Piano bar

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For the album by Patricia Kass, see Piano Bar (album).
Tom Saputo at Open Mic piano bar at Squire Rockwell's, Annandale, Virginia

A piano bar (also known as a piano lounge) consists of a piano or electronic keyboard played by a professional musician, located in a cocktail lounge, bar, hotel lobby, office building lobby, restaurant, or on a cruise ship. Usually the pianist receives a small salary plus tips in a jar or basket on or near the piano, especially from patrons requesting a song traditionally written on a beverage napkin.[1] Some piano bars feature a baby grand or grand piano surrounded by stools for patrons (or, somewhat humorously, an upright piano covered by a counter that makes it appear to be a grand piano). Others have a bar surrounding the piano or keyboard.

Jimmy Durante started as a piano bar player, as did Billy Joel. Joel's classic hit "Piano Man" is based on his experiences as a piano bar player. Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli also played in piano bars to pay for singing lessons.

Theatre historian John Kenrick describes the piano bar as follows:

A piano bar is a hybrid creature: part performance space, part living room, part cruise-a-thon, and part saloon. The bar is there to sell drinks, the pianist is there to perform, and the crowd is there to sing, listen, drink and socialize. All of this means that it's impossible to predict what a given evening's chemistry will be, even if most of the people on hand are regular customers.... While every factor counts, the most important issue is the person at the piano. The pianist determines the type of music, the style of performance, and the general tone of the evening.... The experienced piano bar player knows how to take genial control of most any situation and generally keep the party going.[2]

The Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs presents annually several awards, MAC Awards, for piano bar performers: Piano Bar Instrumentalist, Restaurant/Hotel Lounge Instrumentalist, Piano Bar/Restaurant Singing Entertainer – male and female.[3]


There are several different types of piano bars:

Postcard from Pat O'Brien's Bar in New Orleans showing the dueling pianos format

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Swenson, John. "Pat O'Brien's: The Song Remains the Same", offbeat.com, August 20, 2012
  2. ^ Kenrick, John. "Around Karen Miller's Piano", Musicals101: The Cyber Encyclopedia of Musical Theatre, TV and Film
  3. ^ Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs
  4. ^ Alavattam, Kris. "Play us a song at the piano bar", Swocol.com, Cox Ohio Publishing (Dayton, Ohio), May 05, 2008
  5. ^ Maltese, Racheline. "New York City Favorite: Rose's Turn", gather.com, December 28, 2006
  6. ^ Howl at the Moon website
  7. ^ Big Bang Dueling Piano Bar
  8. ^ List of duelling piano bars, Piano Bars Worldwide Guide, accessed 9 February 2010

External links[edit]