had a gig the other night and within seconds of sitting down at the piano i had to start thinking about that thing oscar peterson said about pianos.  i don't know the quote exactly, but it was something about playing any piano that you sit at and being happy doing it.

you know what?  if i concentrated on having fun with the music and not how terrible the piano was, things worked out.  but it was easy to get frustrated if i started focusing on things like:

floppy dampers so some notes would sustain and others would not

broken sustain pedal

five keys missing strings: f above middle c, left hand c and bb, and two near the top that i didn't care about.

if i hit the piano too hard the hammers would bounce off the strings with enough force to get caught in their own situation so i'd have to reach in and pluck them free (something wasn't set right, maybe the whole keyboard action :)

craacked soundboard that rattled when you played a big chord

being completely out of tune was the least of the problems... a mixture of being out of tune and having old worn out hammers made it sound like there were thumb tacks on the hammers.  out of tune strings with thumbtacks are about as rinky tink as you can get...

there were some other things but i've already repressed them.  oh, the smell... it smelled bad.  really bad. like the hammers were moldy or something.  or there was years of beer growing at the bottom (it's a huge old upright, could warm a family for an entire winter if you burned it).

the moral to the story is that the drummer set the gig up and was told there was a "piano" available. he didn't tell me that it was a piano shaped object with nothing else resembling the kind of pianos that you normally play.
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There are 24 comments, leave a comment.
yeah, that one sounds like firewood!  just loosen the strings first!
your description reminds me of the time when my brother and i put thumb tacks into all the hammers to try and make it sound cool. my parents were not impressed and we didn't sit down for a couple of days.
it's one of those variables over which we have little control.
as i recall keith jarret's piano during the koln concert had some
issues too but i can't remember the details.
pianos like that should be illegal.
so you blame the drummer?
ha, no, any piano player worth his piano bench will go check out a piano before playing on it if there's any questions, then bring a keyboard in if necessary.
If I'm not back in 24 hours, call the president.

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ah yes.  a pso.
any piano is better than no piano.
i dunno shauncooper76, it sounds like the one scot described is less than an instrument.   i think i'd rather play a $100 casio

so, cynbad...what is a pso??
i thought it was 'piece of scrap' (that managed to get through the spell checker)...
if its between a bad piano and a cheap keyboard - ok fair enough its the keyboard all the way - but between a bad piano and nothing ?? :)
i gotcha - i misunderstood what you meant...it's better to have a bad piano than nothing at all :)
piano shaped object
it's a term my piano professors used to use, so it made me smile to read scot using it.
ha! i'll use it:)

i'm not so sure i'd agree, if the piano is so bad it makes people cringe to hear it. and from scot's description it sounds like it may have been that bad.
when i play on out of tune piano i tend to swerve to stride ,honky tonk,barrels or salsa and cuban stuff which sounds good on it(even more authentic),but if i try to play over the rainbow it hurts my ears.
and this is the current state of my acoustic piano meanwhile im looking around for tuning kit.
i do morning exercises on it although sometimes i fear it could be harmful in a way that one could develope wrong pitch hearing (or what it is called in english)
according to oscar peterson art tatum was a master at playing on out of tune tore up pianos. (grabbing the stuck keys and release them while he was playing).

when i was younger, (and hotheaded) i would get up and walk just away..
it feels like we've arrived at the proverbial fork in the hairs.  having to play a crappy piano on a gig is a drag, but being marooned on an island and finding a crappy piano in the middle of the jungle, would be a welcomed surprise:)
well call me a snob if you like or an incaable pianist or whatever,  but if i get to a job that has a piano that is out of tune to the point where some notes are just wrong and some keys in the meat of the piano simply do not work...  i go home.  that is no my idea of fun and i am in the business of fun i have been told.  i am not rich by any stretch of the imagination but i just do not need the money that bad.
call it a bad attitude if you like but thats my story and i am sticking with it.  a broken key in the very low octave of the piano or the highest octave i can tolerate or a piano that is just shall we say over due for a tuning.   but if some notes especially in the meat of the piano are a 1/2 pitch off... forget about it for me...  i give my regrets to the club owner or manager of whatever venue has such a piano and say i am just not good enough to play such a beast.
yeah, i got on a gig once on a grand in front of an orchestra where the f#5 key was missing.  i drew a line in the sand on that one.  thankfully it was at an adam's mark hotel and they were able to get another grand from another room...but man...my hands didn't know where they were, trying to play that thing - and since there were a lot of string players on the gig, a lot of the tunes were in sharp keys - i really missed that f#:)
things i would love to say; "waiter can you take back this piano."
i often have a dream where i sit a piano, and its all just white keys and people look at me incredulously when i say i can't play it. then i walk around in the room--its full of pianos like a piano store, and each piano has a feature on the keyboard which makes it entirely unplayable.
that's an awesome dream
i  just remembered another piano i played on for a big winter concert. i got together ten or so people and a vocalist and did sort of a jazz xmas review.

lucky i got there two hours early and only live around 15 minutes away because the piano was so out of tune even i couldn't hurt it.  so i went to get my tools and fixed about two dozen unisons so i could stand playing it.  you'd think they would tune it before a piano player puts on a concert!

it was the mt. baker theater here in bellingham, in their studio theater where there's a little steinway that just needs a little bit more love.
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