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Every now and then when I play the piano, someone in the vicinity will recognize the tune and hum, whistle, or sing along. I don't mind that; I think it's nice that they like the song and want to join in.

However, even if they're doing so in key and on beat, I suddenly find myself distracted and begin making mistakes. I guess I'm getting my main feedback from the piano's sound and the secondary input throws me off. I think it has to do with where the melody in particular is coming from — I also find it hard to play accompaniment to my own singing unless the piano is also carrying the main line a little, even if it's in a different octave or only on the downbeats.

Is there any way to train myself to handle this? How do professionals do it in live venues? (That's not where I usually am, but I imagine the problem is that much greater there!)

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I'd say the way to deal with distractions it is to practice it more.

Playing open stages is a great way to improve your ability to play with "variables". However, even if you play by yourself, I think you can incorporate some things.

I "play through mistakes" Adapting to mistakes that leaves my fingers un-anchored, or that throws my meter off simulates the mistakes I'll make when interrupted, or when I lose focus.

Playing with distraction, like the TV or conversation with my kids, can simulate that as well.

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    A music store in Toronto has put a piano out on the street all summer, and I've played it often when I pass by. People constantly stop, take pictures, chat, approach me, let their kids run up and hit the keys when I'm finished, etc. It's definitely helped. Now I should start bringing sheet music so I can learn not only how to play through distractions, but how to read through distractions. ;) Thanks for the answer. – Luke Sawczak Sep 27 '18 at 14:38

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