Keep It Simple, Soloist
I have always loved eating stir-fry meals. I also enjoy doing some stir-frying myself on occasion. However, when it comes to my knowledge of the various seasoning combinations and the subtle “tricks of the trade,” I couldn’t hold a candle to a chef.
If you were to ask me to explain, in one or two sentences, how to stir-fry, I wouldn’t be able to offer you more than that. However, given my wok, a few shrimp, some vegetables, a little soy sauce, and spice or two, I’ll cook myself up meal that’s more than satisfying.
The point? You only need to know a tiny bit about what you love to put it across in a way that’s palatable. That includes playing cocktail piano.
Actually, starting out with just a couple of “seasonings” (piano chord voicings, for example) may be the better way to go. Getting back to my cooking… if an entire spice rack was put in front of me and someone said to me, “Go to town. Flavor it up!” I would probably overdo it and the resulting taste would likely be on the sickening side.
“Just Some Salt & Pepper, Please”
A simple cocktail piano tip: implementing a couple of basic chord voicing concepts is quite enough to serve your audience a musical “entrée” that will have them staying for dessert. It’s the quality of what you say that matters a whole lot more than how much you say.
For example, if you are at a point where your chord familiarity is currently limited to playing basic 7th chords, then go with that. Keep it technically simple while you play with lots of feeling. Use dynamics to express that feeling. Consider playing those chords as arpeggios, perhaps playing each chord tone as quarter note. Alternate that with simply sustaining the chord.
Take It Up A Tiny Notch?
If you would be open to utilizing those 7th chords in a slightly more interesting way, I created a video session that can have you sounding a little more “pro” as you perform those favorite ballads of yours. Again, it involves using just a couple of those “seasonings” to begin cooking with.
Underlying everything is the necessity to accept and appreciate exactly where you’re at, remaining open to expanding your knowledge and enhancing your skills gradually. Remember, music does not require complexity to sound good.
Use What Feels Natural
I didn’t plan on mentioning it here but, as I was just contemplating, an old Federal Express commercial came to mind. Remember the one where the guy talks at a rate of a thousand words a minute? I recall thinking, “That’s a pretty cool skill to have.” That said, I know that I don’t need to speak that rapidly in order to express myself effectively. If I tried, it certainly wouldn’t come across in a natural way. For that reason, no one would want to listen.
Be YOU… give yourself permission to express your music simply and freely… aspire to learn…
And, of course…
PLAY WITH PASSION!