Archive for May 19th, 2010

Does Your Venue Have A Piano? If So, Do You Really WANT It?

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

There was a time when virtually every venue, even the banquet room of your neighborhood restaurant, had a piano. It may have been a spinet with a less-than Steinway tone. It may have been too fragile to move to the place where you really needed it. And it may not have been tuned since it left the factory. But – if you asked – you would be told, “Why yes! Of course we have a piano!”

Those days are – for the most part – gone. I travel to every engagement with a full 88-note Yamaha keyboard in the van with me. As long as I have electricity, I’m in business. If the venue has a decent piano, so much the better. But I never assume that they will. (And neither should you.)

A good piano, baby grand or bigger, adds the look of class to your party. Whether it adds anything musically is another matter entirely. To be useful, it needs to be in tune with itself, somewhere near the industry standard of A-440. (Otherwise, even if it sounds fine alone, other instruments may not be able to tune up with it.) It also needs to be where it will work best for your needs, and able to be pointed in the right direction. Many venues that have pianos point them so that their keyboards face the room. This is great for watching the pianist’s hands at work, but inevitably means that his back will be to you.

To facilitate moving their pianos without damaging them, thoughtful venues place them on Y-shaped steel frames with oversized, easy-rolling wheels. These wheels aren’t pretty, but they are extremely functional. (They can also be hidden by placing a little greenery around the base of the piano.)

But – if you want a real piano at your event – you need to run through a checklist with your catering executive.

1. Is there a piano? 2. Is there a charge for using it or moving it to where you need it? (And – if so – how much?) 3. Is it tuned regularly? (Otherwise, you may need to add $200 to your budget to be sure it sounds as good as it looks.) 4. Can it be pointed a different direction, if necessary? (For instance, I like to face my audiences, not have my back to them.) 5. Can it be placed on a stage for better visibility? (And – if so – are there charges for this?)

If having a real piano is important to you, but your venue can’t oblige, you can rent a piano for the night. It will be delivered, assembled, tuned, dusted, placed exactly how you want it, and then removed afterward. It will also add significantly to your budget.

So – just in case the price of having an authentic and aesthetically pleasing piano becomes prohibitive – be sure that your ivory tickler has a perhaps not-so elegant (but very portable and always in-tune) keyboard handy. What such instruments lack in beauty, they more than make up for in reliability and economy.