Dueling pianos has been a style of entertainment and piano playing that has been around since the 1890s. It was first made popular in the larger cities where the piano duel bar first became popular. A dueling piano bar would typically place two baby grand or grand pianos opposite each other and two musicians would take to the stage to perform the song requests from the audience. Some of the most famous artists to take part in duels like this are Stevie Wonder and Billy Joel.
Most of the dueling piano songs that you will come across hail from rock and roll as well as the country music genre. The goal of performing songs with piano like this is to encourage audience members to join in and participate with the artists on stage.
If you are looking to host your own duelling piano bar party or you are planning on visiting one soon, it’s good to know what some of the most popular songs are. Here we are going to list some of the best dueling piano songs as well as give you a bit of background on each one.
Lynyrd Skynyrd with Sweet Home Alabama
Sweet Home Alabama has been a steadfast staple in the southern rock genre for many years. The song found its way into the dueling piano genre and consistently one of the favorites amongst audiences. This is probably due to the infectious chorus which makes it almost impossible not to sing along to. What makes it even more fun is singing it at full volume.
Def Leppard with Pour Some Sugar on Me
If you’re more of a piano purist then you may only associate Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard with heavy metal, full of electric guitars. This can’t be one of the dueling piano songs that are so popular in the bars. Well, the audience would clearly disagree with this. It’s a song that’s included in a lot of piano bar song lists and remains one of the most popular choices today.
Three Dog Night with Joy to the World
Joy to the World is an incredibly singable song which is why it’s so good for dueling pianos. It is so catchy and lovable that it may even bring Jeremiah the Bullfrog to croak out a few notes. The classic rock hit is guaranteed to get the audience singing which is why we had to include it in our list.
Van Morrison with Brown Eyed Girl
With one of the most captivating melodies out there, Brown Eyed Girl is something you will want to request as a dueling piano song from any artist. Performers will regularly tell you that this is a big fan favorite amongst most audiences. This can be put down to the croonable chorus with plenty of la’s, tee’s and da’s to go along with it. Back in 2007 Brown Eyed Girl was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Rupert Holmes with Escape
Escape is a song that is better known to dueling pianists as the Pina Colada Song. It has a very unconventional song structure featuring three different choruses. However, even the strangeness of the melodic layout hasn’t stopped it being a popular choice for piano players. The tune is catchy and offers up a soft rock feeling that fulfills every romantic and adventurous feeling you might have. It definitely encourages the audience to start singing their hearts out along with the pianist.
Sir Mix-a-Lot with Baby Got Back
This is a completely unique choice that you would never think could be converted as well as it does onto the piano. Featuring comical and risqué lyrics about females may seem like an unlikely choice but it’s definitely one of the most popular song choices amongst piano bar audiences. Baby Got Back is a true crowd-pleaser when it’s played by an artist with great musical skills as well as a flair for showmanship.
Garth Brooks with Friends in Low Places
A more demanding song for the dueling piano player, Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks is a toughie to play and sing because of the two-octave range it has. Both low and high notes can be popular for audiences which is why it comes as no surprise that this song is commonly requested as one of the most appealing country songs.
Journey with Don’t Stop Believin’
Even though the booming chorus for Don’t Stop Believin’ doesn’t kick in until right at the end of the track, there’s still one hell of a build-up both for the singer and the instrumentalist. This classic rock hit has a quirky structure which is probably one of the reasons it’s so popular as a dueling piano song.
Elton John with Benny and the Jets
Elton John has to be featured on any list that has to do with songs about pianos. He is one of the world’s most favorite piano players along with Billy Joel and has made some amazing dueling piano songs over the years. One of the most played is Benny and the Jets which allows the pianist to show off their artistry while audiences can be swept away with the sheer singability of this pop-rock classic.
Guns N Roses with Welcome to the Jungle
Welcome to the Jungle is another rock classic that may not be associated with other songs for dueling pianos. But despite the fact that it doesn’t immediately come to mind it makes for a popular request amongst piano bar audiences. It takes a lot of skill and almost piano magic to get this song to work on the piano but when you pull it off, it works incredibly well. Nobody can resist singing along to this when it hits the stage.
Queen with Bohemian Rhapsody
The wonder that is Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen takes a strong pianist with amazing musicality to showcase. It’s a classic rock tune that is both funky and inventive and is about as progressive rock as you can get. Talented musicians bring this song to life on the dueling piano stage and audiences love it. It’s a song that’s included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame too.
Steppenwolf with Born to be Wild
Biker songs are a classic in piano bars and Born to be Wild is said to be the quintessential song for the open road. With amazing lyrics and heavy metal power chords, it’s quickly become a staple on the piano because of its simple yet stunning refrain that really gets the audience going.
Jim Croce with Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
The lyrics that feature in Bad, Bad Leroy Brown are all about a tough guy who starts flirting with the wrong woman. The husband finds out and the tough guy gets taken down a couple of pegs by her husband. The chorus is goofy and fun to sing along too with its random references to King Kong and the junkyard dogs too. This is why it’s such a hit for pianists at piano bars.
What are some good dueling piano songs?
There are some truly great dueling piano songs. Because there’s such a wide variety it’s easier to look at different categories to find something you would want to play. ‘Piano Man’ by Billy Joel has been a popular choice for many years. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ from Queen is also up there on the list. For a more rock and roll style of dueling piano songs then take a look at pieces from Neil Diamond.
What songs should I request at a piano bar?
If you ask a pianist who performs at a piano bar they will surely tell you the top songs that are requested on a regular basis. The following songs make for a great choice at a piano bar and are sure to be crowd-pleasers too :
- Piano Man – Billy Joel
- Baby Got Back – Sir Mix-A-Lot
- Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond
- Mustang Sally – Wilson Pickett
What is the best piano song?
There are a lot of brilliant songs you can learn to play on the piano. Many pianists would say the best modern piano songs come from the likes of Billy Joel.
What are the most popular sing-along songs?
A big part of dueling piano songs is to get the audience involved and to have fun. Having songs where the audience can sing along is interactive and make the whole piano bar experience much more enjoyable for everyone. The following songs are popular for sing-alongs:
- Hey Ya – Outkast
- Brown Eyed Girl
- Hey Jude – The Beatles
- Old Time Rock and Roll – Bob Seger
No matter what dueling piano song you play, make sure to have fun with it and choose one of the more popular choices so the audience can join in and sing along with you.