGrand N3, CP5

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#1708959 - 07/07/11 09:51 AM Re: How to play "cocktail piano" [Re: PoleStar]
btcomm Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/05/07
Posts: 275
Loc: California
I think if anyone has ever seen or heard a Jim Brickman concert then you'll know what Dave is speaking of.

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#1709169 - 07/07/11 03:41 PM Re: How to play "cocktail piano" [Re: PoleStar]
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1566
Loc: NY
Originally Posted By: PoleStar
Hi
Are there any good books on playing cocktail piano style, something that is not aimed at a beginner?

Hi PoleStar,

Not too many specific cocktail piano books around that I know of, as mentioned here, but I kind of like Simon Schott's "Play Piano By Ear". It's not a real play by ear method, but he has some good suggestions regarding chords and chord progressions (theory), etc., that can spice up your playing and help get a nice cocktail piano sound.

That's good that you have some classical training. It's also nice to learn some jazzy chords, b9, 13th, augmented, etc. The more variety of styles the better IMO, and as Robin says and demonstrates, "Play what you love", have fun, and it'll sound great. smile

Elssa's Place



Edited by Elssa (07/07/11 03:44 PM)

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#1710279 - 07/09/11 03:47 PM Re: How to play "cocktail piano" [Re: PoleStar]
PoleStar Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/16/09
Posts: 35
Loc: Ireland
Hi guys

Thanks for all the replies, certainly food for thought!

I guess perhaps what I need is a sort of reference theory book so I can start working out how to fill in the gaps in the fake books.

Anything along those lines or any other suggestions.

I am continuing with my classical lessons but want something to guide maybe 30 minutes practice a day out of my classical practice so I can self teach in this style. Thanks!

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