How to set up a dueling pianos bar or environment for an event 

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How to set up a dueling piano environment...
by Adam Blue

First of all let me say that the dueling pianos act is gaining MAJOR popularity with corporate events as it encourages everyone in your company to sort of "come together" and participate.  We've had countless event coordinators getting pats on the back for putting a dueling pianos show on.

Next, let me say that every country club should consider having a "dueling pianos night".  This has been working great!  The members show up in DROVES.  A unique and delightful night will blossom and just watch your guests build as the weeks go on...

Anywho, with that said - here's what we came here for:

After countless conversations with nightclub owners, wedding coordinators, corporate event planners and other interested parties about bringing in dueling pianos to their events, I have painstakingly attempted to explain the proper way to create a dueling pianos environment over 1000 times.  So, in order to save my voice for singing with Roll Over Beethoven (my dueling pianos act), I decided to put all of this information online.  With that being said, if you have been referred to this site by myself or any of my business associates, please do not take offense - it's not that we don't want to explain it to you over the phone, it's just that this website is easier for all of us.  By using the following pointers, I am confident that most of you will be able to accomplish your goal of setting up a dueling pianos environment that suits your event.  Here are some top facts that you need to know:

Number 1 - Be Sure You Understand What Dueling Pianos is!
T
his is not only for you, but for your audience, guests or clients.  Be sure that your audience understands the concept of "dueling pianos".  Be aware of how your group might react when introduced to a dueling pianos environment.  Crowd participation is CRUCIAL to the success of a dueling pianos show.  If you don't think that your audience will "get it" then you might want to go with a live band or a DJ for your event.  At the risk of sounding snobbish, the dueling pianos concept is most appreciated by the middle class to upper class audience.

Great pointer for corporate events, weddings and private parties:  Even if you're not sure that your entire group will be familiar with the dueling pianos concept, refer to the following advice:  Give the piano guys a "dirt list" of quirky characteristics of their audience members.  If you are a coordinator of your corporate event, you probably know some great inside information about your guests.  The dueling piano players can exploit these quirks in front of everyone!  Nothing brings a corporate crowd to life more than viewing one of their own coworkers on stage being embarrassed - especially admin members.

Number 2 - The Pianos are in a Prime Location  Just as in real estate, creating the perfect dueling pianos environment starts with "location, location, location".  The reason for the success of many dueling piano bars is the placement of the pianos themselves.  

Note:  Most qualified dueling piano acts supply their own pianos (which are actually collapsible piano "boxes" with electronic keyboards mounted inside - and look extremely real).

Most importantly, the pianists need to be able to see everyone in the audience and everyone in the audience needs to be able to see the pianists.  A successful dueling piano show includes the ENTIRE audience.  Crowd participation is essential to a successful dueling pianos show.  Don't be afraid to put tables right next to the pianists on all sides.  Dueling piano players often encourage "heckling" and loud verbal requests to fuel their show.    Members of the audience are constantly invited to come up to the pianos and participate.  Dueling piano players have TONS of "shtick" that involves bringing up an audience member to participate in the fun.  For instance, if a wild bunch of women are sitting in a section demanding Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" then in most instances a good dueling piano player would invite the group of gals to join them by the pianos and sing along!

You also may have noticed that many of the top dueling piano bars are quite small.  Why would they build their bars so small?  The reason for this is so that whether there's 150 people in attendance or 20 people in attendance, the atmosphere still feels intimate.  The dueling piano players can still involve everyone in the crowd - large or small.  You will also notice that in ALL of the major dueling piano bars, the pianos are located in a place where everyone in the audience can be included in the fun - that's what location is all about.  If you are coordinating a private event featuring dueling pianos, you still need to set up the room like a dueling piano bar with relation to the location of the pianos and the audience.

Number 3 - Make Easy Access to the Pianos  The audience needs to be able to easily approach the pianos.  This is necessary for delivering requests, joining the pianists in a sing-along, etc.  Roll Over Beethoven employs a "request gatherer" who goes out into the crowd, but not all dueling piano acts are this organized.  Place the pianos in a manner that encourages your guests to approach the pianos and get involved.

Number 4 - Attention:  Nightclub and Bar Owners

Attention nightclub owners!  In order for dueling pianos to work in your club, there cannot be any TV's turned on during the dueling pianos performance.  NO SPORTING EVENTS! (make sure that you don't schedule the dueling pianos during an important college basketball game, etc).  People are far too fascinated with television to focus on anything else around them.  Also, please remember that dueling pianos usually requires a fairly intelligent (middle to upper-class) audience to be successful.  If your audience in made up of mostly "local yokel knuckle draggers" they may become frustrated with the dueling pianos agenda and act out accordingly.  This fact also comes up under a section below called "tipping".  If your bar patrons aren't familiar with the dueling pianos format (tip to get the song that you want played) - then it is likely that your dueling piano players will not do a return show for lack of tips.

Also, be sure that your regular patrons understand what dueling pianos is about.  Dueling pianos is NOT a band and they will need the audience to PARTICIPATE in order to be successful.  Most dueling piano acts will not perform if there are any sort of distractions such as pool tables, video games, or other typical white trash bar staples.

Number 5 - Tipping

Dueling piano players expect to get tips - period.  No tip, no request.  One of my favorite dueling pianists did a bit one night that taught me a valuable lesson.  He held up a $5 dollar bill with a request attached to it and said "this is a request".  Then he held up a request form with no money attached and said "this is a suggestion".  The whole concept of dueling pianos is based on requests accompanied by tips. 

Expect dueling piano players to do different things to warrant tips, for instance many dueling piano players use a dry erase board on stage for audience members to write anything they want on - KU Jayhaks RULE! or something like that.  There is a dollar amount placed on the board that the next audience member must match in order to erase the previous message and write a new one - MU Tigers RULE!  This can go back and forth for several turns until a nice little pile of money is built up.  Rumor has it that a feud between college basketball fans resulted in a $1000 final offer to play their favorite collegiate fight song.  A good night for a dueling piano team should be around $800 or $400 per player.  Most dueling piano players in the US make more than most doctors.  Another fun thing that warrants tips is "Stop That Song".  During the coarse of the performance audience members can walk up and slap a $10 bill down on the piano and exclaim "STOP THAT SONG!".  The pianists will then stop the song and ask if anyone else would like to beat the $10 STOP in order to continue the song.  The song YMCA by The Village People often induces mixed feelings among folks and the audience will quickly take sides on whether or not to keep the fun, yet annoying song going.

Number 6 - Time of Performance

Dueling pianos is not meant to go on for very long.  Though dueling pianos are very fun, it gets old REALLY fast.  We suggest the following time allotments:

Nightclubs:  2 sets of 60 minutes with a 30 minute DJ break in between
Corporate Events:  1 set of 75 minutes or 2 set of 45 minutes (with DJ break in between)
Weddings:  1 set of 75 minutes or 2 set of 45 minutes (with DJ break in between)

 

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".



BOOKING INQUIRIES


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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copyright 2005 Adam Blue Productions

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