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Tag: performing music

“Song of the Day” Project

Hi everyone! If you haven’t come across it already, check out my facebook page (here). I have started a “Song of the Day” project where I am recording a video every day. I’m also taking and playing your requests, so make a comment on the videos. Have a look, and spread the word 🙂

-Josh

Never Give Up on a Crowd

Sometimes an audience isn’t even close to giving you the energy you are craving (or needing) for your show. It doesn’t matter why–so many factors can play into it: small audience size, too far away from you, sports on the TV, networking events, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam [latin!]. It can be so crazy frustrating to play in these situations, but–here’s the thing–you can’t let it get to you. Keep pushing that rope. Keep banging your head against that wall. Keep herding those cats. You gotta do it, because there’s going to be a moment when something shifts, and the folks will be more receptive to what you’re doing. If you’re not there 100% to capitalize on that instant, it will pass you by. Don’t let it! It’s going to be tough–it’s going to be damned near impossible–but you can’t give up on that crowd. They’re going to be there for you. Where will you be?

-Josh

The Go-List

When playing a request-based show, sometimes you are faced with a conundrum – you just don’t have any requests to play! This happens a lot of times at the beginning of a show while people are still getting situated, their drinks ordered, etc. Sometimes it can happen during a longer show if the crowd is in the middle of a turnover. Hell, sometimes the crowd just wants to sit back and listen without having to constantly think of another clever tune. Well, what do you play? It’s easy to panic and not be able to think of even ONE of the hundreds (maybe thousands) of songs you know you can play at that moment. That is where the “go-list” comes in handy. The go-list is simply a list of songs that you know can work at any time.

An old go-list of mine
An old go-list of mine

These lists are also useful when you’d like to change the direction the requests have been going. For instance, when a lot of people come to a piano-bar show, they limit themselves to only thinking of “typical piano songs” (Elton John, Billy Joel, Rat Pack, etc.). They don’t realize that we can play guitar-heavy songs, too. It’s times like these when a well-placed rocker by the Stones or even some Def Leppard can step up the request game. The go-list is a great way to remind yourself of that perfect song.

There are countless ways of putting your go-list together. You can jot down a list on the back of a request slip before the show starts. Some folks use a Post-It note. I prefer a spreadsheet on Google Drive that I can access at any time from my phone or my tablet [nerd alert]. I maintain a couple of them – one dance-heavy list for wedding receptions and another one for solo shows that I have separated into three categories based on the pacing of the show (low, mid, and high energy).

The go-list is a great tool to keep up your sleeve. You never know when you’ll need it. Keep it updated and keep it handy.

-Josh

Every Person in the Crowd

Every person in the crowd is important. Make sure you’re taking time to connect with every person out there. It’s tempting to just focus on the fun people who are giving the energy back to you, but take the time to branch out from that core. Even a glance and a smile can affect the energy in the room. Don’t worry – that core group will still be there for you if you need an energy refill.

-Josh

Keeping Fresh on Pop Songs

When playing an all-request show, you absolutely must stay up-to-date with the current trends in pop music. I try to keep at least three or four current top ten songs ready to go. Right now that means “Love Yourself” and “Sorry” by Justin Bieber, “Stressed Out” by twenty one pilots, and “Hello” by Adele. Mind you, I’m not memorizing these tunes – most of them won’t make it a month in the zeitgeist – but I certainly get familiar enough with the tune that I can pull up some lyrics and perform it pretty well.

I have the Billboard Hot 100 bookmarked and I listen to most of the songs about every other day on average, usually while getting ready in the morning [edit – just the top few songs, not all 100!!]. The mind is fresh and ready to absorb new tunes in the morning, so why not take advantage! If you don’t subscribe to a music service, most of the current hits are on YouTube for on-demand listening. It also doesn’t hurt to sit down at the piano and play through a verse, chorus, and bridge of the tunes once a week or so. Make it a habit, and soon you’ll be winning over a whole new demographic of music fans.

Keep practicing!

-Josh

On Auditioning New Players

Have you ever been to a Piano Fondue show and thought, “Man, would I love to be doing that!”? Well, here’s what I’m looking for…

When I’m auditioning a potential new player for Piano Fondue training, I have them sit in on the Thursday night dueling show at the Ivory Room. They get to play two 30-minute sets, each done across from a PF veteran.

I’m only looking at three things.

  • How’s the voice? I’m really looking for basics here – mostly just intonation. Other aspects (power, range, tone, endurance) are easier to work on should they need any polishing.
  • How’s the personality? How comfortable are they with the crowd? Are they looking at the audience at all? Are they smiling? Are they bantering with the other player? The veteran player sitting across from them is helping them out. How do they respond? Performing with Piano Fondue is like being the frontman in a rock band. Can they handle it?
  • How are the piano chops? I’m looking for one thing – can they convincingly accompany themselves without looking at their hands? Everything else can be worked on.

To sum it up, sing in tune. Have personality. Don’t look at your hands. Can you do that? If so, you have potential. Send me an email.

-Josh

Healthy Singing with an Earplug

I have a quick tip for all you singers out there (especially the ones at noisy bars). Put an earplug in one of your ears. It helps you monitor how healthily you’re singing. I’ve been doing it for years now, and I gotta say it’s a godsend. I can feel where the threshold of “destructive pushing” is, and I simply don’t cross it.

[Bonus fact] Most people have one ear that is far better at determining intonation. It shouldn’t take much experimentation to determine which ear to plug and which to leave open.

Happy singing!

-Josh

Sit Up Straight

Okay, I’m going to channel my best inner-mom when I tell you this… “Sit up straight!” In addition to not looking like a slouch, good posture helps your singing and speaking tremendously. Lining up your vocal apparatus and activating your core is damn near everything you are trying to accomplish with voice lessons, and good posture is the end-all, be-all, holy grail of setting it all up for you. Activating your core has more benefits, too. It sets you up to be a physically stronger person. Strength comes from your core, and by keeping it active, you are essentially always working out. Last, but entirely not least, sitting, standing, and walking with good posture makes you feel better, stronger, and more confident, and when you’re feeling better, stronger, and more confident, you are going to feel happier. Good posture will literally improve your life, so let’s get on it.

When I remind myself to check my standing posture, I always imagine there is a string attached to the crown of my head, pulling me up like a marionette and stretching my spine. A couple side to side stretches and a deep breath later, I’m in power town, and I’m feeling more limber. If I’m sitting down, I sit so that I feel ready to stand up at any time. It keeps me super energized and ready to sing and play with energy and vigor. Try it yourself and see if you feel better and more energized. If you’ve been slouching for years, a lot of these muscles will put up a little fight when you start activating them for the first time, but keep it up, and you’ll eventually train good posture as your default. Until that happens, try to make occasional posture checks into a habit. Set a reminder on your phone or ask a friend or significant other to remind you from time to time.

Keep thinking positive, keep smiling, and get after that good posture. Your body and soul will thank you for it.

-Josh

Learning New Songs on a Deadline

We play a lot of wedding receptions with Piano Fondue, and as a result, I often have to learn some new songs for first dances and the like. I’d like to share some tips and tricks I use for learning new songs quickly. This is for learning by ear – if you have the sheet music in front of you it’s kind of unnecessary. I usually just have a lyric sheet in front of me for this type of performance. [bonus tip – for memorizing lyrics, write them down a couple times]

  • First, don’t cram the day of. It’s very hard to keep a song solidly in your head from only one impression – even if it’s a few times through. Unless you are certain that you’ll have the chance to listen to the song immediately before performing it, this is risky. Any tune you hear between listening and performing will start to contaminate the memory. If some sort of emergency crops up, and you only get one day, then try to take breaks between listenings – an hour is good, making sure to listen to other songs in between to really solidify the song.
  • Ideally, I like taking five days to a week to really get a song solid. I don’t know the brain science behind it, but I find that if I don’t listen to the song every day, but take a day or two off in between, the second listening is much more effective – must be some sort of long-term vs. short-term memory thing.
  • Pay close attention to the bridge and try to learn it first. The bridge is usually the toughest part to get solidly since it typically only happens once in the song. Try to remember how it goes while listening to the first couple verses.
  • If you can play an instrument, play along with the song. It will help solidify any weird changes in the tune.
  • Try to sing the song by yourself between listenings. Singing along with the recording isn’t usually as helpful – you may start relying on cues that won’t be there when you perform it live.

Good luck. If there is one tip that I would recommend above the others, it’s putting space between listenings. It does wonders. Keep singing!

-Josh

Do you have any tips for learning music quickly? Share them below!

They Just Won’t Pay Attention

I was playing a show the other night. It was a corporate holiday party – nametags and everything – and I just could not get the people to engage with my show at all. I was still getting requests, so I had a good set to do, but the crowd was hanging away by the bar and gabbing. What to do?

This type of thing can easily happen at any event where networking or catching up is the focus (think class reunion). It’s easy to get discouraged, but don’t! Try getting them involved for a few songs (I tried for a good twenty minutes). If they’re not biting, then just play for you. Eventually they’ll come around. Just think – after they get to the small talk portion of their conversations, you’ll be their savior!

Keep playing, and make sure you’re enjoying it.

-Josh