Pianist Booking Guide – How to Hire

Are you curious about hiring a pianist for a wedding or private event but don’t know where to start? We’ve compiled answers to the questions we hear most often, complete with tips and inside knowledge from some of our top pianists. To discuss booking a pianist with our team, simply email Alexandra at [email protected].

How to hire a pianist

  1. The Basics
  2. Equipment & Setup
  3. Repertoire
  4. Booking

The Basics of Hiring a Pianist

What styles of music can the pianist play?

While specific pianists may specialise in particular areas of repertoire, almost any style of music – including pop, jazz, folk, classical – works on the piano. Many pianists are happy to play a variety of repertoire during the same event, and some are piano vocalists, able to sing as well.

What’s the difference between different types of pianos?

Pianos can be electric or acoustic. Acoustic pianos can be either grand pianos (ranging in size from five to nine feet long) or upright, which is about two feet long (but with the same size keyboard). Like a harp, a grand piano is as much a visual as a musical element, adding an elegant look to your event. However, piano movers are very expensive, so make sure your venue already has a grand piano in good condition which has been tuned within the past week.

If they venue offers a digital piano, give the make and model number to your pianist and make sure they are happy playing it.

Grand Piano at event

A grand piano adds a sophisticated touch.

My venue doesn’t have a piano – what can I do?

Many pianists offer a portable piano or keyboard that they will bring to an event. Some even have shells to mimic the appearance of a concert grand. Many pianists in fact prefer to bring their own keyboards as the quality of pianos at venues can be variable.

Archie Combe, Encore Pianist

“I love playing the piano for events because I like how the music creates a memorable atmosphere for the special day.” -Encore pianist Archie Combe

Which parts of the wedding ceremony can the piano play at?

The musician will usually play at the following parts of the ceremony: seating of the guests, bridal procession, signing of the registry, and the walk out.

Can the pianist play at the reception as well as the ceremony?

Absolutely! However, if the reception is in a different venue from the ceremony and the pianist is bringing an instrument, make sure they have enough time to move the piano.

Encore pianist Andrey Novikov plays with his band Jazz Lane

Equipment & Setup

How much space does a pianist need?

Depends on the size of the piano! Grand pianos range from five to nine feet, plus another three feet for the pianist to sit and be able to move their arms. Upright and electric pianos need about five feet of length. All pianos are approximately five feet wide across the keyboard.

What equipment do I need to provide?

In addition to the piano, the pianist will also need an adjustable bench or stool. This will usually be provided with the venue’s piano, but do check.

Pianists who are bringing an electric instrument will generally need two chairs without arms and two electrical sockets.

The pianist will also need sufficient lighting to see the music and keyboard.

How long does the pianist need to set up?

Your pianist will need 15 – 30 minutes to set up, depending on what kind of amplification is required.

Encore pianist Steffan Ciccotti demonstrates his cocktail piano skills

Do I need to provide food?

Musicians will appreciate bottled water and tea/coffee/biscuits upon arrival. Meals are always welcome, though generally not required unless your event is at dinnertime.

Can a piano play outside?

If the piano is an acoustic one which belongs to the venue, discuss with them if it can be moved outdoors. Even upright pianos, which are easier to move, are sensitive to changes in weather and humidity and will likely need retuning.

Pianists are generally happy to play electric instruments outside as long as the weather is warm enough (difficult to play in gloves!), adequate rain shelter (such as a gazebo) is provided, and they are not in direct sunlight. Many pianists can supply their own extension leads as well.

What dress code can I expect?

Pianists can tailor their outfit to your event – white tie, tuxedo, floor-length gowns, cocktail dresses, smart casual or just all black are all possible.

Do I need a PA system?

Acoustic pianos cannot be connected to a PA system. However, if the pianist is bringing an electric instrument, they may be able to bring their own PA system or else they can hook their keyboard up to the venue’s system.

Encore pianist Barri Mason

How long will the pianist play for?

Sets are usually 45-60 minutes long with a 15 minute break between sets.

Do I need to provide parking?

If the pianist is bringing an instrument, then they will require parking, ideally as close as possible to the entrance. If there is no parking immediately by the door, then they should be able to unload by the door and then move the car. The client should reimburse the pianist for any parking costs incurred.

Piano Repertoire

What are the most popular repertoire requests?

Our top pianists tell us the following pieces are guaranteed to be a hit:

  • Someday My Prince Will Come by Frank Churchill
  • Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet by Henry Mancini
  • Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy
  • Over the Rainbow
  • Beyond The Sea

Can the pianist play my favourite song?

Absolutely! Pianists love adding new pieces to their repertoire, and if they can’t find an arrangement, will often tailor one themselves for your event. This may add an additional fee to your booking, but is well worth the extra expense to hear your favourite song played in a new and exciting way.

Can the pianist take requests?

Many pianists have spent years memorising hundreds of songs, and/or can pick up tunes very quickly by ear.

Andrey Novikov, Pianist

“I was once booked to play a jazz set for a wedding reception and learned before the performance that the bride loved the band Depeche Mode. So I improvised on Enjoy the Silence as a surprise for them – which they loved!” -Encore pianist Andrey Novikov

What is the most popular party/event repertoire?

Depends on the style of your event! It can be classical, pop, or a combination. All of the pieces listed above will work well as background music for a party.

I’m not sure what type of music I want – where can I go for ideas?

Go to Encore’s pianist page and listen to different pianists’ audio/video clips and get ideas of which styles you like. You can even filter by location to find pianists near you!

Can the pianist play with a singer?

Absolutely! A singer is the perfect addition to a piano, allowing you to have the full song experience. Some pianists can sing as well as play – you can specify this when you request a booking.

Encore pianist Anthony Shiels

Booking

How far in advance should I book?

We advise booking as soon as possible, especially if you have special musical requests, but we handle last-minute bookings all the time at Encore and can easily find a pianist at short notice.

What’s the typical price for a pianist?

Each pianist will set their own rates, but expect a fee of £150 – £200 for two 60-minute sets plus travel and amplification expenses if applicable. Some pianists have a set fee for an event while some will charge hourly.

Do I have to pay travel fees/porterage?

You may have to factor in travel costs if the pianist is not local. Most musicians have a set radius from their home (generally 15-20 miles) and charge extra for any travel outside that area. We have pianists all over the country, so we can usually find someone close to your location.

The standard rate is 47p/mile so if the pianist needs to travel 50 miles each way, that’s an additional £47 for 100 miles of travel. This amount is included as a rough guide – each musician will set their own fees.

If the pianist is bringing an instrument, there will usually be an extra cost, known as porterage, to cover the delivery and setup.

How do I handle contracts and payment?

The easiest way to handle contracts and payment is to book through Encore. Our bookings process is extremely straightforward, and once you have confirmed a booking with your chosen pianist, contracts and payments will be handled painlessly and effortlessly by our secure payments system. To discuss booking a pianist, please email [email protected].

Hopefully this guide answers all of your questions! If you have more questions about pianists, email us at [email protected] and we’d be more than happy to help.

Click here to find the perfect pianist for your event.

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