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#3146129 08/14/21 07:18 AM
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I watched a snippet of a cowboy movie recently and in the bar in the corner just (before the gun fight starts) the piano player was playing a lively tune and everyone was happy and laughing.
What is that kind of music called and how did they learn how to play in those early days? I can’t see that they would have had lessons to play in a bar.
Does anyone know? My husband said “ does anyone care”.
He doesn’t play piano.
Shey


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Shey #3146132 08/14/21 07:31 AM
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Interesting question.

My first thought was 'ragtime', but I wasn't sure when the cowboy era was.

After a little online digging (little being the operative word), I see that the cowboy era was mid 19th century, before ragtime was a thing.

The term I discovered, which may answer your question, is 'parlour music':

Parlour Music

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Shey #3146135 08/14/21 07:45 AM
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Thanks fatar760, that was an interesting read. I did wonder if it was called Honky Tonk! If that’s an actual term.

I don’t watch many cowboy movies, but the music is always the same so I think maybe it was just improvised. I’m not sure that it really happened either, maybe something made up for the movies.

I suppose I really wanted to know how they learned to play. But it is uplifting and jolly.


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Shey #3146136 08/14/21 07:49 AM
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Yes, Saloon piano that goes with bar brawling. We didn’t have that in the UK.
Still, how did they learn it?


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Shey #3146137 08/14/21 07:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Shey
Thanks fatar760, that was an interesting read. I did wonder if it was called Honky Tonk! If that’s an actual term.

I don’t watch many cowboy movies, but the music is always the same so I think maybe it was just improvised. I’m not sure that it really happened either, maybe something made up for the movies.

I suppose I really wanted to know how they learned to play. But it is uplifting and jolly.

Well the film industry was much later and perhaps they used the modern music styles of the time in their films to garner popularity, and that's just stuck over the years. So, whilst ragtime was prominent when these cowboys films were being made, it's not necessarily reflective of what was actually being listened/performed in the mid 19th century.

Shey #3146140 08/14/21 07:56 AM
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My good buddy Rick, who is also a PW member, demonstrates. The playing starts about 2 minutes into the video:



Sam

Last edited by Sam S; 08/14/21 07:57 AM.

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Sam S #3146148 08/14/21 08:38 AM
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That was it Sam, saloon bar piano. Those first two songs were lovely. They just have to be played fast. Fatar says the films used later styles of music, not necessarily the music of the time. Do you think they just taught themselves to play?

Last edited by Shey; 08/14/21 08:39 AM. Reason: Spelling error

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Shey #3146150 08/14/21 08:47 AM
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Compilation of saloon music with the titles in the comments



"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Shey #3146151 08/14/21 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Shey
That was it Sam, saloon bar piano. Those first two songs were lovely. They just have to be played fast. Fatar says the films used later styles of music, not necessarily the music of the time. Do you think they just taught themselves to play?

Parlour music was based on well known folk songs (such as Campdown Races), so I imagine this was probably the style in those saloons back in the 19th century.

I should stress that I was surmising about what the film industry may, or may not, have been doing at the time. I really don't know. I've certainly always associated those films with ragtime piano though, which would have been musically later than parlour songs. It's also possible to see how we got from parlour songs (like in Sam's clip) to ragtime and stride piano.

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I watched one Cowboy movie, that had a female piano teacher as one of the character roles in it.
Several people in town were taking lessons.

Last edited by RaggedKeyPresser; 08/14/21 09:02 AM.

Will do some R&B for a while. Give the classical a break.
You can spend the rest of your life looking for music on a sheet of paper. You'll never find it, because it just ain't there. - Me Myself
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Ragged key Presser, do you remember the name of that movie? I wonder if just the adults had lessons. Might like to watch that.


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Shey #3146202 08/14/21 11:25 AM
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Hi Shey,
I wish I did.
I'd gladly share the title.
I watched it on YouTube, though.The thing is, that I've watched pretty well every Western movie that can be found there. I never find one now that I've never seen before.
So, it's not as simple as going through the past history.
If I run across it again within reasonable time, I'll get back to you

P.S.
After thinking about it for a while, I realise it may have been a guy playing a male role.

Last edited by RaggedKeyPresser; 08/14/21 11:33 AM.

Will do some R&B for a while. Give the classical a break.
You can spend the rest of your life looking for music on a sheet of paper. You'll never find it, because it just ain't there. - Me Myself
Shey #3146207 08/14/21 11:39 AM
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Nahum - I listened to parts of the clip you provided and the style reminds me of stride style.

I started out my piano life playing by ear. (a blessing and a curse). Sometime around kindergarten age I heard the Nutcracker Suite for the first time and went over to the piano and played part of the main theme with right hand triads. I imagine anyone back in the day who could play by ear could reproduce popular tunes. Without taking the time to analyze them, I imagine lots of them were of the 3 or 4 chord variety.

Regarding the old-time piano sound, someone once told me that putting thumb tacks on the felt hammers would produce it. Could be a bunch of baloney.


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Everybody made home music in the mid to late 19th Century. No recordings, no radio, no TV, no interwebs. If you wanted music you made it yourself or paid for lessons for your kids so they could play for you. Even in the wild wild west there were pianos and piano teachers. But I imagine the people that ending up playing in a saloon learned their skills back east and migrated west...

By the way, Rick - in the video above - has never had a piano lesson. He plays by ear...

Sam


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Shey #3146220 08/14/21 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Shey
I watched a snippet of a cowboy movie recently and in the bar in the corner just (before the gun fight starts) the piano player was playing a lively tune and everyone was happy and laughing.
What is that kind of music called and how did they learn how to play in those early days? I can’t see that they would have had lessons to play in a bar.
Well, they probably didn't have lessons specifically to play in a bar but they certainly had lessons. Professional musicians and music instruction has existed at least since the middle ages. Every town had a church and every church had an organist or at least someone lika a music director for the choir so for sure there were lots of professional musicians around. Now, any musician that knows his trade can easily play by ear and improvise, especially one that would be hired to play in a saloon. I would assume that's what they did and playing mostly what guests like and in those times that would most likely be folk tunes.

About western movies I think most of that music is ragtime and that is totally anachronistic given a mid-19th century setting.

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I used to play piano at an employee cantina at a resort, but it was all improvised 12-bar blues. I got paid free beer. smile


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You may find this interesting:

https://imslp.org/wiki/Sam_Fox_Moving_Picture_Music_(Zamecnik,_John_Stepan)


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Shey #3146332 08/14/21 07:35 PM
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There’s some great examples of this type of music in the series ‘Westworld'.

Most of them are modern pieces but they take on a whole new sound and although they are recognisable, it's difficult to decipher exactly what they actually are.


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Interesting subject--I looked into this some years ago, mostly to see if there were any ancient recordings of actual old west pianists--I didn't find any.

So anyway, you should define your date parameters to help yourself---also, your geographical areas. I consider the era to be from the end of the civil war to maybe 188somthing, but I have no real reason to do so. I tend to place the 1870s in the middle of the span--after all, the Colt six-shooter, the PEACEMAKER, the Gun that Won the West (AKA Colt Single Action Army) was invented in 1873. However, there was plenty of weird OLD WEST lawlessness well into the 20th century.

Anyway, with the caveat that this is not really my era of expertise, I would think that Civil War era songs would be first up, along with bona fide cowboy songs. Songs like Marching Through Georgia, Lorena (a beauty), Yellow Rose of Texas, Chisholm Trail, Streets of Laredo, and any Stephen Foster. I wouldn't be surprised to hear some Irish or English stuff as well.

But I'm sure that there are thousands of possible songs, and here's a place to find some: https://digital2.library.ucla.edu/sheetmusic/

As it happens, a relative of mine is into Laura Ingalls Wilder, who apparently mentions many songs in her books, and there is a list of these songs here: https://laurasprairiehouse.com/music/

But this list may go too late for your purposes.

In any case, in MY mind, anything with ragtime is not correct. I would also guess that most pianists of the time were pretty rough, and would keep the left hand really simple. For me, the Rick video is probably the most accurate.

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