Be Your Own Audience
The next time you are about to sit at your piano, have a recording device by your side. If you are playing a digital piano, use the record button (how convenient!). Choose a song that is already a part of your repertoire. It’s one you feel quite confidently with.
Now, put your imagination to work just a little. You are playing in the corner of the room in a restaurant. People are eating, drinking and conversing. At the same time, this is a crowd that generally appreciates the fact that there is music provided. That is a reason they come to this place to dine.
Hit the “record” button and simply play in that scenario. Just relax and do your thing. When you are finished, stop the recording.
Again, using your imagination, put yourself in the scenario of your audience. You are in the same restaurant. You are seated at a table having a meal and drink. You pause your conversation with the person with you because the song being played is one you especially have a liking for. Now, hit the “play” button and treat yourself to that song.
Remember, you are the listener rather than the performer. You don’t personally know who the cocktail pianist is. You are there to appreciate the music. Just relax and enjoy what you are hearing.
Observe Your Performance
While you are experiencing the role of being your own audience, take some mental notes of how you interpret what is being played.
Is the music complementary to your dining experience? Is the pianist being sensitive to the fact that he/she is not the only one in the room? Is the volume adequate to allow conversing while dining? Is there sufficient space in the music? Is it too aggressive? Too subtle? Does the music flow?
The answers to the questions above are not as significant as your own interpretations. Nothing can have as much impact on your ability to perform well as knowing what your audience listens to and how those people hear it. As you engage in this experiment time and time again, you will discover that your playing takes a turn for the better.
Make It A Habit
It’s inevitable. Listening to yourself “in the mirror” forces you to experience your music from a different perspective. Since you are listening and not doing the playing, you are not “trying” to sound good. There is no effort. In other words you are not “in your own head” while you are playing. You are free of all the technical attempts, including what chords or voicings you are using, playing tasteful piano fills, etc. You are experiencing your playing from the other side.
Nothing more needs to be said here, You see, your own personal observations speak for themselves. Use this very powerful (but too often overlooked) technique to take your playing up several notches in professionalism and artistry.