The Best Cocktail Piano Tip Ever: It Works Like Magic
Can there really be one cocktail piano tip that supersedes all others? I mean, really, when you consider all the techniques and strategies that one has the potential to master – chords, chord voicings, piano fills, improvisation, left hand accompaniment patterns, arpeggios, walking bass lines… on and on and on it goes…
Perhaps it seems difficult for you to put your finger on that one special nugget that can turn everything around for the better, huh?
Okay, well, it’s about to be unveiled…
(drum roll please)
Here it is…
There you have it… the most powerfully effective cocktail piano playing technique that you will ever master:
Be yourself and play within your means.
Some live that. Some don’t.
So, what’s this all about?
Have you ever attended an engagement in which you had to listen to a speaker for 20 minutes or more? Chances are you have. As a matter of fact, you’ve likely attended several.
Has any of those speakers come across as one who obviously possessed a large vocabulary and seemed to flaunt it during that speech? All the points were made… all the bases were covered… he or she tried to convey that they knew what they were talking about… and there were very successful at… almost putting you to sleep?
On the flip side, maybe you had the pleasure of listening to a speaker who wasn’t so fancy with words but somehow knew how to pace himself or herself in a way that kept your attention… even causing you to want to hear more? Perhaps it was that person’s use of space… a sense of humor… a relaxed persona… genuine sincerity. You sensed that this person was worth listening to.
THAT is what we’re talking about here. Let’s acknowledge a couple of scenarios:
1) No doubt, you have some technical skills that you are very good at… actually, you’re so good at them, that seemingly no effort is required on your part to execute them. While you’re performing, if those techniques were words, they would just seem to “roll of your tongue” in such a natural fashion.
2) Are there other technical skills that you aspire to master that you’re not yet entirely in command of? Well, congratulations for wanting to enhance your skills. We can only commend you for your enthusiasm and commitment to your craft. That said, when you incorporate those strategies into your playing, do they sound as if you are trying to make them work? There’s a significant difference between putting something across in a natural way and making an effort to “fit in a musical idea” that you don’t know like the back of your hand.
Whether you are performing in a way that more closely resembles #1 above or #2, consider this:
Your audience knows it.
Sure, they may not know the specifics about what you are playing. They may not have the tiniest clue about performing. Maybe they don’t even know an A on the piano from a G. However, they sense confidence.
There’s no getting around that. Actually, you wouldn’t want to, would you? After all, if you’re feeling a certain mood while performing, it’s likely that you want to convey it to your listeners. Just remember, they sense it all.
Okay, it’s understood that while you’re learning new playing techniques, practicing involves incorporating them, fumbling here and there, sometimes getting it perfect, and sometimes making a royal mess of things. That’s all just fine. It’s all a part of learning.
That said, reserve some practice time for not practicing. Yes, you read that right. Use that time for performing confidently. Focus on all those attributes of yours that make you feel confident as you play. In other words, “trying” is not a part of the equation. You’re at your best… you feel your best… you KNOW from beat to beat that everything is going to be just fine. Yep, that means even if you make an “error”… you’re feeling good about yourself as you play. There’s no looking back. You are in the NOW.
When you lose yourself in the NOW, you can’t go wrong. You’re there. You have no concerns. There’s no doubt. You just know it’s going to happen. You can even secretly celebrate each performed beat as a success. Actually, you feel better and better as your performance continues.
Now (speaking of that)… we’re not suggesting that you don’t take an occasional musical risk here and there. That’s a part of the fun and growth as a performer, too. However, take those risks confidently. The concern about being right or wrong during your performance is non-existent.
If this all seems a bit strange to you, that’s a good thing. You see, that means you’ve been exposed to a way of thinking (actually, more feeling than thinking) that can open new doors for you in terms of playing with confidence.
In other words, it takes practice. Yes, now you’ve got the ticket: the goal is to practice being yourself while playing within your means with confidence. That’s the greatest cocktail piano tip you can implement.
No other piano playing technique can replace this – no chord voicing, no piano fill, no improvisational lick, no anything. When you feel confident, that positive energy is conveyed to your listening audience. When you don’t, you’re cheating yourself and your audience.
That’s about it as far as making the point here. However, as you give this some of your own personal attention and you would like some help in this area, perhaps a coaching session might be of value to you. I’m available for that (just ask). More importantly, however, tune into you and how you feel as you play. Truly, you have the potential to be your best at any given time. Let that be now, friend.