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How often do you get requests, and how do you handle them?

NickC

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I am getting ready to start gigging, and I wanted to get some advise. I was wondering if I should learn a few tunes that come up often as requests. I would be playing all Italian music, and when I play at small gatherings, I usually get a few requests. However, they don't always fit in with the programing that I am going for. For example, if I'm playing a group of music from the Bologna region and someone requests That's Amore. I know in my head that I am overthinking this, and I should just please the audience, but I'm wondering how often this happens on paid gigs. Do you get a lot of requests? And which ones pop up most at Italian restaurants?
 

Valski

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Congratulations on your upcoming gigs. This should be a lot of fun for you. When I started playing many, many years ago I was reminded that "who pays the piper, calls the tunes". So you should always play the songs that your audience wants to hear, and sometimes they will want you to play them over and over again.

You should just go with the flow and give your audience what they want to hear, after all they are paying the piper. You can change things up by playing songs in a similar genre to preserve your sanity. If you play what the audience wants to hear, this will lead to repeat business.
 

JerryPH

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Requests, if you know it, play it and if not apologize and offer something that comes as close as you can. The smart accordionist that performs in public not only plays what is asked (when possible), but if they don't know, mark it down and learn it later. If it was requested once, it is a high chance of being requested again.

I was playing in Ottawa and there was this man from the German consulate, he asked me to play some obscure German song, I apologized that I did not know it, and offered something else that I knew. I asked him to mark down the song on a piece of paper napkin, and maybe a week later researched it... found the song and composer, that led to maybe 5 other songs from that era that I learned too.

It wasn't a month later that the man from teh consulate came back and I am sure he was expecting me to still not know *his* song. I strolled over and started with his original song but I then moved to the other 5 related pieces... the man was in tears and clapping non-stop saying how ti reminded him of days gone by and other things. After I was about to leave, he pulled me over and asked me to open my bellows a little, as if he wanted to look in between, so I did. He promptly put in several $20 bills in the top of the bellows and thanked me again. For a 16 year old kid in the 70's, that was a small fortune! :) :) :)

Moral of the story, if you are a public performer, you have to try to play what the public wants (in short, KNOW your public)... else that is called "playing for yourself" :)
Congrats on making he decision to gig in public, it takes a special kind of courage and attitude that not many people have!
 
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NickC

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Thanks for the encouragement, the advise and sharing stories. I am going to make a list of tunes that people will want to hear and sprinkle them into my set lists, or leave on-call for when someone makes a request. I will also make a note of any requests that come up.

The other question that I was pondering is, do I have more freedom to pick a specific region if I'm doing something like an Italian festival with 5 or 6 other groups/performers? If someone is doing classic Neapolitan songs, someone is doing Sinatra/Dean Martin rep and someone is doing traditional Sicilian music, I might have more of an opportunity to play a different genre/region/etc.???
 

JeffJetton

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I usually get a few requests. However, they don't always fit in with the programing that I am going for. For example, if I'm playing a group of music from the Bologna region and someone requests That's Amore. I know in my head that I am overthinking this

Yeah, that reminds of the opening scene in "Big Night" (great movie!) where the customers request spaghetti to go with their risotto and also a side of meatballs, much to the steaming chagrin of the traditionalist Italian chef in the back. :giggle:

But of course he does make those orders, because those customers are paying the bills. Such is the life of the musician.

Anyway, around here, when I'm hired for "Italian" music, they're usually just looking for a general Italian atmosphere and not necessarily any sort of regional or historical accuracy in the programming. I've never had any problems going from something old-school like "Tra Veglia e Sonno" or "Ah! Marie!" to pop tunes like "Marina" or "Three Coins in a Fountain" and then topping it all off with an Italian opera ditty like "La Donna e Mobile".

Heck, I once played at an Italian-themed wedding where someone requested "Rocky Top", which of course I complied with (it's practically a legal requirement in Tennessee to know how to play this). It was quite the hit!

Granted, this isn't New Jersey. They might be bigger sticklers for cohesion there.
 

NickC

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Yeah, that reminds of the opening scene in "Big Night" (great movie!) where the customers request spaghetti to go with their risotto and also a side of meatballs, much to the steaming chagrin of the traditionalist Italian chef in the back. :giggle:

Haha. That's too funny. I laughed out loud. At least she didn't order a cappuccino after noon. ;)

Granted, this isn't New Jersey. They might be bigger sticklers for cohesion there.

This was another issue that I was over thinking. Most of the people that I know are from southern Italy, so are they going to be familiar with northern Italian music??? :)

I think that you're correct that most people want the atmosphere of the music and enjoy hearing something familiar. I'm probably going to do a mix. 2 tunes from Calabria, 2 familiar tunes, 2 from Bologna, 2 more familiar tunes.

Don't forget 'Happy Birthday'....!

I was thinking about this one. I will add it to the list.
 

Giovanni

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Hello Nick , A good post !! My mother was Italian and your words about never having a Cappuccino after midday is spot on. No true Italian would be seen dead drinking Cappuccino , its a breakfast drink only Tourists drink it after midday !! . I was born in Trieste Northern Italy there are many Triestino songs and music, for example "il Tram Di Opicina " These famous but very Regional songs are unknown to English Audiences and have no sense or meaning .From my experience of gigging play songs/music that people know ,there are so many wonderful Italian tunes .that can really touch the spot !!!.....I can only speak about Uk gigs . I have never played an Italian gig that specified music from only one particular region of Italy . My old music teacher was also an experienced musical entertainer ,he said if anyone asks for a particular piece of music , Don't play just for yourself play for your audience if you don't know it, make a note of it look up the music and add it to your list of tunes to play if it is actually possible to play and sound good you will soon build up a big music list ...............this is what I have done over the years ..... The regional music for me would be a waste of time and effort ........but hey I'm in the Uk .........I've been to New York and visited "Little Italy "and little Italy audiences may be much more demanding ...I wouldn't want to end up in the Hudson river with Concrete shoes and an accordion strapped on my shoulders !!! ...ha ha ha ..... best regards .............Giovanni
ps The most easily recognised Italian song and known everywhere in the UK and guarantees a huge response from the Audience singing and joining in with Gusto . "It's Now or Never " all the Audience will automatically sing the words of the well known ice cream advert Just one cornetto !! .................corny ?? who knows, but can 500 people in a theatre Audience all be wrong ? ?
 

Giovanni

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Getting Tips reminded me of a hotel gig i did many years ago approx 1978 if I remember correctly, just back ground music no one really taking any notice I'm up a corner quitely playing ........I got a bit bored and decided to play a simple abridged version of Rhapsody in Blue .......well I said I was a bit bored !!
At the end a man came up to me and wanted to shake my hand and he gave me a £20 tip . ......He said to me He told his wife...." I'm going to give that musician "20 Quid " (for our American cousins its slang for 20 English pounds) He said take this tip !! you deserve it !! Never ever expected to hear someone play the WARSAW CONCERTO you have made my evening ..............I smiled and thanked him for his kindness !!..........................:)
 

Valski

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If you have a fairly large repertoire, you can usually play something similar to the song requested and people will be happy with any melody vaguely familiar to them. Most people don't know song titles let alone the melody so if you play something that triggers a memory everyone is happy. Even if you play a totally different song your audience will react with a smile, sometimes they will even get up and dance and when that happens turn your song into a medley.

If your audience is smiling, singing along and even dancing it's a great experience.
 

Ric46

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This was another issue that I was over thinking. Most of the people that I know are from southern Italy, so are they going to be familiar with northern Italian music??? :)
NO, except a few famous all over the Country
 

godgi

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An idea might be to consider a "potpurri" where you could run a selection together of say 3 pieces with little link notes from tune to tune. In this way you could perhaps play contiunously for say 10 minutes in a similar genre.
Eg: a russian selection like dark eyes/kalinka/those were the days
a french musette selection
a balkan selection
etc etc dont forget "ZORBA"
Godgi
 

TomBR

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Requests can be a bit of a minefield. Sometimes the requester genuinely wants to hear something, sometimes they seem to be showing off their knowledge, sometimes I think they just want to be involved.
Sometimes you have to say, "yes we'll be doing that later, I hope you'll still be here?" - ie in an Irish pub band gig you're not going to do Fields of Athenry when the place is half empty and you've only just started, that one's for near closing time.
It's good to try to be nice but sometimes, if the requester has had too much to drink and won't take no for an answer you just have to get on and play to everyone else. I guess writing down the name of the song or piece and saying you'll look it up could be a good move.
 

NickC

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I've played all of these on the PA, so I'm thinking I will relearn some of them on CBA and have them ready:

'O sole mio
That's Amore
Tarantella Napoletana
Funiculì, Funiculà
Luna mezz'o mare
Maria, Mari
Torna a Surriento
Tu Vuo Fa L'Americano
Comme Facette Mammeta
Marechiare
'O Surdato 'nnamurato
Maruzzella
Happy Birthday

Anything outside of that, I will have to make a note of and see how often it comes up.

I guess I have some work to do....
 

NickC

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sometimes you can get away by playing only a couple bars, partial melody, then when everybody joins in you play chords only

30 seconds in you follow up with another classic, and so on..

everybody happy for half your trouble


I think you're right about playing the request for a little bit. I once had a request for 'Maria, Mari'. I played the intro and verse, and the guy kept saying 'no, no, that's not it.' Once I got to the chorus, he finally recognized it, smiled and sang along.

The first time I got 'That's Amore', I just played it by ear. The rough, improvised version went over better than some of the tunes I spent weeks learning.

These were mostly informal gatherings/parties, not really gigs, but I would imagine that it translates.

The other thing that I was thinking is that I can bring the PA and CBA to every gig, along with a book of lead sheets. I'm much better at reading on the PA, though still not great at it. But, I can probably pull some things off.

I guess the next question is how polished do the requests have to be? My 'That's Amore' experience pleased a few people, but the others had to sit through some bad notes.
 

JeffJetton

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I guess the next question is how polished do the requests have to be? My 'That's Amore' experience pleased a few people, but the others had to sit through some bad notes.

I think that if you tell them in advance something like "That's a great song, but I've never played it before. Let me give it a shot and see if I can figure it out" then they're not only understanding of any clams, but frankly impressed that you get any of it right! (And appreciative that you tried.)
 

Tom

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Yeah Nick, you definitely need Happy Birthday, because invariably it'll be someone's birthday and it's definitely brutta figura to not play it. Not sure where you're from but around here "That's Amore" is probably the most recognized "Italian" tune followed by "Jambo" (Finiculi Finicula, pronounced "Yambo.") Go figure.

Yesterday, along with the request for Italian music was one for Pink Floyd. I respectfully had to decline, not knowing any. Playing something similar and learning if you are returning to that venue are good advice. My attempts at on the spot learning have been disappointing 😕.

Good luck with all your gigs!!!!
 
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