Everything you'll ever need to know about booking a pianist. Find out what a pianist will do at your event, how various types of pianists differ from each other, what pianists require, how to ensure quality, how much it costs to hire a pianist and much more. Find all our pianists here, all our pianist singers here & our complete list of classical musicians by clicking here.
What does a pianist do?
A pianist is perhaps the most versatile of performers, able to entertain with a vast range of music from pop to jazz, classical to rock, and also accompany other instrumentalists and singers. A pianist can provide sophisticated sounds for your corporate event, romantic music for weddings, and quality background music for cocktail parties or receptions. A good pianist is a joy, a great pianist is mesmerizing!
What to look for in a quality pianist
What music do they offer?
A quality pianist is able to turn their hands to almost any style of music, and will offer a wide selection of songs and tunes from every genre they play. So, whether you want an Adele classic or a classical moment from Mozart, they will have the music to fit. Pianist Edmond Oakley offers a list of repertoire that reads like a who's who of song writing, from Miles Davis to the Beatles, Disney themes to George Gershwin, Alicia Keys to Van Morrison!
Do they play from memory or music?
Pianists either work from a 'pad', a stack of sheet music, or from memory, depending on the occasion. Pianists who play from memory have the advantage of being more able to engage with audiences or guests, but 'reading' from music or not is not in itself a mark of quality or experience.
Do they offer requests?
The ability to play almost any number on request, from memory, is a seemingly effortless skill that actually results from years of practice, an accomplished "ear", and the natural ability to hear a tune once or twice and remember it. This talent is particularly appropriate where your guests might like to make requests, such as weddings and parties. Pianist Lee Mathews has been playing 'by ear' since he was five, so he can play almost any tune straight off, no problem, very useful in his role as resident pianist at The Dorchester and Harrods in London!
Where have they played?
Top UK entertainment pianistsTop UK pianists are much in demand, and are booked by major companies, international venues and celebrity hosts alike. So, if your chosen pianist lists venues and clients you recognise, chances are they are both talented and experienced, which is reassuring for the success for your own event.
Do they have their own piano?
Most professional performers will have their own digital (electric) piano available for venues where there is no piano available, or where the piano is, shall we say, past its best! See the "What equipment" section below for more on pianos; the good, the bad and the horrible!
Do they have any music qualifications?
A music degree or diploma shows that your pianist has studied to a high level, usually in classical music but also in specialist areas such as jazz and music theatre. There are great pianists who have never been to college, but a qualification at a high level is an indication that your pianist is very accomplished, and is more likely to excel at more technically demanding music for events such as corporate functions, product launches, cruise concerts and more. Malaysian pianist Tin Tin, for example, has a Master of Music Performance and Related Studies in Classical Music, plus a Diploma in Jazz and Popular Music Studies, while Gary Llewelyn studied at the Royal Academy of Music.
What format will my pianist offer?
Most pianists are happy to perform as a gentle background accompaniment for your event, be it a drinks reception, during your wedding breakfast, at restaurants for private parties, or for almost any type of corporate function, to create a relaxing environment.
A live pianist also adds a special atmosphere to wedding ceremonies and civil partnerships, welcoming the guests as they arrive with suitably contemplative pieces and delighting guests with your requested tunes as the happy couple sign the register.
Equally, some pianists can energise an event with up-tempo jazz, boogie-woogie or even pop. Hannah Daisy particularly enjoys seeing guests up and dancing to her playing, and can even provide the perfect accompaniment for a good old-fashioned singalong around the piano!
What equipment will my pianist require?
‘Real’ pianos are a complicated metal, wood and string musical instrument, so they are very sensitive to changes in temperature, humidity, and movement. Concert quality pianos are beautifully made instruments that cost thousands of pounds, require regular care and careful handling, and are a delight to play for pianists. Unfortunately, most venues don't have them! Some have good quality pianos that are properly looked after and tuned, other have pianos that are left to fend for themselves, and which suffer as a result. And the more a piano is neglected, the worse it sounds!
If your venue has a piano that is well cared for and regularly tuned, most pianists are happy to play it. However, if you want the pianist to play on the terrace, or on a stage, the piano will have to be moved by specialists (they are incredibly heavy) and then tuned by a highly trained piano tuner.
Now you can see why many pianists have their own digital pianos! Digital pianos don't go out of tune, you can put them almost anywhere that's flat and dry (so long as it's got access to a 13 amp plug) and they fit in the back of a car.
Digital pianos are high quality instruments in their own right, and require a slightly different technique to play to perfection. The best digital pianos use real piano samples for every note played, so the same digital piano can sound like a top of the range concert grand piano, a pub piano or a classic electric piano from the 1960s! Digital pianos can be amplified through a PA system to fill a room or a hall, or plug directly into a conference sound system.
Any form of electric piano enable your guests to watch the pianist play, which is more entertaining than seeing the back of their heads playing a traditional upright piano or trying to see them around a vast concert grand piano lid. However, for many, a digital piano doesn't look as smart or impressive as a real piano, which is why some pianists such as Lee Mathews and Edmond Oakley offer a baby grand shell. This is a collapsible piano case into which their own digital piano slots, so it looks like the real thing but without all the moving and tuning problems!
Pianists prefer to play sitting on an adjustable piano stool, which means they can change the stool height to get the best sitting position when they play. Plastic chairs, conference or dining chairs are at the wrong angle and height, and chairs with arms are an absolute no-no. Most pianists with digital pianos provide their own adjustable piano stools.
Pianists do need to see the piano keys properly to play well, so make sure they have sufficient lighting to see both ends of the keyboard clearly, and that any music they use is clearly lit. Again, most pianists with a digital piano will bring their own light for the piano but do ask what they require.
Digital pianos usually require a PA system in larger rooms or venues, and most pianists bring their own. Again, if your venue is large, check with the pianist in advance that their system will be suitable, and that their piano can be put through your venue PA system if required.
What space will my pianist require?
If your pianist is playing a real piano, they require sufficient space for the piano, which in the case of a concert grand can be as long as 9 feet, PLUS space for them to play! Generally, this is a MINIMUM of 3 feet / 1 metre behind the keyboard for a piano stool and your pianist to be able to sit without hitting their elbows on the wall behind them. Equally, make sure there is some space between your pianist and your guests or audience, so the sound is more rounded and not too loud.
What performance length do pianists offer?
Pianists are the endurance performers of the music world, and are happy to sit and play for quite considerable lengths of time. However, most pianists will appreciate a break at least every hour (and in noisy environments, possibly more frequently), to an average of three hours playing time total. Some pianists offer an iPod of music to play during their breaks, so guests still have music to enjoy.
Playing time and set duration really depends on your event. So for a wedding, you might like your pianist to play as guests arrive for the ceremony, play during the signing of the register, and then reappear at the drinks reception before the meal. For a conference cocktail reception, you may only want an hour of music, whereas for an exhibition or trade show, you may require more. If in doubt, call the expert team at Alive Network to discuss your requirements.
What options will my pianist offer?
Pianists can play so many styles of music that you can pretty much ask for the 'mix' you'd like. So, if you fancy pop, ragtime, jazz and rock n' roll all in the same evening, it shouldn't be a problem!
Some pianists are purely solo performers, while others can join forces to present a jazz trio or similar, like Gary Llewelyn. Some pianists are also singers, like Catherine and Rose Carey, so they can delight audiences with well-known songs played and sung with style and elegance.
If you have any unusual events or requests, such as film or location work, just ask - most pianists love to do something a little different once in a while!
What do professional pianists cost?
Professional pianists charge different fees, and sometimes it may not be clear why one charges more than another. The top end of the fee scale hovers around £350, while at the other end, some pianists charge as little as £99. Usually the difference just boils down to younger pianists wanting to gain experience charging less than those with a busy diary and an established reputation.
Anything else I should know?
Your pianist may play a digital piano but they are not a robot, so don't ask them to play for hours without a break! Offer your pianist a meal during your event, and free soft drinks from the bar or bottled water, and somewhere private to change and sit in between sets if they require it.
If your pianist is playing a real piano, they will usually want to play it before your guests arrive, to check its action (the way it plays) and its tone. If you are providing a real piano, always make sure it is tuned by a professional tuner AFTER it is moved into position in the room and BEFORE the pianist arrives. (Moving a piano is the quickest way to send it out of tune!)
If your venue has a electronic or digital piano, don't assume your pianist will be happy to play it. Like real pianos, the quality of digital pianos varies considerably, even in how many keys they have, and most pianists will probably prefer to bring their own so you get the best performance possible. Ask the venue to provide the make and model number of any digital piano, so your pianist can decide in advance.
How to book your pianist for hire
Take a few minutes to look through all the pianists on our website, and listen to a few audio samples or watch some videos. Add those you like to your Wish List, and check if they are available on your chosen date.
Once you have found your perfect pianist, just click to book them! An Alive Network team member will then contact you to talk through your event details, such as expected timings, guest list and other details. Your dedicated team contact will make sure the act is still available on your chosen date and then confirm your booking in an email.
You pay a small deposit by credit card to secure your booking, and by email we'll send you a receipt and a legally binding contract to protect both you and our artists. Simply print, sign and return the contract, and your booking is safe and secure. We'll give you an emergency telephone number for the day, and three weeks before the event, we'll put you in touch with your pianist to discuss final arrangements.