Howl At The Moon, Jellyrolls, Shout House…what do all these bars have in common? They all use a fancy trick commonly known as “Piano Shells” in order to make patrons think that the performers are playing on real pianos. Coast to coast, piano shells have become standard in dueling piano bars (replacing real pianos), and for good reason!
What are Piano Shells, and Why?
Piano Shells are nothing more than a devise to create the illusion of real pianos on stage. Sometimes made from wood, sometime made from plastic or fabric, piano shells became popular for a number of reasons.
1. They are light! No one wants to move real pianos, especially if there are stairs involved! Some shells will even fold up and fit into a car, making it much easier to take the show on the road.
2. They don’t break. Dueling piano shows can sometimes get a bit rowdy and I’ve definitely had my fair share of drinks spilled on my piano/keyboard. But spilling on a keyboard is a much easier fix than ruining a 15k+ grand piano.
3. No tuning required. Every time a real piano is moved, it needs to be tuned. This is especially true if you’re moving two pianos, because even though one piano might sound relatively in tune with itself, throw another piano into the mix and you could be dealing with a cacophony of terrifying proportions. Bring shells and put keyboards inside! Now there is no tuning, and amplification is as simple as plugging in a single cable to a sound system.
Do I Need Piano Shells?
Honest answer – not at all. Whether your event uses the shells or not, we still bring the same keyboards. This means that the sound is exactly the same! Shells don’t make us sound better, they don’t make the show funnier, they simply look nice on stage. If you have a small intimate gathering or wedding, why not save the money? If you have a 250+ guest event for your most valued clients, you may want to consider adding that “Wow” factor to the show.
Piano Shells: Buyer Beware!
As with most products in the market place, you get what you pay for. Not all shells are made equal. A true grand piano is 6′ long, but some shells are less than 2′. Some shells are made out of cardboard, plastic, or fabric, while others can be made from real pianos (many venues use gutted grand pianos). If your vendor wants to include shells free in your price, BEWARE! A full size set of shells requires a trailer (or box truck) to move and extra time to set up, items that cost money to do correctly.
Our advice: ask for pics. Don’t blindly assume you know what will be delivered to your event, get a picture of the actual shells. Below are pictures of actual shells from reputable dueling piano companies. Although I very much respect our competition, F&F strives to be distinguishable from them.
Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos:
The Felix and Fingers Difference
Our shells are made from real 6′ grand pianos. Fingers personally gutted the pianos and then had them professionally painted. The legs can be removed for transportation, which is achieved using a customized enclosed snowmobile trailer. Our shells are the real thing and most of your guests will never even notice that we’re not using real pianos. I can’t tell you how many times people approach our players asking how they got “pianos” into the venue. Everyone is amazed to find out the secret of the shells.
Oh, and did you notice they’re blue? That’s not the lighting…they are big, bold, and blue! Want more pictures? Just cycle through our blog, you’ll see them making appearances in many of our posts!
Additionally, the Red piano shells in the background image are also available by special request.
Unfortunately we have more players than we do piano shells, so they are always booked out on a first come basis. Likewise, because these are the real deal, they are not included in the standard quote. If you’re interested in adding them to your contract though, just let us know!
Pricing questions? Click here! We also offer a few other optional add-ons to take your event from good to great!