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#104424 - 11/13/06 05:48 AM Re: Piano bar, the worst gig around
Esh Offline
Member

Registered: 09/22/05
Posts: 256
Loc: Hilton Head, SC, USA
Piano bar gigs can go to either extreme - from the never-seen-and-barely-heard variety to the lid-slamming stage antics of dueling pianos. I don't think we can pigeon-hole any one piano gig as an example of all piano gigs.

ALL of my gigs are "piano-bar" ("piano restaraunt" would be closer) but NONE of them are the wallpaper kind. I would consider my music to be "foreground music" - it's not background music since I mostly sit on a lighted stage with a dance floor like a band would. No vocals but people dance to my music - not loud enough to drown out conversation but loud enough to be heard throughout the building. This description fits fits all of the places I play, both regularly and occasionally. I would put them in the center of the extremes that piano gigs can go. I think the performer has some say in the kind of gig they wind up playing and the client has most of the say, but those are all negotiable.

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#104425 - 11/13/06 06:10 AM Re: Piano bar, the worst gig around
Esh Offline
Member

Registered: 09/22/05
Posts: 256
Loc: Hilton Head, SC, USA
Let me add one final thought:

I have a Friday night gig I currently do where the restaurant has a grand piano in the center of the dining room. I use my MP3 accompaniment and they have a dance floor at one end of the room. Generally the owners and the diners love me but there is quite often one customer or couple who are seated too close to the piano and want the music to be "turned down". The piano is not mic'd, the lid is closed and I don't pound on it, so I already play as low volume as I can within reason and my accompaniment is a comfortable matching volume. We had several debates about this and finally a confrontation - I told them to stop coming to me with "turn-down" requests altogether and start moving the clients to other seating or fire me. Negotiation was over. The owners backed off and now move the customers if they complain. They could have moved the piano or hired another pianist but the option they chose was to relocate complainers.

This created some tension at first but the fact is that I do draw people who want to enjoy my music and the compromise had to come from the client if they wanted me to play. If people don't like live music then they should come during the hours I don't play, and if you don't want to be wallpaper (or a door mat) then you don't have to be.

[This message has been edited by Esh (edited 11-13-2006).]

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#104426 - 11/13/06 06:53 AM Re: Piano bar, the worst gig around
Carrie-uk Offline
Member

Registered: 02/23/04
Posts: 168
Loc: England
How do you get restaurant gigs?

I actually wouldn't mind being musical wallpaper, if it meant getting paid to play. I've never been to a single restaurant here in England with a live pianist - it just doesn't seem to be that common.

Do you think walking into a few local restaurants and introducing myself would do any good...maybe give them a demo CD?

I could easily setup my 88-key Fatar and PSR3000 if they don't have a piano available....hmmmmm....

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#104427 - 11/13/06 09:07 AM Re: Piano bar, the worst gig around
tony mads usa Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 01/16/02
Posts: 14376
Loc: East Greenwich RI USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Carrie-uk:
How do you get restaurant gigs?
I actually wouldn't mind being musical wallpaper, if it meant getting paid to play. I've never been to a single restaurant here in England with a live pianist - it just doesn't seem to be that common.
Do you think walking into a few local restaurants and introducing myself would do any good...maybe give them a demo CD?
I could easily setup my 88-key Fatar and PSR3000 if they don't have a piano available....hmmmmm....


Carrie ... I had played in a band in NY with the same guys for 26 years - started in high school ... When I moved to RI I was reluctant to play without my 'security blankets' ... when I finally decided to get back 'out there' I had some business cards made and went around to the local restaurants ... before I knew it an owner hired me, and I haven't looked back ... a 'demo' CD is fine, but make that personal contact ...
Good luck ...
t.
_________________________
t. cool

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#104428 - 11/13/06 11:07 AM Re: Piano bar, the worst gig around
Stephenm52 Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/13/05
Posts: 5126
Loc: USA
Great topic. Here's another angle with some candid comments. Piano had always strictly been a hobby with me, but I became frustrated just playing at home, especially after a number of people asking why don't you play gigs. Bottom line a bit of " stage fright" There was a time even playing in a crowded room of friends/coworkers had me break out in a sweat. On one occasion when I played piano while at a musician friend's house his wife had to eventually give me a small bath towel to dry off because I sweat so much, good thing I had a dry shirt in the car

Two years ago I got the stones (not the rolling stones either) to start booking gigs as tonymads stated a little earlier "JUST DO IT" My first gig I took a towel with me so that I could wipe the sweat off my brow just in case.

My first gig was background music. This gig was a wallpaper gig and I mean WALLPAPER. Assisted living home cocktail party. Folks lined up to get into the event room prior to the doors opening up. Once the doors opened all they wanted were the wine, cheese and snacks. They could have cared about the music.........that worked to my advantage, it was an ice breaker never did sweat, never had to use the towel again, although I do take it for hot summer days moving equipment.

I have regularly promoted myself as background music, although that's changed. Based on input here I'm working on the voice and at my nursing home gigs telling stories and doing some trivia about the music I play.

Wallpaper jobs can be a good thing for me, my day job requrires about 55 hours a week. Because of the nature of my work, people call me only when they have problems that need solving or to complain of a breakdown in equipment. So, playing a mellow piano gig with good pay helps me relax after the long work week. That's not to say that in the future I could and hope to shift direction a bit....Play On my friends.

[This message has been edited by Stephenm52 (edited 11-13-2006).]

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#104429 - 11/13/06 12:04 PM Re: Piano bar, the worst gig around
captain Russ Online   content
Senior Member

Registered: 01/02/04
Posts: 7291
Loc: Lexington, Ky, USA
Way to go, Steve...you'll do GREAT!

Russ

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#104430 - 11/13/06 05:26 PM Re: Piano bar, the worst gig around
Stephenm52 Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/13/05
Posts: 5126
Loc: USA
Quote:
Originally posted by captain Russ:
Way to go, Steve...you'll do GREAT!

Russ


Thanks Russ appreciate your comment.

All the best to you.

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#104431 - 11/13/06 11:44 PM Re: Piano bar, the worst gig around
doc-z Offline
Member

Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 436
Loc: Norway
Quote:
Originally posted by Dnj:
Doc.....great post...sounds like you really have it all under control as an entertainer.



Well.. I didn't always have it under control. It took some years of experience first. And I still get an occasional gig that seems hopeless on Friday, but on Saturday I turn it around.

Maybe it's a bit different in the US, than here in Europe. But most of the piano bars I've played here, be it Norway, Sweden, England, Spain or Germany, it's usually the same. The music differs from place to place, but the objective is always the same. Give the audience a good show, and they will respect you at the end of the night. Some crowds are tougher than others, and ultimately it is up to you to figure out how to get their attention. I've found that 7 times out of 10 I have to grab the attention as early as possible, or the crowd will drift off, start jacking away, turning around and the nail in the coffin: ask me to "Turn it down a notch or two". I'm not saying you should start off by pulling down your pants and moon the crowd to get attention, allthough some guys do that with great success.. That's not my thing. But find a way to make them listen to you, demand their respect, and get your act together and put on a good show. Chances are they will love you! But you have to feel out the crowd. Each audience require a different set of tunes, a different set of jokes, and a different mood. Remember that it's not too big of a deal to bomb a song or a joke, because you can always follow up with a better one. In theese types of gigs you are usually only as good as the last number you did.


Doc-Z

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#104432 - 11/14/06 06:52 AM Re: Piano bar, the worst gig around
Dnj Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 09/21/00
Posts: 43703
Doc....I hear ya.... I see too many Dead beat players out there with no personality who just look down at the music never make eye contact or ever talk to the audience all night looking like they hate being there & the audience knows it.......& as a result their TIP jar is Empty.............but that's OK, the more they do it ....the more work becomes available for the real Entertainers...

[This message has been edited by Dnj (edited 11-14-2006).]

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#104433 - 11/14/06 10:47 AM Re: Piano bar, the worst gig around
captain Russ Online   content
Senior Member

Registered: 01/02/04
Posts: 7291
Loc: Lexington, Ky, USA
Then, Donny, you would NOT want to come see me. On the other side of the coin, I see tons of "lightweights" masking a lack of ability by playing fluff tunes, singing poorly and generally embarrasing themselves. They're not a problem for me because they are all fighting with the others for those $75.00 jobs.

Two of the top venues here ban Jimmy Buffet music, for example. The owners don't like it, personally, believe it is not right for the image of their establishments and don't want "parrot heads" as customers.

Again, we're talking semantics. On the one hand, there are "fluff" entertainers who will do almost anything for recognition/audience response. On the other, there are serious players who have real trouble relating to audiences and working steady jobs. I suspect that most of us are somewhere in the middle. In my case, I place the emphasis on the material and find places that value that skill set. I wish I were more of an entertainer...I just don't have that skill set, so I have to compensate.

In the 70's, I worked with the highest paid entertainer in this area. The job paid $1000.00 a week. I got $250 and appreciated it. This fellow, Preston Weber, was a super entertainer who never rehearsed, didn't know anything but sing alongs, folk and country. But, man, as an entertainer, he earned every dollar he made. I played the first and third set as a single on keyboards and backed him on a variety of instruments during his shorter sets. He knocked em dead. He worked 1/2 the time and earned three times the money. I could never do what he did and didn't want to.

I guess I'll have to be content to be...


Russ (Dead Beat) Lay

Oh Well....

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