|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
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
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
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!
This 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
dueling pianos concept is most appreciated
by the middle class to upper class audience.
pointer for corporate events, weddings and private
Even if you're not sure that your entire
group will be familiar with the
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
Just as in real estate, creating the perfect
dueling pianos environment starts with "location,
location, location". The reason for the success
dueling piano bars is the placement of the pianos
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
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
Number 3 - Make Easy Access to 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
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 (TIPS) - this is in ADDITION to
their base salary or nightly rate. Most dueling piano players
in the US make more than 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 $20 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 $40
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 are very high
energy, and extremely entertaining and engaging. We suggest the
following time allotments:
Option 1: (2) Sets of 45 Minutes Each, with 30 minutes of
dance party DJ in between sets (total time = 2 hours)
Option 2: (1) Set of 75 Minutes, with a short DJ "cool
down" at the end of 15 minutes (total time = 90 Minutes)