Three Best songs to Memorize?


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Most friends and family know that I have played piano, now keyboard for a very, very long time. I own a Yamaha DGX660 and certainly get my monies worth out of it. I was classically trained from the age of 5 and in recent years have made great strides in playing by ear, improvisation and even dabbling in jazz and blues.

For fun, I have decided to challenge myself to learn and memorize three songs. Songs that people would enjoy when I hear
"I heard you play piano, play something for us!"

What should those three songs be? :confused:
There's an interview on the web with Carol Kaye (most recorded musician, guitar and bass): the first half is pretty much a master class. Recognize that modern music is harmonic so learn chords not notes and learn chord cycles - endless music is based on that. With little difficulty you can then play many recognizable tunes by ear and many more that sound familiar but are purely made up. Start with a basic 3 chord gospel tune and then expand it to 4, 5, 6, 7 chord variations until you wander into a different tune. Of course, Pachelbel's Cannon has been plagiarised in dozens of tunes so it's a no-brainer as general purpose fodder. Of course there's always plain old 1-4-5 12 bar noodling; a buddies dad showed me a basic boogie version: right hand C6(1st inversion), F7(4th inversion), C6(1st), G7(3rd). etc. when I was 12 - something you can endlessly build on - solid/broken/1-4 rocking etc. (I'm giving away my age but 80% of the album 'Introducing the Rolling Stones' explores this: we comp'd it all).
 
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tjw

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Stranger on the Shore

Excellent choice ! This was my mom's most requested song from me as a kid. And, I would be completely embarrassed when she wanted me to play it for her friends like Roger Williams did. She would always say ".....that sounds just like R. W...." - and when I was 10, it sure didn't :)
 
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Okay - here's a short list. I like to keep a mental archive of songs that are 'chordal' (made up adjective) i.e. the chord progression closely suggests the melody ; in classical music Bach's 'Lute Suite in E Minor' is sort of one of those but not greatly relevant to pop music (Jethro Tull not withstanding). As I noted before Pachelbel's Canon is a good one which, based on my experience as a church organist, can be trotted out for almost any occasion and often is; part of its charm is that it lends itself to almost endless variations and moods which makes it handy for filling an indeterminate amount of time e.g. processionals, ceremonies, signings, etc and also (sorry Pachelbel) can be made innocuous; however, in spite of its age it contains progressions that are pop music cliche ... might as well pervert it into 'Whiter Shade of Pale', 'When a Man Loves a Woman', etc. Beach Boys 'Good Vibrations' is a rich pastiche of several pop chord progression cliches - one can piece out the bones of many other pop tunes. 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling' is also a pot pourri of pop cliches and provides an example of the 'surprise' B-flat chord; the 1-5m is a cool tool all by itself. 'Without You' by Harry Nilson contains a good example of some cycles with pitch breaks and then beats on 'doo wop' #2 which makes routine appearance in innumerable pop songs and even more as a filler/transition; this song illustrates many chords that can belong to a root major while cleverly avoiding the much overworked 4 chord. Dylan's 'Make You Feel My Love' (these days everyone seems to think it's Adele) is a wonderful exploit/perversion of a chord cycle that goes around quite a lot; this one is much easier to play than it seems and manages to slip in a surprise chord. Then there's the excessively popular 'Halleluja' which explains the chord structure in the lyric - could never decide if this was an inside joke and Cohen's accompanists differed as to whether the secret cord is major or minor. Finally, The first part of 'Fuer Elise' takes little effort and can be endlessly reworked: it rocks out pretty well but maybe instead you'll end up at St. James Infirmary. If you're into country you can quickly expand your repertoire with 1-5-5-1 tunes (go ahead, be Okie and Cajun). For tone-wheelers, Booker T's 'Green Onions' and Jimmy Smith's 'The Cat' are easy bake numbers.
 
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For fun, I have decided to challenge myself to learn and memorize three songs. Songs that people would enjoy when I hear
"I heard you play piano, play something for us!"
Easy: Pick the three well-known songs that you think you sound best playing.

Aside: Do you sing? Choosing things to play-and-sing is different from choosing things to play solo. Some songs may sound great when playing a two-hand piano part underneath a sung vocal melody, but may be weaker choices if you need to sacrifice your right hand to play the vocal melody, leaving most of the accompaniment to your left hand. Depends on the song (as well as perhaps your technique/ability).
 
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AGREE with "Anotherscott" . . . but can I add . . . when in doubt, do a Beatles song.

I don't think I've ever met anyone who doesn't respond favorably to "Hey Jude" or "Let it Be" ... and who don't involuntarily begin singing along. By the second verse you can stop singing because everyone else is singing!

Any of the '60s folk songs or songs adapted for popular movies are crowd pleasers too . . . Mr. Tamborene Man, Do-Wa-Ditty, Daydream, Summer In The City, House of the Rising Sun, etc.

That's the key -- songs they can sing along with, so they're not listening to YOU singing! LOL.

My playing and singing both suck. So Beatles songs always save the day!

. . . and if all else fails, do Fulsome Prison Blues or Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash, and you don't even need to know how to sing . . . just sort of talk through it! :) .
 
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Oh .. . . forgot to mention . . .

Also consider the top karaoke songs:
  • Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond.
  • Don't Stop Believin' – Journey.
  • Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen.
  • Wonderwall – Oasis.
  • My Way – Frank Sinatra.
  • I Wanna Be Sedated – the Ramones.
  • Losing My Religion – R.E.M.
  • Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley.
 
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