Monday, January 17, 2011

"Play Something" The Dreaded Request.

Keyed Up Piano was already a reality when I bought my first piano at age 20.  I found it in a vacant house I was looking at and it won my heart.  It was in tune with a sound so true, I knew immediately it was a rare find.   C. Kurtzmann & Co. was a brand I’d never heard of before.  The owner and I agreed on a price of $165 and scheduled for the piano movers to pick it up, early afternoon.

As I walked up, I heard somebody playing a heavy classical piece.  Upon entering, I saw a young woman playing and an older man looking over her shoulder.  His name was Rudy Shultz who told me he had played piano for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra for 25 years and had just retired.  We made small talk while she played on. 

Then, she stopped.

“Now you play something” requested Rudy. 
    Aagh, how could anyone follow that?   

“What do you play?”  Rudy probed on . . .
    “I don’t know . . . Rock and stuff . . .

“Play something.” 

So, feeling very self-conscious, I did.  I pulled out my most advanced stuff and played “The Maple Leaf Rag” which I had learned years before in standard lessons. 

I think I was saved by the piano movers arriving.  I felt quite sheepish in light of my quite advanced company.


I felt embarrassed when Rudy asked me to play something.  How could I measure up?  But I had nothing to be ashamed of.  I was in COMMAND of the keyboard at that time and played very well.  Not as classically proficient as the student but on the other hand, I would have liked to ask her if she could play by ear. 

•  Was she in COMMAND?
•  Did she know her chords?
•  Could she play by ear like me?

I’ll never know, but I’ve found many advanced classical pianists that don’t know their chords and can’t play by ear.  It’s weird because a lot of piano players want to be able to do what the other guy does.  Classical students wants to play by ear and Play-by-ear musicians want to play like the classical student.


Joseph Pingel is a pianist, teacher and musicologist.  Click here to get the free companion book to this blog.  See his other sites at and 

© 2011 Keyed Up Inc

No comments:

Post a Comment