Thursday, December 22, 2011

Magical Moment 599, "A Nice Thing Happened At Work..."

I feel pretty confident in saying this...without youtube, I wouldn't be able to make a living as a pianist. For any job, I'm given sheet music to learn within a certain amount of time. As a ballet accompanist, often these come from famous ballets like Sleeping Beauty and Raymonda. Other times, people request specific songs for their wedding or special occasion. I'm able to simply type in the title of the song in the search box, and up pops link after link to any and all versions ever recorded of the song in question. Playing primarily by ear, all those tricky rhythms I can't figure out from the sheet music make perfect sense when I hear it. I cringe to think how much money I would be spending if I had to pay for each song I needed to listen to, or worse, live in the days when we had to BUY a whole CD for 1 song! Oh, was I ever that young?!

Just as easy and effortless, I can then open up a new tab, and search for the chords of a song. About 90% of the work has been done for me by the folks living Cyber World! Long gone are the days when I had to strain my ears, discerning intervals, tones, and chords. But something happened last night that made me miss doing all that work, and thankful that I have the capability in the first place.

I was playing my usual repertoire of standards and favorites at my weekly restaurant gig at The Bernards Inn. I watched a waitress walk from a nearby table of patrons towards my seat at the piano with a small note in her hand. I knew right away it was a song request. As she handed me the piece of paper, I braced myself, hoping I knew the song and would be able to play it for the guest. There is nothing worse than having to say, "I'm sorry I don't know that one!" Goodbye tip!!!

Sure enough, when I read the song title, my heart sank. "Music Box Dancer." I gave a puzzled look to the waitress who handed me the note, "Do you think he meant, "Tiny Dancer?" I asked hopefully. She shook her head and said she really didn't think so. I walked over to the table and gave my apologies and explained I wasn't familiar with the song. Feeling crummy, I decided to take a little break.

Being the proud new owner of a smart phone (not a brilliant phone, but smart enough), I thought I'd google the song, still skeptical that he meant "Tiny Dancer," and that "Music Box Dancer" wasn't a real song. But sure enough, there it was, written by Frank Mills. Curious, I decided to see if I happened to have the youtube application downloaded on my phone. Pleasantly surprised, I did! And I listened to the whole song with the phone pressed against my ear.

I was thrilled to discover the song was a simple melody, and only 3 chords, repeated over and over. I quickly drilled the pattern into my head and went back to the piano. I began quietly and unsure, but soon, the man who requested the song whipped around in his chair with a huge smile on his face when he recognized the piece. After I finished, he came over to thank me and said, "I thought you didn't know it!" I explained the miracle of youtube on my phone and he was fascinated. I didn't want to let him down by explaining the simple nature of the 3 chord song, so I kept that my little secret. :)

There is no better feeling for a musician than playing a song for someone that they want to hear, that affects them in some way, brings back a memory, or simply makes them smile. And certainly no tip that replace that feeling!

"Music Box Dancer" Frank Mills

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