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#2949889 - 09/24/18 06:34 PM I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ...
cphollis Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 10/05/13
Posts: 2578
Loc: Massachussets, Florida
.. but I am, and I am quite surprised how much I'm enjoying it. Never thought that would be my thing, but I'm always open minded. I kiss a lot of frogs along the way.

These two mature vocalists (male and female) hunted me down and ask if I'd join them to make a trio. I asked them what sort of music they played. They said "60s-90s". I said that was a pretty broad range.

They said "No, those are the ages of our audience".

OK, then.

"Dream A Little Dream of Me". "A Thousand Stars". "What A Wonderful World". And so on. Arguably all cheese. So what.

Separately, the vocalists sound pretty darn good. You'd want either of them in your band. Together, they harmonize like a dream. Natural talents, each of them. Not AGT level, but still pretty freakin' engaging.

They play Florida local social clubs and the like for reasonable money. The retiree clubs around here have all sorts of dinner and social gigs, and -- strangely -- there's HUGE demand for cocktail acts. They want wallpaper music so the members can drink and socialize. OK, fine.

Here's why I am surprisingly having fun:

Good material. Most of the songs they like are musically interesting and very pleasant to listen to. Great audience responses. Who knew?

Moderate volume. Vocals up front, then keys in the background. No competing with guitars, drums, etc. Just me. I can do anything I damn want to, within reason. All the nuances and subtleties of my boards can be heard and felt.

Strange, I thought there was a good reason to buy boards that sounded good to my ears smile

Gigs tend to be in the afternoon or early in the evening. Senior hours. Local travel, like 5 miles max. Usually, I'm in bed no later than 10 pm.

The best part? I can get all orchestral, and everyone freakin' loves it. Big grand piano sounds, strings, flutes, choirs, organs, accordions, etc. etc. Wild horn solos if it's called for. It's my call, no negotiating.

I'm playing a Nord Piano 2 below and a Nord Stage 3 above through a pair of RCF TT08-as, so it all sounds super crystal. If this becomes a thing, I'm buying another Bose L1 Model II. Perfect for this kind of gig. Had one, sold it, now regret it.

Common refrain.

I don't have to work all that hard. No sweat involved. Learn the song structure, take a solo on every song. Maybe two. Throw in a few jazz voicings from time to time to keep things interesting. This is not a high effort gig. The vocalists do all the heavy lifting. I'm just frosting on the cake.

Minimal gear haul. Dial in the right song, the audience tips big. Like hundos on occasion. That's nice when it happens. Also, super nice people at the gigs. Well-off retirees out for the night. All good. If you're looking for hot chicks, this is not your thing. Good news: I'm way past that.

The two other musos are blown out with me and think they've won the muso lottery. They're impressed with me, but I'm not impressed with me. So I'm not having to do the usual band negotiation thing.

I'm just covering the basics, folks, there are so many people out there who are outrageously more talented than little old me. Just goes to show how few competent keyboard folks are out there in circulation. Y'all should feel loved.

Better yet? I started pulling out some keyboard-centric songs from the era (Your Song, Tiny Dancer, Piano Man, Morning Has Broken, Lady Madonna, etc.) and they went "wow, that sounds amazing, we want to do that stuff".

So even better.

So, I never thought I'd end up doing this and enjoying it so much. Maybe because I've always had an open mind when it comes to engaging with other musicians -- and other audiences.

I won't get "cool" points for doing what I'm doing, but -- hey -- I don't really care.

It's all about having fun, right?
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#2949895 - 09/24/18 06:59 PM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: cphollis]
ElmerJFudd Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 11/30/14
Posts: 6460
Loc: USA, greater NY area
Florida is a fantastic place for live music. The older generations know a good singer when they hear it and a gig accompanying can be a blessing. You control the arrangement, the volume, no other instruments to stay out of each other’s way and you take all the solo breaks. wink I love playing with bass and drums and a sax and/or singer, but sometimes piano and vocal is just right.
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#2949902 - 09/24/18 07:16 PM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: ElmerJFudd]
bennyray Offline
Gold Member

Registered: 12/06/14
Posts: 937
I did a gig somewhat similar a few years ago and absolutely loved it easy gig and money was really nice. Low maintenance and good pay and most of all good hours and no stress for the most part.

Glad you're having fun and you are right about you get all the freedom to play almost any part you want.

Plus doing all those piano songs was fun without hearing the guitar screaming and so pleasant to the ears.

In the long run I think it will give you alot of confidence in your playing because right now it's basically about you.

Let us know how things go later down the road!
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#2949903 - 09/24/18 07:19 PM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: cphollis]
ITGITC? Offline
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Registered: 12/18/02
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Loc: USA

Originally Posted By: cphollis

It's all about having fun, right?



For me... THIS.

Music is cool. cool
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#2949908 - 09/24/18 07:52 PM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: ITGITC?]
timwat Offline
Quite wealthy...spiritually
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Registered: 11/21/01
Posts: 5715
Loc: Concord,CA,UNITED STATES
This kind of gig can be as challenging as you want it to be - simply a matter of where you want to set your own personal bar.

Peter Horvath told me once when I was complaining bout the same tunes being called by every female singer I was working with at the time, "There's no such thing as an un-hip tune. You may not be hip enough to make it sound hip, but that's not the song's fault".

Playing solo piano or accompanying a singer - you have a wide open landscape to explore. Dynamics. Negative space. Rhythmic explorations. Reharmonizations. Simple beauty.

Here's what I'm currently shedding at home for personal practice and study:

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#2949937 - 09/25/18 04:28 AM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: timwat]
I-missRichardTee Offline
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Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 7040
Loc: S. Ca. USA
Funny Mr CP Hollis. I have been doing cocktail music, off and on for decades. And now, I am trying to extend beyond cocktail music. The hardest thing is if you are the soul sole ( just kidding, it's late here in CA ) soloist, THAT is tough, to not bore yourself. I guess different voicings, variations, registers and instrument choices can save you. Have fun.
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#2949947 - 09/25/18 06:26 AM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: I-missRichardTee]
Delaware Dave Offline
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Registered: 04/21/11
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Loc: Take a guess ....
Ah, good ol "middle of the road music".... pass.
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#2949948 - 09/25/18 06:35 AM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: I-missRichardTee]
cedar Offline
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Registered: 10/04/14
Posts: 1086
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: I-missRichardTee
The hardest thing is if you are the soul sole ( just kidding, it's late here in CA ) soloist, THAT is tough, to not bore yourself.


I can relate. This year, I've played a lot more cocktail hours (sometimes extending into dinners) than ever before, usually with a trio but sometimes solo. If the event lasts 2 hours or less and I am solo, I can keep myself pretty interested. But after that, it's a struggle not to get bored with myself. It's also bad if I do a few of these things in the span of a week or two.

But cocktail hours can be fun. I find that most crowds don't care if you deviate from the Great American Songbook, and throw in Bill Evans tunes and the like. Can't get too adventurous, but there's plenty of room still to enjoy oneself.

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#2949971 - 09/25/18 08:19 AM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: cedar]
Jazzmammal Offline
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Registered: 08/17/12
Posts: 1897
Loc: Redondo Beach, CA
These gigs can surprise you. I don't do them regularly but often enough. Three tunes that come to mind that went over well was Take 5, Tunisia and Green Dolphin Street and the reason was I did them slow with a medium swing feel, not uptempo jazz club style. Joy Spring was another one. Just take some of your personal favorites, slow them way down and play them with feeling.

Bob

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#2949982 - 09/25/18 09:20 AM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: timwat]
Joe Muscara Offline
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Registered: 02/21/05
Posts: 19966
Loc: Heaven, Hell, or Houston
Originally Posted By: timwat
Peter Horvath told me once when I was complaining bout the same tunes being called by every female singer I was working with at the time, "There's no such thing as an un-hip tune. You may not be hip enough to make it sound hip, but that's not the song's fault".
Awesome, Tim. I've added that to my list of quotes I keep around for inspiration and stuff.

Congrats, Chuck. I admit I'm a bit envious. thu
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#2949984 - 09/25/18 09:26 AM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: Joe Muscara]
MathOfInsects Offline
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Registered: 02/04/15
Posts: 3584
Loc: California
I have literally had moments during gigs where I have to ask myself, "What would someone better than I am do with this song?"

The fantastic psychological result of that is that if it sounds at all good, I feel no satisfaction, since somehow I associate it with some mythical someone else, instead of me, the guy who conjured that mythical being.
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#2949987 - 09/25/18 09:36 AM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: MathOfInsects]
MathOfInsects Offline
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Registered: 02/04/15
Posts: 3584
Loc: California
Why did you delete it?

smile
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#2949988 - 09/25/18 09:43 AM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: MathOfInsects]
Outkaster Offline
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Registered: 02/25/06
Posts: 6288
Loc: Rochester, NY
I'm a little envious. I have a lot of respect for people that do solo piano. With some work I could do it but the thought of getting 40 tunes up in running in the standard format is tough. It's weird I know 100's of other songs in different genre's. I have tried putting myself there but I love playing with a band more. One more keyboard player, horns, drums bass, percussion and singers.
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#2949994 - 09/25/18 10:09 AM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: timwat]
Math&Music Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 07/04/18
Posts: 136
Loc: Northern VA
Originally Posted By: timwat
Peter Horvath told me once when I was complaining bout the same tunes being called by every female singer I was working with at the time, "There's no such thing as an un-hip tune. You may not be hip enough to make it sound hip, but that's not the song's fault".

From
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ray-charles-music-is-his-life/
“There's only two kinds of music as far as I'm concerned: good and bad," says Charles. "I just sit there and get into the groove of what the music is dictating. If it's dictating country sounds, that's where I go. If it's dictating jazz, that's where I go. If it's dictating the blues, that's where I go. In other words, I follow where the music leads me."
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#2949996 - 09/25/18 10:16 AM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: cedar]
Reezekeys Offline
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Registered: 02/07/11
Posts: 2942
Loc: NYC area
Originally Posted By: cedar
I find that most crowds don't care if you deviate from the Great American Songbook, and throw in Bill Evans tunes and the like. Can't get too adventurous, but there's plenty of room still to enjoy oneself.

If you're talking about a cocktail hour gig at a wedding, or other event where you are "aural wallpaper", I find that when it comes to repertoire choices, crowds don't care, period – as long as you stay away from Cecil Taylor or Trane-era McCoy! These kinds of gigs can be fun for me: I get to practice playing Alfie in F# or play an old Wayne Shorter tune like Miyako. There's lots of Herbie stuff that works, e.g. Speak Like A Child or Tell Me a Bedtime Story. Of course, Bill Evans – Very Early, Time Remembered, Waltz For Debby, etc. All of these are tunes have very few "dissonances" in their harmonies that might make an event planner or client raise an eyebrow – if they bother to listen at all! And don't forget Braz: Ivan Lins, Sergio Mendes, all the Jobim chestnuts, etc. Perfect for these kinds of gigs – you can't be too hip for a room that's not listening, and 99.9% of the time that's gonna be the case (in my experience anyway). Of course I always throw in some GASB tunes, because I enjoy them – not because I feel an obligation to play "something familiar" – if the crowd is under 50 they've probably never listened to a GASB tune anyway!

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#2949997 - 09/25/18 10:20 AM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: timwat]
MAJUSCULE Offline
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Registered: 06/10/09
Posts: 5174
Loc: Edmonton, Alberta
Originally Posted By: timwat
This kind of gig can be as challenging as you want it to be - simply a matter of where you want to set your own personal bar.

Peter Horvath told me once when I was complaining bout the same tunes being called by every female singer I was working with at the time, "There's no such thing as an un-hip tune. You may not be hip enough to make it sound hip, but that's not the song's fault".


Yup. Just like any instrument, put even the corniest/cheesiest material in the hands of a master and they will make it sound, well, masterful.

Music is music. Have fun and be the best you can be. rawk
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#2950047 - 09/25/18 03:25 PM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: MAJUSCULE]
misterdregs Offline
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Registered: 11/13/03
Posts: 1952
Sounds great!

Maybe when we get the jump blues project road-ready we’ll try and sell to that sort of groups. Not as many senior-living gigs as in Florida, but there are plenty of them and they would probably go for 40’s music!

We’ve rehearsed a few times and it’s sounding pretty good (despite me being the only singer!). As I hoped the trumpet player produces excellent charts and horn arrangements and everyone is a very solid player.
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#2950054 - 09/25/18 04:00 PM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: misterdregs]
El Lobo Offline
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Registered: 12/23/14
Posts: 1008
Slightly off topic for a keyboard forum, but the bass player/singer in my band also does solo vocal+guitar shows on the retirement home circuit. He also plays guitar and sings in a country band and a Beatles cover band, etc., but he makes much more money for far less work doing his solo thing than for all the time and trouble he puts in for the cover bands. Nice work if you can get it.

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#2950064 - 09/25/18 05:27 PM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: El Lobo]
cphollis Offline
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Registered: 10/05/13
Posts: 2578
Loc: Massachussets, Florida
Well, this was a well-received post. All good.

Just to clarify, my gig is not solo anything. The vocalists are center stage. They control dynamics, tempo, mood, etc. All I do is listen to what they're doing, and try to make it all sound pretty. Having a decent ear matters.

My co-conspirators have evaluated the competition, and have judged them lacking. Which has created a high class problem: how many of these do I really want to do?

I'm a 2-3 per month kind of guy. My other Grateful Dead cover band is still a thing. This is not my main focus in life. Band leader is pushing for Fri/Sat/Sun gigs every weekend, and he's getting them. Not where I want to go, really.

Like I said, I do this for fun, not for money. At that pace, all the fun would go out of this quickly. And I told him that, and what would happen if I stopped having fun.

His conclusion? Go find another keyboard player.

I was supportive, but also critical. You go do you. I'll do me. But if you think you're going to find someone who does what I do in this small town, consider yourself very fortunate.

Not being egotistical, just brutally honest. He's processing as we speak.
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#2950071 - 09/25/18 06:25 PM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: cphollis]
El Lobo Offline
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Registered: 12/23/14
Posts: 1008
Originally Posted By: cphollis
Just to clarify, my gig is not solo anything.
My point wasn't about solo work, but rather that the retiree circuit can be lucrative for not a lot of effort. And the hours are early.

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#2950073 - 09/25/18 06:45 PM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: El Lobo]
cphollis Offline
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Registered: 10/05/13
Posts: 2578
Loc: Massachussets, Florida
Originally Posted By: El Lobo
Originally Posted By: cphollis
Just to clarify, my gig is not solo anything.
My point wasn't about solo work, but rather that the retiree circuit can be lucrative for not a lot of effort. And the hours are early.


Absolutely correct.
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Life is too short to be playing bad music.

Keys: NP2, NS3C
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Stuff: Stay stands, Key Largo, Vent II, X-Air 18

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#2950075 - 09/25/18 06:51 PM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: El Lobo]
Mills Dude Offline
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Registered: 09/02/15
Posts: 111
Loc: New York
I've got an ex-bandmate, who moved to FL a few years ago just outside the Villages (enormous 55+ community). He does the one man band thing, acoustic guitar and trax on an iPad. Plays at least 1 gig a day, usually in the early evening. He's turning down gigs as there's just so much demand.
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#2950134 - 09/26/18 06:03 AM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: Mills Dude]
Strays Dave Offline
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Registered: 01/06/16
Posts: 112

I play solo piano (I don't think of it as "cocktail piano") at a couple of assisted living facilities. One is on 1st and 3rd Fridays (alternating with another guy who plays the other Fridays). It involves me setting up minimal equipment, including a mic and stand. I sing on this gig. I've been doing this one about 2 1/2 years (after retiring from the day job drudgery).

The other ALF (assisted living facility) gig involves walking in and playing their Kawai grand piano for 1 hour and walking out and driving home.

I have continued adding new (old) songs since starting these gigs. I sometimes hear someone say "he plays our music". YouTube has everything. I recently added "Waiting For the Robert E. Lee" and "Stardust". My philosophy is that if the song was a big enough hit, everyone (mostly) will enjoy it.

Since starting these gigs I've also worked on using my left hand independently a a bass player, so to speak. In some cases it's not exactly easy playing left hand bass, right hand rhythm chords and singing. But with slow practice it becomes more automatic.

I've been surprised to discover how many of these gigs there are. And research into brain science in dementia sufferers seems promising for us pianists in the future.

I have been compiling and working on a Blues/Beatles/and whatever else song list hoping to land a different type of gig in the future. I've never believed in subscribing to one specific genre. I consider myself a musical omnivore. Well crafted music is good music no matter what style.
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#2950185 - 09/26/18 12:49 PM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: El Lobo]
marczellm Offline
Gold Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 841
Loc: Budapest, Hungary
Originally Posted By: El Lobo
Nice work if you can get it.
Slightly even more off topic but as a non-native English speaker I've just realized what this phrase means. I knew the Monk tune but never understood the title.
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#2950191 - 09/26/18 02:21 PM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: marczellm]
Jazz+ Offline
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Registered: 05/15/04
Posts: 5954
Cocktail piano rules. You can do whatever you want.

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#2950192 - 09/26/18 02:26 PM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: Jazz+]
Strays Dave Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 01/06/16
Posts: 112
Billy Holiday 1955 (I think) - Nice Work If You Can Get It
Lester Young on sax. On piano ? (Anyone know?) I like the piano solo.


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#2950193 - 09/26/18 02:31 PM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: MathOfInsects]
drawback Online   happy
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Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 3630
Loc: Victoria BC, Canada
Originally Posted By: MathOfInsects
Why did you delete it?

smile


Because I didn't have time to defend it laugh

Meanwhile, things straightened out and maturity reigns supreme.
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#2950195 - 09/26/18 03:04 PM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: Mills Dude]
El Lobo Offline
Platinum Member

Registered: 12/23/14
Posts: 1008
Originally Posted By: Mills Dude
I've got an ex-bandmate, who moved to FL a few years ago just outside the Villages (enormous 55+ community). He does the one man band thing, acoustic guitar and trax on an iPad. Plays at least 1 gig a day, usually in the early evening. He's turning down gigs as there's just so much demand.
smile I've got an ex-bandmate who lives in the Villages.

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#2950196 - 09/26/18 03:04 PM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: drawback]
Jazzmammal Offline
Platinum Member

Registered: 08/17/12
Posts: 1897
Loc: Redondo Beach, CA
Something else to consider, most retirees did not grow up in the 40's. 85-90 year olds yes, 75 year olds no. I just bought into an over 55 community and I can tell you there's a bunch of long haired hippie rockers here in addition to the 80 somethings.

You can modernize into the 60's even 70's a bit just keep it low key. Some have hearing aids and they have a very low tolerance for volume, not because they personally don't like it it's because it overloads their aids and they make some sort of squawking sound or something.

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#2950201 - 09/26/18 03:24 PM Re: I never thought I'd be playing cocktail music ... [Re: Jazzmammal]
Music Bird Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 08/30/16
Posts: 135
Loc: Alexandria, Virginia
I could do that but I prefer to play with another keyboard, lead guitar on clean setting, bass/keybass, and drums, or on a Casio WK arranger keyboard. Nice. Can you show us any of your performances on video? I’d like to see what a piano bar performance is like.


Edited by Music Bird (09/26/18 03:25 PM)
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