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About dueling piano bars...
by Adam Blue

Sing us a song you're the piano man...a song that you will definitely hear when you visit a dueling piano bar.  Billy Joel's famous tale of a nightclub piano man has inadvertently turned into a nationwide dueling piano bar craze.  City by city, the dueling piano bars are starting to open up.  Cities like Las Vegas, Texas, Minnesota, and Joplin Missouri have had dueling piano bars for years but now the idea is starting to catch on everywhere.

A dueling piano bar is typically a small nightclub that centers around two grand pianos positioned back to back with two pianists facing each other.  The pianists play songs based on requests from the audience.  Patrons write their requests on request forms or any piece of paper they can find and put them on top of the pianos.  The piano players then get to work on playing as many requests as they can - usually starting with the requests that have cash attached to them.  Cash tips that accompany the requests range from $1 to $100 depending on how badly the patron wants to hear their song - or how drunk they are.

Most of the big chain dueling piano bars employ a handful of dueling piano players who tour the country, playing all of the chain dueling piano bars.  Most dueling piano bars on a given night will staff 3 dueling piano players who take turns.  This works well for dueling piano bar patrons as they have a better chance of hearing their request.  If the two piano players that are onstage don't know a request, it's possible that the third pianist will.  I was at a dueling piano bar one night that started off with two older black piano players performing for a solid white young audience.  They were completely stumped by the requests that they were getting.  Eventually a white piano player got up there and was able to perform the mostly white requests.  It was kind of sad because he ended up having to stay up on stage for almost the whole night since the black piano players didn't know any of the modern white songs.  Most dueling piano players that play in the dueling piano chain bars are dorky little middle aged white men who spastically pound out songs with minimal vocal ability.  But, that's where drinking a few extra drinks will help you.

The chain dueling piano bars like Howl at the Goon and Ernie Belch's rely on heavy advertising dollars and cheap cheap labor.  The talent quality suffers, but at least they get rich off of you.  It probably won't be long until they start sending illegal immigrants to their cheesy "piano schools" - yes, they have dueling piano schools - and saving even more money.  Get your La Bamba requests ready!

A dueling piano bar is a great place to go for birthdays, bachelorette and bachelor parties, and other special occasions.  The dueling piano players will typically embarrass the guest of honor using a number of different comedy shticks.  For example, if it's a man's birthday the pianists might ask the man to stand up on the stage and then ask girls in the audience to dance on the man as if he were a stripper pole.  A dueling piano show is usually slightly risqué, and involves a little dirty humor.  If you are easily offended by rated R - X comedy material then you will probably be offended and should go elsewhere for your entertainment.  Another popular gag that you may encounter in a dueling piano bar is when you first walk in the piano players will stop what they're doing and turn to you and say "hey everybody, NEW PEOPLE!" - to which the audience is trained to respond with "OH SHIT!".  Obviously most dueling piano bars are age 21 and over.

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ABOUT DUELING PIANOS
A little history on how we discovered
dueling pianos and the dueling piano bar.  Check out an article called "About Dueling Pianos".

HOW TO SET UP A DUELING PIANOS ENVIRONMENT
Kansas City, notorious for being slow to catch on, is just now beginning to discover dueling pianos and the dueling piano bar.  Over 20 years behind, but at least they finally got dueling pianos!  Many local Kansas City nightclub owners have had delusions of grandeur and have tried to install a dueling pianos act in their venue but have failed miserably for several key reasons, which are explained in an article called "How to Set Up a Dueling Pianos Environment".
THE REAL STORY OF THE DUELING PIANO BAR
Most of the dueling piano bars that are out there are chains.  Like most chains they are flavorless and odorless and are run by a handful of owners who are probably sitting on a beach somewhere and never even visit their own venues.  They pay the absolute minimum to their local employees and absorb all of the profits.  Chain dueling piano bars are no exception in that they take away from the small local business owner who doesn't stand a chance of overcoming the large bankroll that a chain dueling piano bar owner walks in with.   Basically, any large chain type business is successful before they even open the doors of a new location.  This has an adverse effect on it's local employees in that it takes away any incentive for local management to please the customer as they are on a fixed income and are easily replaced.  How does this affect us as customers?  The up and downside of a chain dueling piano bar is explained in an article called "What is a Dueling Piano Bar?".
MEET "THE PLAYERS" - ABOUT DUELING PIANO PLAYERS
Dueling Piano players come in all shapes and sizes, from sexy to dorky from highest paid to chain piano bar slaves - learn about the men and women behind the keys in this article about dueling piano players called "About Dueling Piano Players".


About Dueling Pianos | How to Set Up a Dueling Piano Environment | What is a Dueling Piano Bar? | About Dueling Piano Players


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