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About dueling pianos...
by Adam Blue

What the hell is this craze called "dueling pianos"?  I got my first taste of dueling pianos when I visited Las Vegas for the first time back in 1996.  We stopped into the brand new New York, New York Casino and Hotel and went to the Bar at Times Square which is located inside the massive casino modeled after the city skyline of New York, New York.  The Bar at Times Square is a tiny little square shaped dueling piano bar with no tv's, pool tables or games of any kind - in fact, the ONLY thing in this dueling piano bar (besides the bar) is a set of grand pianos set up back-to-back smack in the middle of the room.  As it turned out, this is the ONLY way to set up a dueling pianos environment successfully (more on this later).

Anywho, we grabbed a table and waited for the show - or whatever it was these freaks were going to do.  The drinks at the dueling piano bar were a modest $9 a piece ( I think we were drinking margaritas - yee haw!) so my mom nursed her drink for like three hours whilst I proceeded to drink one about every 15 minutes - hell, we ARE in Vegas right!  Money is no object.

Soon, a couple of early middle aged blokes walked in dressed in tuxedos and proceeded to fire up the show.  There were wireless microphones and cheesy little monitors on top of each piano - one of the guys grabbed a mic and started to explain to the audience how the dueling pianos system worked... "ok folks if you look on your tables you will see these little pieces of paper and some pencils, all you gotta do is write down a song request for us, fold it up inside a fifty dollar bill and throw it up on the piano.  If we know your song we'll play it" - (he was actually probably a lot more humorous during the intro, but again, I had about 15 doctor pepper's before they went on.

And so it went - the people in the dueling piano bar (now becoming super packed - not a table left in the house) started to chuck their song request papers (most with cash folded inside) up on the pianos.  The piano players sat down and began to take turns picking up the request papers and playing (or attempting to play) the songs written inside.  From what I could gather, they were picking up the big dollar bill requests first (duh!).  And thus it went on, one piano player would pick up a request and go to work while the other guy either looked through the requests on his side of the pianos or maybe even joined in the fun and "beatboxed" along with his partner's performance.  Things picked up and started to get a little crazy, girl's came up with birthdays, etc. and the dueling piano guys would find different ways to embarrass them.  The piano players were jumping up on top of the pianos and throwing beer and yelling and rapping and basically going wild.  The dueling piano bar was PACKED man, and the pianos were piled high with cash and requests.

We stayed for about 2 hours or so and by that time the first two piano players left and were replaced immediately by a second pair of piano players.  As you can imagine, the second two piano players ended up playing a lot of the same songs as the previous two as the crowd had turned over by then and there was a lot of new blood and new / old requests.  I think "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison was played about 3 times while we were there!  It soon got late and we got out of there - dueling pianos is best taken in small doses that's for sure.  After about 2 hours, you've seen what you're going to see and after that it all kind of "loops" and starts over.  If you are going to hire the dueling pianos for an event, be sure and keep that in mind - don't book them for more than about 90 minutes or it starts to get old.

So that was my first experience with dueling pianos and a dueling piano bar.  I was very impressed and I went home with some new ideas about how to entertain an audience.  Thanks guys - whoever you were - who introduced me to what is now earning me a living!

Here is a video of the dueling pianos from the dueling piano bar at the  Bar at Times Square - Video

 

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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