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How Does A Piano Player Learn So Many New Songs?

Learning new songs is part and parcel of our daily existence as a piano player who plays live music regularly. The challenge is sifting through all the new music and finding what works and what doesn’t work.

In my opinion most of the Pop and Country music these days has become homogenized. For those of you that didn’t grow up in the 60s ‘homogenized’ is not a sexual connotation. It means that everything is made the same. Some might say made to the same standard of quality. But I think what has happened is that most of the popular songs have the same chord changes and a drought of tasty melodies. I know there are some great and talented songwriters out there. But by the time their tune gets to the producer and to the recording process, there are changes that get made to make the song palatable. Axis of Awesome did this comedy music bit that has become a perfect example of what I’m taking about  

That’s okay by me. I don’t mind. I just know, as a writer, there are so many possibilities harmonically and melodically speaking, that there is no excuse for this. Even if a song were to have one ‘mystery chord’ in there somewhere, it would go a long way. It could be laziness. It could be ignorance.

But I think what has happened is when people like something, the creators replicate it because they know it’s a winning formula. This is true in every successful business. The music business is no different.

I think Adele has had some good success with adding tasty chords into her songs. Bruno Mars is copying many of the greats that came before him. They are both quite open about the fact that they are standing the shoulders of the giants who came before them.

My job is a piano player is to interpret what is out there and make it my own. For example, I don’t use massive amounts of music production techniques at our performances. I know some players use backing tracks and drum machines, even at dueling pianos shows. That’s cool. I never found it all that inspiring. As a piano player who works a lot I find I get inspiration from the people who are listening. I like that kind of energy rather than a technical energy.

The idea is that then the piano player turns the song into something of his own. Since we are all standing on the shoulders of the great ones who came before us, the only thing left for us to do is to personalize it.

That’s one of the things I learned early on as I was an aspiring musician learning to become a professional piano player. I used to think “Who is the best piano player?”. But then I realized it’s all one magic trick. Once you learn that one trick everything else after that is about adding the personality you were born with or that you are willing to let shine through.

So when I learn a new One Direction song or something from Jason Aldean, it doesn’t matter to me that all the same chords sequences are being used over and over again. I try to find the essence of the tune and make it my own. Sometimes I get it right, other times I need to keep learning.

Quick Retirement Party Ideas

I had a call last week for another custom writing job. It was to be part of a long list of retirement party ideas.

I’ve had these calls before. An executive of seasoned tenure is about to retire. The accolades will be forthcoming. The revealing anecdotes will be told. … and … in this case, a special song parody will be written and recorded for the celebrant.

The gentleman going into the golden years of his life was a life long salesman. He had founded his company, mentored many young professionals in his time and was looking forward to go off hunting and fishing. The perfect choice was a song parody of the Kenny Rogers hit The Gambler.

The interview process is a simple one for gigs like this. I have a 2 page questionnaire I have the contact fill out. They usually send it around to the other executives and co-workers around the office. They become our eyes and ears.

The process is going to take at least two days. I get all the info. I write up a few verses. 5 or 6 to be exact. I’m only going to use one or two. Then I get the chorus to go along with the plan.

After that I get the studio all cranked up. Fire off the essential parts. Arrange it for timing of the jokes and then I get a quick demo out the door. Once the customer signs off on it, I know I’ve got a winner. Then I just re-record it, mix it and master in the studio.

Listen to the final product. How did I do? Let me know.

Lickety split, Super quick Retirement party ideas will last a lifetime.

When Was The Last Time You Had A Good Laugh? Dueling Pianos Music and Comedy

Another beautiful frosty day in November here in Chicago. We had another successful corporate event last night. It was a dueling pianos show in Peoria IL courtesy of Central Illinois Dueling Pianos. Thank you very much Andrew

We entertained a whole bunch of government officials. Some newly elected. Some newly un-elected. And of course all of their staff. We had a lot of laughs.

I love that part of our job as a musician, as an entertainer for an event.

music and comedy, comedy music, event, entertainer, comedian, musician,

When Was The Last Time You Had A Good Laugh?

Getting people to laugh. Sometimes we’re just improvising. Sometimes they’re routines that we have been doing for years. But the thing about dueling pianos is we are always going to have something different.

It’s because of the audience. Every audience, tho similar, is different. Different requests. Different celebrations. Just different.

But we know you’re going to have fun. We know we’re going to get you to where you want to go. You want to have fun and you need to laugh. We just have to organize the deck chairs, if you will. Alphabetize the chaos.

We had that rolling laughter last night. That interactive banter that keys off of people in the audience and their responses. A quality dueling piano show allows for that to happen. It’s so flexible.

I feel like the laughter is the key. I have always been looking for that laugh. As long as I can remember. Its a key component of what I do. Getting people to laugh.

One of the ways to do it is to be able to laugh at myself. That right there is probably the top way to get others’ to join me in laughter. I don’t take this whole music and comedy thing too seriously. I know, comedy is a serious business and all. But I just don’t take myself too seriously.

I hope you don’t either. And don’t take it too personally either. We’re all human. We’re all really kind of the same – for the most part. We all do and think the same stupid stuff. So it’s okay to laugh at yourself sometimes. It lightens the load we have to carry.

I think I read something somewhere about how laughter releases a chemical into our systems that keeps us young. I hope that’s true. Because there are times when I absolutely crave hearing laughter and having a good laugh – at myself most of all.

I hope you have a great Holiday season. We are busy busy busy again. Yet there are still a few dates open. I’d love to help you laugh some night too. Call me and we’ll see what we can do.

I could have been in the Olympics but I’d rather be here

Olympics Rant

You know I qualified for the Olympics again this year. But I decided not to go. It wouldn’t be fair to the other athletes. I would have won all the medals especially on Track &Field. I mean that would be selfish of me.

Oh this sarcasm doesn’t look too good in print. Honestly, I’m surprised at how much of an expert I’ve become in sports I don’t know anything about. I was watching the platform divers last night and I had no idea how dangerous that sport could be. Those divers hit the water at 30+ mph. One wrong move and Ouch!

Olympics Day 3 - Diving

Then there’s me from my recliner in my living room looking to relax and I can only think there is not enough tape in the world to protect my wrists from hitting the water the wrong way. Then I find myself becoming VERY opinionated about the Splash Meter. When I used to watch this sport on the Wide World of Sports years ago, I don’t remember having it so easy. Yet here I sit with a beverage and a meter to gauge how much liquid should be acceptable in my life when it comes to platform divers.

You should have heard me last week during 2 man kayaking!

 

Live Band Dueling Pianos

So we played a dueling pianos show last night at Bar Louie’s up in Mil-Town (a.k.a. Milwaukee), Chicago’s largest suburb in Wisconsin and I must say that, once again, we had a great time. Go figure. People in Wisconsin are always way too easy to get along with.

I was with the great Ted Oliver across from me. And he had invited some local musicians he’s been jamming with from a band called C.I.A. Which is short for Caught In The Act I think.

Anyway, they were realllllyy good. Stan and Mark were on sax and trumpet while Tom came up and shredded his vocal chords on some Chicago and Journey and various and sundry hits. They’re wives and friends were there and I must say, it might go down as one of the highlights of my year.

There are always one or twon gigs which stand out as highlights of the year for me. This one would go in the Top 5 for me for 2015, that’s for sure. These guys were exceptional. They’re energy was infectious for me and Ted and for everyone in attendance. I played and sang differently because they were there.

You see, there is something about live music that is completely disarming for most people. When we play dueling pianos we can get people dancing and singing along. But when we added those horns, people were downright defenseless against the power of live music.

I would like to think it is us. I know we’re the ones behind the instruments. We’re the ones on the mics cracking jokes and imploring folks to sing along.

But it is the power of the music that makes it work. It is the universal language of music that is coming into your soul and creating joy and beauty and memories that will last your entire lifetime. Maybe beyond.

Will these musicians remember on their death bed the long days working that senseless day job? Or will they remember with fondness and a great sense of fulfillment the nights of playing music in front of people who truly enjoyed it too?

Let us create memories for you at your next get together. It would be an honor. Especially if you’re in Mil-Town or the surrounding ‘burbs.

All American Dueling Pianos. Creating Lifelong Memories One Song At A Time. 773-527-7417