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The Ultimate Guide To...
Booking Pianists and Piano Players

What is a pianist?

Pianists are solo, usually expert, performers who play the piano. One of the most versatile of entertainers, pianists can perform a wide range of music from pop, jazz, and swing, to rock, show tunes, and classical, and sometimes accompany other musicians and vocalists.

Expert live piano players, our musicians can provide an array of sophisticated melodies for your corporate event, romantic refrains for weddings, and tasteful background music for cocktail parties or receptions.

Depending on the occasion, pianists can work from an iPad, from sheet music, or from memory.

What music will a Pianist play?

With the ability to turn their fingers to almost any style of music, our pianists offer a wide selection of tunes from every genre in their repertoire. Whatever tone you’d like to set at your exclusive private event, a professional pianist will have the perfect music to fit. You can expect music from artists including:

  • Abba
  • Alicia Keyes
  • Beyoncé
  • Ed Sheeran
  • Elton John
  • Lionel Richie
  • Michael Bublé
  • Michael Jackson
  • Oasis
  • Van Morrison
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber
  • Hans Zimmer
  • John Williams
  • Leonard Bernstein
  • Cole Porter
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Fred Astaire
  • Nat King Cole
  • Bach
  • Chopin
  • Debussy
  • Handel
  • Mendelssohn
  • Mozart

Popular types of Pianists

1. Solo Pianists

Covering a range of musical styles, our solo pianists can create an intimate and relaxed vibe or set a big, formal atmosphere. Solo pianists mostly play alone, but on occasion can accompany other musicians or singers. Artists might cover songs ranging from Adele to Bach, Harry Connick Junior to Disney classics.

2. Solo Singer-Pianists

Again, both male and female solo singer-pianists are captivating performers that can sing along when they’re playing the piano. Their repertoires are varied, covering classical masterpieces to smooth, chilled jazz, swing and exciting boogie-woogie and soul, as well as classic and contemporary popular hits – their acts offer something for everyone.

Is a Pianist suitable for my event?

With such a varied selection of repertoire and styles on offer, solo pianists and singer-pianists are a very flexible entertainment option. They can set an atmosphere that’s unique, be it a cool and laid-back vibe, a formal ambience, or anything in-between.

Pianists often perform background music for daytime and early evening events, at occasions such as:

Our ivory-tinklers can provide beautiful love songs for a wedding ceremony and for that special first dance, and their music can exude an irresistibly refined vibe for your drinks reception or wedding breakfast.

Pianists are also a great option for corporate events and sophisticated cocktail parties.

Volume considerations at your event

Depending on the atmosphere the pianist is trying to create and the room acoustics, volume can range from peaceful, relaxed background music, where your guests can happily hold a conversation, to upbeat, spirited sets guaranteed to get everyone moving! An acoustic pianist might play at an ambient to background volume range of 65dB – 75dB (decibels), where a pianist using an amplified digital piano or singer-pianist may play at a livelier level nearer 80dB – 85dB. Both are pleasant and unimposing volume ranges. As such, a pianist or singer-pianist is an excellent choice if your venue has a sound limiter or a noise restriction policy.

Space considerations at your event

A pianist is usually a great option for small spaces. Where the artist is using a concert grand, baby grand or upright piano, it will usually be provided or hired by the venue so appropriate space will already be assigned. If using a piano shell, which makes a digital piano look like a real grand, the artist would need a comfortable space of 1.5m width × 3m depth. For approximate requirements, see ‘How much space will a pianist need?’, below.

How much does a Pianist cost?

The cost of a solo pianist varies widely, anything from £130 to over £600. This large range is mainly down to younger, newer musicians eager to build up their experience and charging less, compared with the reputation of well-established and often very busy pianists, who can command higher fees.

In 2017, the average price of a solo pianist is around £300. You can expect to pay more for a singer-pianists.

This table shows the range of fees for different types of pianists:

Type of Artist Cost Range
Pianists £130 - £550
Singer-Pianists £250 - £1,750

Booking a pianist who lives close to your venue location is one way to control costs, as their travel time will be minimised. The home town location of all Alive Network pianists are shown on their profile pages, and your Entertainment Coordinator can help by recommending the best pianist local to your event.

Who are the top 10 best Pianists in the UK right now?

Below is our current hotlist of the most notable pianists in the UK, based on a balance of popularity, performance quality and innovation:

For a list of Alive's most booked professional pianists right now, see our 'Top 10 Pianists For Hire in 2017' article

How long will a Pianist play for?

A standard performance may include two 45- or 60-minute sets, but you can choose to have three 40-minute sets if you prefer, and they can perform up to 3 or 4 hours. Singer-pianists will typically play two 45-minute, two 60-minute or three 40-minute sets, up to about 2 hours in total. Like any musical entertainer, pianists and singer-pianists will need breaks in-between sets, and some offer an iPod with background music during their breaks, keeping your guests entertained.

Performance time and length depends on your event requirements. If booking a wedding pianist, they might provide background music as guests arrive for the wedding ceremony, during the signing of the register, and then perform again at the drinks reception before the wedding breakfast. For a corporate cocktail reception, you might prefer only an hour of music, whereas for an exhibition or trade show, you may require a longer performance. All our pianists offer flexible options, which you can discuss with your dedicated Entertainment Coordinators.

How much space will a Pianist need?

This guide shows approximately how much space a pianist will need when playing a variety of instruments:

Instrument Performance Space Required
Digital piano 1.4 metres wide × 1.5 metres deep
Upright piano 1.6 metres wide × 1.6 metres deep
Digital piano with piano shell 1.5 metres wide x 3 metres deep
Baby grand piano 1.8 metres wide × 3.5 metres deep
Concert grand piano 2 metres wide × 5 metres deep

More accurate measurements for your chosen artist can be provided by your Alive Network Event Coordinator.

How long will it take for a Pianist to set up?

Your pianist will arrive at a time to suit you, and set up their equipment in the performance area. Unloading, setting-up and performing the crucial sound-check usually takes around 30 minutes, depending on how close they can park to the performance space, and what their set-up involves. For artists with a grand piano shell, setting this up can take 60 minutes. Some busy London hotels often require acts to load in using a shared supplier’s entrance, which can increase set up times.

Many pianists will play their own digital piano, but if your pianist is using a venue’s piano, bear in mind that it must be professionally tuned before they use it. Your pianist will then need a little time to get used to the way that particular instrument plays and its tone. If that piano is being moved before the performance, it absolutely must be checked again by a highly skilled piano tuner, since moving a piano can quickly make it go out of tune.

Following the recital, a pianist can take anywhere from 20 – 60 minutes to pack down and load out.

What equipment will a Pianist need?

To ensure the piano playing is as silky as possible at your event, most pianists require:

  • a suitably-sized, safe, dry, flat performance area. If performing outside, they will need cover – either from the rain or the sun!!
  • a professionally-tuned piano, if using a venue’s instrument
  • a minimum of one 13 amp power socket, if a digital piano is being used
  • a light, ensuring both ends of the keyboard are well-lit
  • an adjustable piano stool
  • parking provision, preferably with easy access to the venue
  • a secure, lockable changing room
  • refreshments such as soft drinks and sometimes food, depending on how long you have booked them for.

Your pianist will bring their music, and will often provide a digital piano where required. Some pianists can provide their own adjustable piano stool, piano shell and a light to illuminate the piano keys/sheet music.

Digital pianos can be amplified through a PA system to fill larger venues, or can plug directly into a conference sound system. It’s worth checking with your pianist in advance that their system will be suitable, and that their piano can be put through your venue PA system if required.

Most pianists provide PA systems suitable for average-sized private events, but if you’re planning a large event with over 200 people, you may need to hire a separate PA system. Our dedicated Entertainment Coordinators are happy to speak to you about particular pianists and your event requirements.

For information on the following, see our Frequently Asked Questions:

For a more comprehensive pianist booking guide please read ‘Booking a pianist – Everything you’ll ever need to know’.

If you have any other queries, simply visit our FAQ page.

Alternatively, our dedicated expert entertainment coordinators are on-hand to help. Simply call 0845 108 5500 or email enquiries@alivenetwork.com.