Category Archives: Performance

I just performed as part of Tommy Tutone’s band (867-5309)

Last weekend I performed with Tommy Tutone live, and I’ll playing with him another 10 or so times over the summer. How that came about is Rick Springfield added Tommy Tutone and Greg Kihn as extra performers on some of our shows, and Rick had in own band (including me) play with Tommy and Greg as well.

It’s always fun to play new gigs with new people, and the first show went really well.  We weren’t given any charts or notes or anything to learn his songs, just MP3s of the songs to listen to and learn.

That’s why relying on sheet music is a bad idea, because often there IS no sheet music. So I learned the songs the same way I always do, and the same way most rock musicians do, which is exactly what I teach my Piano Genius Members in the members area:

  1. Listen to the songs enough to be familiar with them
  2. Figure out the key of the song
  3. Figure out the basic chord progression and write out simple charts
  4. Figure out your actual parts and jot down some notes to refer back to

…All based on just using your ear to tell whether it sounds right or not.

It works like a charm and is much easier, quicker, more effective, and most importantly can always be used. There’s not always sheet music available but your ears are always available to help you play once you’ve trained them to do their job. 🙂

This video below isn’t with me it’s just an old live performance Tommy did of his hit song 867-5309. At some point over the summer I’ll get some live clips of me playing with him and add them to the site. 🙂

Here’s my main point:

Virtually all of my musician friends learn songs exactly the same way that I do.  If there was a better way or a quicker way or a more effective method to learn songs and to learn our parts, we’d use it, but there’s not.

Whether you want to play with Tommy Tutone, or play  songs on the piano at family get-togethers, or you just want to play songs for yourself in the privacy of your room , this is the best way to do it.

If you’re even the slightest bit curious, become a Piano Genius member for a month and see what you think.

Related Post: I performed as part of Greg Kihn’s band

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I played “horns” on Rick Springfield’s new song

I played keyboards on Rick Springfield’s new album “The Snake King”, and on this song “Little Demon” I played the horn/trumpet part (sampled trumpet sounds on my keyboard) , and towards the end at the 4:40 minute mark I played a synthesizer part/solo. Check it out:

Recording on someone’s album is a perfect example of why and when being able to read sheet music is unnecessary (and in fact useless.) Because to a large degree it’s the musicians’ responsibility to come up with good parts that fit the song, so it’s all about using your ear, being able to come up with parts that fit, and the ability to take direction and play a part you’re asked to play on the spot.

That’s exactly the kind of “skill stack” you’ll learn as a Piano Genius member. While I can’t promise becoming a member will lead you to getting play keyboards on a Grammy-award winning artist’s album, it can’t hurt! 🙂

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Thomas Dolby Performing With Tim Gross

I was performing on an 80’s music week-long cruise to the Bahamas and Jamaica last week with Rick Springfield, and Lou Gramm (singer for Foreigner) and Thomas Dolby (who had the hit “She Blinded Me With Science”) were there as well. Foreigner/Lou have a LOT of hit songs, but one big hit that Lou didn’t perform in his set was “Waiting For A Girl Like You.”

That night, Rick Springfield told me 5 minutes before we were about to start playing a piano bar/jam session that he wanted to play that song. I’m familiar with the song but have never played it before, so I used my phone to try to pull up some song chords, and unfortunately some of the chords I found were wrong, so while we did make it through the song, it didn’t go that well.

We later had another piano bar/jam session and Rick wanted to do the song again, but this time I knew in advance long enough to actually play the song chords ahead of time and work out what the REAL chords were (which always helps, heh.) As it turns out, Thomas Dolby actually played the original keyboard parts on this Foreigner song (!) so he surprised everybody including me by coming out on stage to play the part:

A couple more things:

  1. We were playing the song in a different key (Em) than the song was recorded, which Thomas didn’t know, so when he started playing the part it sounded bad (oops) but he was easily able to play the same part in the different key as soon as I showed him what the starting note was.
  2. One of my “problems” is I can’t stop myself from saying something I think is funny even if it’s inappropriate. Lou Gramm has one of the strongest voices in rock music and his voice was powerful when he sang earlier the first night. So before we played “I Want To Know What Love Is” the first night, I said on the mic, “We’re going to play the song that Lou Gramm didn’t have the balls to sing earlier tonight.” (Which is funny to me because Lou is such a ballsy singer and we were just playing a quiet piano version, but for people who don’t know my sense of humor it may have been a little awkward.) And finally, at the end of the above video clip I even made a joke about Thomas Dolby… Like I said, if I think something is funny I can’t help myself. 🙂

Key Point: These kinds of impromptu “jams” or songs you’re trying to play for someone on the fly is exactly where the Piano Genius training comes and and can help you shine. I didn’t have sheet music, so that wasn’t an option, and even if there  was sheet music most people can’t sight-read it in real-time immediately.

The skills you need are 1) How to read a very simple chord chart, and 2) How to use your ear to let you know if what you’re playing sounds right.

Final Point:  I worked out what to play for that intro melody line in about 30 seconds, and to me it sounds “good enough” even after hearing Thomas Dolby’s actual part he played which was somewhat different. Even though I know it’s not 100% correct, if I were to play it again informally in the future I still wouldn’t go to the trouble to learn the official actual part, because virtually no one (except Thomas Dolby!) would know the difference, so what I’m playing is *good enough* and to me it’d be a waste of time.  (If I started performing it on stage in concert, THEN I’d of course take the time to learn the actual correct part.)

If you’re the kind of person who couldn’t stand to play that intro part I played knowing it wasn’t 100% exactly like the original part, then the piano training here on is not for you – That would make you the kind of person who needs to spend years struggling to learn to play note-for-note sheet music.

…But if you’re the kind of person who’d rather be able to play something that sounds 95% the same in a tiny, tiny fraction of the time, who likes to be able to just “wing it” and play a song they’ve never played before, then you should try out a Piano Genius membership.

You’ve got nothing to lose. And a lifetime of fun and enjoyment to gain.


Thanks for watching, hope you enjoyed it – Tim
Got any feedback or comments? Let me know below 🙂

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Piano Solo from a Star-Studded Jam Session

I just got back from playing on an “80’s Cruise” that had a lot of musicians/bands on it: Rick Springfield, Thomas Dolby, Berlin, Mike & The Mechanics, Billy Ocean, Lou Gramm (singer for Foreigner), Loverboy, Tommy Tutone, and more.

Here’s a bit of a piano solo my wife recorded during a midnight jam session. Rick Springfield and Tommy Tutone are on stage to the left of me, and Mike Reno (singer for Loverboy) is behind me. Also on guitar is Kevin Armstrong, who plays with Iggy Pop and Thomas Dolby and previously played with David Bowie.

With these kind of impromptu things sheet music is obviously out the window (even if I was someone who reads sheet music), the best you can hop for is to hopefully recognize a song a bit so you can anticipate chord changes, and use your ear to work out chords on the fly.

Anyway, here’s a snippet from the night:

Note: The above video is from a Facebook post, if it’s not showing up on this page for you, it may be because you’re in “private browsing” mode. Also, by default the Volume is OFF on the video, so click to turn on volume.

If you want to be able to play songs you don’t really know with musicians you’ve never met before and be able to HOLD YOUR OWN on stage with them, you should try a Piano Genius piano lessons membership. You’ve got nothing to lose. And a lifetime of fun and enjoyment to gain.


Register now risk-free to try out a membership for yourself.