How Do Piano Players Learn New Songs w/o Sheet Music?

I don’ know about the other piano player, but we rarely use piano sheet music when we’re playing piano for hire.

I used to use all kinds of Fake Books when I first started out. But not anymore. When I want to learn a new song, I have a bunch of other ways to get the song memorized and into my repertoire. Here are only a few of the methods: 

sheet music, piano music,

Need Sheet Music?

  1. Fake Books are otherwise known as lead sheets. They resemble piano sheet music except that don’t use a full staff. There’s no trebele and bass clefs. There’s only treble clef. Only a melody and lyrics are printed. There will be a chord chart over the treble clef. Those may be in the form of a symbol like a C7 or Cm7 or something like that. Sometimes it will be a chord grid showing the frets and the fingering. That would be more for guitarists not pinao sheet music.
    There used to be fake books when I was learning playing jazz piano gigs. They just had the melody and written out chord symbols.Not so much anymore. We tend to find almost anything we need on a variety of apps or on lyric sites online.
  2. Tabs are used for guitarists mostly. As a piano player I dont have much use for them tabs. Short for tabluture, again it’s like a grid showing which fret and which fingers go where.
  3. Apps are used in force these days. I love ’em. Not only does it allow me to look up songs on the fly when someone requests an obscure hit, I can also leave all my fake books at home. I used to carry a suitcase full of tunes with me to every gig. I would every fake book I thought I might need for that particular gig and inevitably, someone would ask for something I didn’t have in my collection that particular night.Now I use OnSong.com or I go to GuitarTabs.com and download their software. It usually costs $7-10 a year. But well worth it every time.
  4. Play By Ear most times. It’s faster and since most Pop songs are all the same basic 4 chords, the only thing to get is how they phrase their lyrics. The arrangements are all pretty musch the same magic trick. If its in a minor key it will resolve to the relative major. For example, if it’s E minor then the chorus will come around to G Major. Listen to Take Me To Church by Hozier. Listen to Blank Space the new hit by Taylor Swift.If the song is G Major, the turn around or the bridge is going to start on the E minor ….. and so on and so on.That’s pretty much it for how professional piano players learn new songs without using sheet music. Fake books are fading out. Apps are the most popular. But I still rely on my ears and my experience to get a new song ready for performance.

Hope this helped.

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.

Company Event Entertainment Just Got Easier

So I want to talk about all the company event entertainment coming up that we have on tap for everyone, now that I know you all like my new logo,

As you know the Holiday season is upon us. If you’re not sure, then just turn on your TV or your radio> It’s okay. It’s safe to do so now that the elections are over and done with. When you do, you will see a semblance of Christmas ads already in full swing. I guess advertisers are getting a good rate now that the politicians are out of the way.

company event entertainment with live music and comedy

Company Event Entertainment

We have a wide variety of live music acts available for your company Christmas party again this year. Most importantly — it is very affordable when you go with one of the great piano players we have on board. Namely Me. Dan Gillogly. Okay … so it ain’t bragging if you can do it. But as much fun as you guys have, it is more fun for me. I’d love to hear from you so we can get things rolling.

We had another fantastic night of entertainment last Saturday night. People came together singing songs that everyone knew the words to and laughing along with all the improvised comedy and having a great time listening to live music as their entertainment.

Your party planning never got easier. Just pick up the phone and call Amber at +1 773-527-7417. We may still have your date available. It’s hard to say. There’s always one way to find out. If you’re the one in charge of finding great entertainment for company event this year, give her a call. I can GUARANTEE  you will have fun! You guys will be talking about the great laughs for months — possibly years after the superior night of live music and comedy entertainment at your company event.

Great Piano Player Chuck Leavell Honored

I just wanted to pop this up here and say congratulations to one of my favorite piano players Chuck Leavell.

He has been holding the chair in The Rolling Stones for going on 35 years now. I first got hip to him when he played piano on the first Allman Brothers record after Duane died. Chuck’s piano solos, particularly the one on ‘Jessica’ remains and always will be a true classic.

Congratulations to Chuck Leavell on your induction into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2016/02/chuck_leavell.html

Chuck Leavell: Pianist Extraordinaire

Life As A Cruise Ship Piano Entertainer

The kids on the cruise ship are hilarious. They are very antsy and energetic. Like, constantly. But mostly right after a meal. They can’t understand how grown ups just want sit back and talk and relax after a good bite. Kids got to get up and run around. They got to do things.

This is especially so when the child has been fed a very steady diet of soft serve ice cream. It can’t be beat. They don’t want anything but french fries and ice cream. Who can blame them? If I didn’t have repercussions from eating like that I would do it all the time. It’s hypnotizing to think about. Donuts and ice cream. No veggies. No rice cakes. Just ice cream. Mmmmmmmm … mesmerizing.

I saw one little tyke this AM who didn’t look any older than 2 years old. I don’t even think he had been walking for more than a month or two. He was holding his Mom’s hand as they were walking along the pool deck to go to the buffet.

It was as if he could smell the ice cream 50 meters away because once he realized where they were going, he just looked up at his Mom as if to say, “Can’t you move any faster Lady?” I mean he was pulling on her limb as if he wasn’t going to stand for the delay in the proceedings and if she didn’t get with the program, he was going to have to release of her of her duties so he could get on over to the ice cream! “Let’s get on with it!” 2 years old.

His poor mother knew exactly what was going on and was not going to release him until he got something nutritious in him first. But she looked utterly defeated. She knew she should not have brought this kid with them on this trip. She thought she was going to catch up on her sleep. She thought she was going to relax. But Nooooo. This 2 year old needed ice cream and immediately after he was going to run around. Probably where danger existed in the form of swimming pools and slippery floors.

I can’t say I miss those days. I’m only working on this cruise ship as an entertainer because our kids are grown up and out of high school now. This is my time to sit back and watch all those parents deal with saying no to ice cream.