They call it a Cabaret, where people sit at tables in front of the stage and are encouraged to eat and chat, between all the singing. On each table, there is a fat white candle in a glass holder and little coloured rocks scattered around it, with a small plate of sweet snacks.
I walk over to a table where some of my old friends are sitting, and they welcome me with a small fuss.
We chat about little things that will become important details that we remember about each other when we leave.
One guy turns to my friend and says, “I got something for you.”
He hands a small white plastic bag to my friend. It’s nice plastic, the kind of store that cares about what they package their stuff with.
My friend smiles and takes the bag and pulls out Minnie Mouse ears. I know it’s not just Mickey Mouse because there is a red satin bow between the two round, black ears—and they are awesome.
I have always wanted a set of those.
One of my earliest memories of piano is seeing a clip of Mickey Mouse stepping along piano keys, on an unending keyboard, playing nice music that way, and maybe that’s why I play piano.
The stage lights come on and the emcee does his spiel. He is one of my mentors and I study his suit jacket as I remember that I first started playing jazz piano with him. Back then I didn’t understand the rhythm. He plays a different way: by chord.
The singing starts, with the band to one side. It’s mostly solo singers. Some people have great voices, but no polish– just shouting, in a high pitch. All the performances started to sound the same: each starts soft, grows louder until they are yelling.
That is when I remembered Carrie, my last teacher, urging me to “make the sound turn a little, so the notes aren’t going straight down.”
She calls it the Touch. When the notes and rhythm are right but it doesn’t sound exactly right in your ears, then your Touch is wrong. The Touch makes tone and quality.
You control your tone by the way you touch the keys. Use your arms and wrists, experimenting with different touches and find the one that fits what you’re playing and how you want to play.
Don’t put all your energy into simply being loud. Everyone can spare some effort for polish, and quality, and tone, too.
Do you care about tone when you’re playing by yourself? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.
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