actorartathleteauthorbizcrimecrosspostcustomerservicedirectoredufoodgaminghealthjournalistmedicalmilmodpostmunimusicnewsworthynonprofitotherphilpolretailscispecialisedspecializedtechtourismtravelunique

Music-LiveIamA Dueling Pianist. I am a walking human jukebox. AMA!

Feb 15th 2018 by hehyih • 12 Questions • 868 Points

OK GUYS, MY HOUR IS UP. THANKS SO MUCH FOR PARTICIPATING AND FOR YOU INTEREST IN THIS TOPIC--HOPE IT DIDN'T FREAK YOU OUT TOO MUCH. (THOUGH I DO WANT IT TO FREAK YOU OUT A LITTLE.) My name is Robert Draper and I’m a journalist and author. My most recent piece for National Geographic is called “They Are Watching You—and Everything Else on the Planet”. It's about how the demand for security is increasing, monitoring technology is proliferating, and as a result, we’re all under surveillance. While that part definitely sounds alarming, I also explore the ways surveillance is helping. Spacecraft technicians are better able to calculate the Earth’s landmass, we can monitor hurricanes, and rangers can better protect wildlife from poachers.

Read the story here and AMA: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/02/surveillance-watching-you/

Proof: https://i.redd.it/99njchz4rtf01.jpg https://twitter.com/NatGeo/status/963442928516464641

Q:

Any genre of music that's more difficult to learn on the piano?

A:

Do you already know what questions we are going to ask?


Q:

Actual piano songs! Pop songs are more or less all the same chord structure wise, so those arent bad. But if you get a request for something like Angry Young Man, it really forces you to keep your chops in shape.

A:

Nope, only as they come up!


Q:

Yeah Angry Young Man is no joke.

A:

Who is more guilty of surveillance, the public or private sector?


Q:

It's fun as shit though when you nail it

A:

"Guilty" being a loaded term, it's evident that private-use surveillance (ranging from CCTV's to drones to satellites) has now far out-stripped public sector usage. And therein lies the danger, since it's hard to know what company at any given time is monitoring to you, and to what extent, and why, and where (and for how long) the data is going. At least there are FOIA means by which to determine government surveillance.


Q:

Ever had someone request flight of the bumble bee?

A:

Thanks for the response.


Q:

Yes, then I smash the piano and walk away

A:

Private sector by far, and/though the extent is far more difficult to quantify, as are the retention patterns...and of course therein lies the danger with commercial usage.


Q:

Has anyone ever requested the third movement of Moonlight Sonata?

A:

I know a lot of people who write this issue off saying "I don't have anything to hide" - what is your response to that reaction?


Q:

Actually yes! I've spent so much time just trying to get the first 16 bars and it's just absolutely ridiculous

A:

I get that privacy sometimes seems like a triviality--or even a preoccupation of the affluent--in the greater interest of information-sharing. But at a certain point, we all need alone time, of our choosing. And the psycho-social implications of what happens to a community when it operates under the assumption that it's always being watched, for reasons not readily identifiable...well, it's chilling, right?


Q:

That's really interesting to know. What about rap and heavy metal?

A:

Is it just just the important people? Or is it normal everyday people too?


Q:

Actually thats some of my favorite stuff to play. I love fronting Without Me (aside from not being able to breathe for 3 minutes) and doing stuff like System, Korn, Linkin Park is always a blast and lets me get out my inner teenage angst

A:

Depends on how you define "important," right? I was in a CCTV control center in the London borough of Islington and the monitors there were watching 2 guys on motorcycles who were "important" only b/c they were deemed suspicious, though throughout our surveillance of them they were only guilty of popping wheelies.


Q:

Have you had this superpower since birth, or did some sort of traumatic experience awaken it? Was a solar eclipse or exposure to nuclear waste involved?

A:

What do you think the next surveillance frontier is, both in the USA and outside of it? Is the US going to go the CCTV route like the UK? DNA collection on birth? Iris scanning for credit card transactions?


Q:

Music teachers arent lying when they say the only way to get better is to practice.

A:

Well, in many ways CCTV's are the most antiquated manifestation of Big Brother...EXCEPT when the images are stored &/or linked with facial recognition technology that is then linked to our social media accounts and thereby used for marketing (or other) purposes. That's what smart cameras represent now: not just a single static image, but the ability to develop a dynamic, penetrating profile of the person being watched.


Q:

What was your favorite request?

A:

Obviously removing your online profile helps discourage data collection, but what about in every day life? Is there anyway to thwart the surveillance infrastructure, or are effective methods for us to fight back?


Q:

Anything by System of a Down. 12 year old me would die if he saw I can scream SOAD songs on a stage and get paid for it.

A:

It's an exhausting cat & mouse game in which the surveiller is inevitably one step ahead of the surveilled. Yes, you can guard your privacy by avoiding the internet, avoiding public spaces, avoiding anyone with a smartphone. It's tough, in other words.


Q:

Just want to say man, you guys nailed the hell out of that in the posted video. The energy was there, vocals, everything was beautiful.

Top notch!

A:

What inspired you to research and explore surveillance specifically?


Q:

Thanks!

A:

Guilt, to be honest--by which I mean, guilt that I now live in a house with CCTV's posted all around it, and readily give up personal info to online companies like Uber, and offer up personal details on social media accounts, without asking myself how steep & slippery the civil liberties slope is that I've slid down. Other than during the Edward Snowden revelations, we've been remarkably supine when it comes to asking ourselves what has become of our zone of privacy. This story was my attempt to restart the dialogue.


Q:

I'm a bit confused.

Is it dueling piano if there's a full band? Isn't that just a cover band?

A:

Is there compensation for the questionably clandestine efforts to pilfer our private details?


Q:

We alternate depending on the time of the night. So maybe earlier in the night, its 2 pianists facing each other going back and forth on songs, doing banter, doing audience bits, etc. But then once 11:00 PM hits on a Saturday people just want to dance, and thats when we do the "band" stuff, although even when we have guitar and what not, it is still heavily all reliant on the piano. Guitar is never played without both pianos at least doubling it and harmonizing.

A:

Yes, in theory you can sue a private or public interest for invading your privacy, if you can demonstrate both a reckless or malicious intent and actual damage. That's a very high bar, however.


Q:

So maybe earlier in the night, its 2 pianists facing each other going back and forth on songs, doing banter, doing audience bits, etc.

This is the only way I imagine it going down.

A:

Are we being monitored through the front cameras of our handhelds? And is there any channel through which the surveillance data has reached the dark web (and is for sale)?


Q:

This is literally what we do in our dueling bits

A:

As of yet, no: no one is looking at you through the front camera of your handhelds. Not even law enforcement or the NSA has that kind of capability. But it's a possibility about which to be vigilant. And no, bulk data isn't for sale through a particular channel--though some data as compiled by any number of retention groups is sold for commercial purposes.


Q:

Awesome! Does anyone request Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2?

A:

Does covering your camera really protect your privacy from the FBI? Can't they still get tons of meta data from your companies like Verizon or Facebook?


Q:

actually, yes, it does come up. We do classical bits, maybe 15-20 seconds worth, so just knowing the themes is all you need to have.

A:

Yes, they can! But it requires a warrant. And no, covering your camera does nothing but make you look paranoid.


Q:

Hey bro—See you at work tonight 😘 glad people think our job is at least semi-interesting. My question: how scared are you that we know your username now?

A:

Should we be anxious? This stuff scares the shit of me. It’s one thing being controlled by our government but watched? Nope.


Q:

Just dont look at my rejected r/gonewild submissions, Carol Anne.

A:

Yes you should be anxious! More on this soon.


Q:

The real question is how jealous are yall of all the karma that hes getting right now?

A:

I was about to eat lunch, but this is giving me the sustenance I need.


Q:

Billy Joel or Elton John?

A:

Billy for playing, Elton for singing


Q:

Did you begin your career planning to be versed in so many instruments? Or did it just happen organically over time?

A:

I've always been attracted to learning as many instruments as possible. I started with guitar and piano when I was 4, singing as well. Over time I started migrating from guitar to cello, and slowly integrated the other acoustic strings (violin, viola, bass). I've always liked playing all the instruments on my own songs since I know the exact parts I want, and often it was just easier for me to learn them myself. So its always been my intention to keep learning. Brass and winds are my next project.


Q:

What’s the most insane thing any crowd participant has done during one of your performances?

A:

There was the woman who was masturbating in her seat right in front of us. That was.....weird.


Q:

How do you feel about the song "Piano Man" by Billy Joel? Also, how many times a week do drunks come up to you and ask "MAN, WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE??" Like its the funniest, most clever, god damn thing anyone has ever thought up before?

A:

People go fucking nuts for the harmonica in piano man. Like you would think we were a sports team who just won a championship. I actually dont mind playing it, because its always a hit.


Q:
  1. I saw a dueling pianos show once on a cruise ship: would you ever do the cruise ship circuit?

  2. Is it hard working during everyone else's social night?

  3. How did you learn to play piano?

  4. If you had kids, would you enroll them in music lessons?

A:
  1. The few people I know who have done the cruise gig have always said it was worth the experience, but something you really do once. Long hours, incredibly lonely, etc. I would probably only do it if my life turned to shit and I had to run away

  2. It's definitely an adjustment, most of my friends work weekends anyway. The hardest is my girlfriend works a 9-5 during the week, then I work weekends, so that's the hardest part. But makes the time together that much more special

  3. Started lessons when I was 4, havent stopped learning since

  4. No interest in kids, but absolutely they would get lessons. Piano would be a must, but I would let them pick any other instrument they wanted to play.


Q:

Is there something against playing Africa by Toto?

My friends and I had been several times and they won’t play it even with tips. We went once a year for 3 years and it was the case each time.

A:

Not particularly, we tend to do it as a full band as a show stopper and not just a passing song. So we like to only do it when the timing is right to get the crowd into that mode.


Q:

What's the most annoying song people ask to hear?

A:

Cotton. Eyed. Fucking. Joe. Because apparently its a 13 year olds bar mitzvah


Q:

What popular song is deceptively challenging to play?

A:

It's realllllllly hard to remember all the inversions and chord progressions to Bohemian Rhapsody. No matter how many times I play it, I always miss at least 1 chord. Freddie Mercury was absolutely ridiculous.


Q:

Having seen the video of your Chop Suey performance (which was awesome!), do you have any recordings of you all doing Bohemian Rhapsody? Would love to see your rendition.

A:

I've been meaning to record it! I love doing it with a big crowd, its super fun, but I gotta have a friend or someone there to film it, subscribe to my youtube channel and I promise you I'll get one up soon!


Q:

What's your favourite toast?

A:

Golden brown. Though for bagels, which I prefer over toast, I like it semi double toasted. Enough so I get a golden edge around the crust, but hot enough that the garlic and onion pieces get burned so I can eat them as a crispy treat at the end of the bagel.


Q:

My friend, who is also a duelling piano player wanted me to ask you "how do you feel about watering down quality on a nightly basis?".

A:

I try and give my all to the crowd. The only songs I say would be "watered down" are ones that are just terrible songs that no one gives a shit about but the person paid 20 dollars to hear so damnit okay I guess we'll get through it. But our place, we really try to get every part exactly the same as the recording.


Q:

What song should I request to troll piano players?

A:

Bodak Yellow


Q:

I learned to play piano about 20 years ago, and can play some songs by ear, but primarily need sheet music. It has been this way my entire life. But I've noticed certain people can play almost any song by ear and it is quite impressive.

My question/s: which type of player are you? If you can play by ear, was that a skill you have always had, or did it form over time as your mind became more and more familiar with notes/chords/scales/etc?

thanks!

A:

I'd say solid 50/50. I grew up classical, then my undergrad was at Berklee so I really got into chord charts and contemporary playing. I have perfect pitch so listening to songs is usually faster for me than looking up charts. Especially since 90% of the songs we use are all the same progression and the only difference is what key its in. The aural skills are way more useful especially in a moment of improvisation.


Q:

My friend wanted to go to a dueling piano bar so I met up with him there. I thought it would be kind of funny to request Gangnam Style just to see if either of the guys could do it. What are the odds they pull it off or at least try?

A:

20 bucks and you got yourself a deal


Q:

Has there ever been a song that you flat out REFUSED to play for whatever reason? Why?

A:

Never. Request. Freebird. Just dont be that person. Its not funny, its not original, and you just make yourself look like "that guy"


Q:

Is hard to learn to do piano?

A:

I mean its like any other instrument or skill, takes years to master. I've been doing it for 20 years and still feel like a beginner


Q:

If you had to fight Satan/Jesus for the world's soul what song would you play?


Q:

the on the fly re-tune... Thank you.

As someone that has perfect pitch that must drive you nuts.

A:

It's gotta be done. Audience doesnt notice, but I sure as shit do with my in ears. With the temperature changes all the time with different amounts of people in the bar I gotta do it constantly. Sometimes I'll have to walk over to the guitarist and tune the tuner for him while hes playing so he can keep playing and get it back in tune. That's always fun.


Q:

If you had to fight a bear, which style would you use?

A:

Battle Star Galactica. Dont care if the odds arent in my favor


Q:

Has anyone requested the Guardian battle theme from Zelda: Breath of the Wind yet?

A:

No but I would be so down


Q:

I've requested Fuckin' Problems by A$AP Rocky at every piano bar I've ever been to (like 5) but never have any luck. I would love to see a pianist's take on this song. Have you ever played it? Would you ever consider learning it and whipping it (your newly learnt song) out on request?

A:

With niche songs like that that never come up, you have to pick your battles on which songs will be worth your time. So I've never personally seen that song come up. If I saw it pop up a couple times I would consider it, but we only want to do songs people know. So I'm open to it, but only if I start seeing people want it.


Q:

Interesting, thanks! I see you're located in Baltimore but if you ever make your way up to NYC I will seek you out and bring a crowd demanding Fuckin' Problems.

A:

I love bad bitches


Q:

Do you ever play in Michigan/midwest?

My uncle is one of the OG dueling piano players from when it really took off in the mid 90s, he still plays gigs all the time and makes a very, very good living. It's actually crazy how much money he makes in a given night, usually over $1k and sometimes a lot more depending on if it's a private party or corporate event. He plays overseas and on cruise ships a lot too.

He's always looking to hire new talent for his company as well, as long as you got chops and can hear a song once and hack away at it.

A:

Very cool, I'm on the east coast so I'm never up that way, but I definitely see this gig taking me different places in the years to come.


Q:

Do you duel with classical music? Or is that out of style?

A:

In our actual dueling bits, we do do classical. We do dueling banjos, and then take turns playing more and more complicated things which include classical.


Q:

What composers do you like playing the most? And what mood do you try to portray with the music. Happy, sad, etc.

Btw, I love the piece played in the video

A:

Composer wise, we dont do a lot of classical. 70's-80's are probably the most requested decades of music. We always try and be high energy, inclusive, and fun filled. We want everyone to have a good time and in turn we feed off the energy of a good crowd. Thanks!


Q:

Can you play genres that use electronically produced sounds like hip hop? How well does hip hop translate to piano?

A:

Actually yes, we have a sampler, and a bunch of different synth sounds, and a small synth above our pianos. So we definitely integrate it.


Q:

Just a rough estimate, how many songs do you know how to play? Also, if you heard a song once, could you for the most part play it all by ear?

A:

Right now I know about 150 songs off the top of my head. I'd say maybe 30 more I could do with lyrics. It would depend on the song really. I'd say maybe 2 or 3 listens in the back ought to be enough to at least fake my way through it. But that's nothing compared to some of the guys who've been doing this for 10 or 20 years who easily know 4 or 500 songs


Q:

How detailed do you get into learning the songs?

For example: just the chords > chords and rhythm > melodies > fills > solos > vocal melody?

A:

Depends on the song. We try to get as close to possible. We also have some songs that we stick to a certain set of rhythmic pulse to help drive the song. Mostly we follow the songs exact form unless its super long, then we might cut a bit, but for the most part we go for as close to 100% as we can.


Q:

Where you based out of and how's the jazz scene out there?

A:

I'm in Maryland. Baltimore's jazz scene is actually growing. Peabody's Jazz program has some absolutely insane musicians.


Q:

Do you work in New Orleans?

A:

Baltimore


Q:

I’m in easy “evening out” distance...without revealing too much, what piano bar would you recommend to see such high-quality musicianship?

A:

What state do you live in?