A skillful and imaginative pianist can breathe new life into any song. So imagine what two talented musicians can do!
That’s the magic of a dueling piano bar. In these piano bars, two pianists play and sing while facing one another. There’s lots of entertaining commentary, and the audience sings along and sometimes even dances. Piano bars bring people together, so before you go, it’s a good idea to think of some piano bar songs to request.
The Top 15 Piano Bar Songs
1. “Piano Man” by Billy Joel
The Billy Joel classic, “Piano Man,” just might be the perfect dueling piano bar sing-along. Joel himself has said that he wrote it about his own experience playing at a Los Angeles piano bar. At the time, he was working the job just to be able to pay rent.
The song’s captivating melody and quick lyrical character studies of bar patrons have made it an enduring favorite as a piano bar song. And ironically enough, “Piano Man” helped Billy Joel to move on from being a bar pianist. Though his first album didn’t do too well commercially, his second album — called “Piano Man” — ultimately catapulted him to fame.
If you want to get a sense of what this iconic song might sound like in a piano bar, check out this video of Billy Joel performing it live.
2. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is such a consistent hit that piano bar audiences request it almost every time. It’s a lot of fun to sing along to, as it doesn’t follow a traditional song structure, and each part seems almost like a song in itself.
Even though this song is beloved, it’s mysterious as well. Neither Freddie Mercury nor the rest of Queen has ever really elaborated on the meaning. Mercury has said that people should just listen to the song and decide for themselves what it means.
Of course, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is an important song outside of piano bars, too. It’s on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. Even its music video, which you can watch here, was ahead of its time.
3. “Old Time Rock n Roll” by Bob Seger
If you’re ready to hear a rousing rendition of a classic rock tune, “Old Time Rock n Roll” is one of the best piano bar songs to request. This Bob Seger hit is a fun one for piano players to show off. It’s also fun for audience members to sing along to! To see an actual piano bar performance of the song, take a look at this video.
Interestingly enough, this ultimate classic rock tune is one of the very few songs that Bob Seger performed but didn’t write. “Old Time Rock n Roll” was recorded at the iconic Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. Seger had tried to record the music with his band, but he ultimately purchased a demo of the music and used his voice on the final recording.
4. “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles
Nothing beats a danceable classic rock song at a piano bar. And like many rock songs, this one translates well to the piano keyboard in the hands of a capable musician.
Notably, the Beatles did not write this song, but they did make it famous. “Twist and Shout” was initially performed in 1961 by a group called The Top Notes.
5. “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night
But “Joy to the World,” with its eccentric lyrics and upbeat rhythm, became a surprise classic rock hit. (This entertaining video offers some more background on the song.) And at a piano bar, the whole audience is likely to start singing along as soon as they hear “Jeremiah was a bullfrog.”
6. “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson put on quite a show when performing this well-loved song (you can see what we mean here), so it’s only natural that “Billie Jean” offers an opportunity for piano bar pianists to show off their skills.
Even though “Billie Jean” is a great song for creating a party atmosphere, it’s about a very challenging time in Jackson’s life. He wrote it about a woman who stalked him and claimed he was the father of one of her children. According to people close to Michael Jackson, the woman sent him letters and eventually sent a gun along with a threat of murder. Understandably, the whole ordeal proved to be quite stressful for Jackson.
7. “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi
“Livin’ on a Prayer” is a great piano bar sing-along song with an inspiring and encouraging chorus. So it’s no surprise that it’s a staple in piano bars everywhere. The song tells the story of two working-class young people, Tommy and Gina, who continue to work hard and hope for better as they overcome hardships.
Take a look at this video to see two pianists at a dueling piano bar (and of course the audience) having fun with this song!
8. “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Sweet Home Alabama” isn’t only a karaoke staple; it’s also impossible to resist singing when you hear it at a piano bar! You might assume from the lyrics that Lynyrd Skynyrd is from Alabama, but the band wrote it after spending time in Alabama while recording at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. The song is a staple of southern rock and has helped define the genre.
As you can see in this video clip, “Sweet Home Alabama” sounds especially good in a dueling piano bar where one piano plays the guitar part and the other plays the piano part. When played by two pianists at once, this is a song any music lover will appreciate.
9. “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis
This spirited song about falling in love doesn’t fit neatly into a single genre. When it was released, it hit the top 5 in three different charts: pop, country, and R&B. And even though the lyrics are tame by today’s standards, the innuendos in “Great Balls of Fire” were shocking in 1957.
The catchy melody of this raucous Jerry Lee Lewis song lends itself to piano showmanship, so it’s a lot of fun to watch a skilled pianist play it. And as a bonus, the chorus (or at least the line “goodness gracious great balls of fire”) is easy to sing. You can see Lewis performing the song live here.
“Great Balls of Fire!” is also the name of a 1989 movie about Jerry Lee Lewis’s life. It even includes a scene where Lewis sets his piano on fire!
10. “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison
Both hard rock and soft rock songs can be great piano bar songs. “Brown Eyed Girl” is one of the most consistently popular piano bar songs. If you’re visiting a piano bar and aren’t sure what to request, this one is a real crowd-pleaser. That’s mostly thanks to the tune’s croonable chorus, which is easy enough for even the shyest of singers.
Van Morrison released “Brown Eyed Girl” in 1967. Its lyrical themes dovetailed with hippie culture and the “Summer of Love.” You might think an artist would be proud of that accomplishment, but Van Morrison disliked the hippie scene and didn’t want anything to do with it. You can listen to the song and see the psychedelic cover art (which Morrison disliked) here.
11. “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks
Not a lot of people can sing “Friends in Low Places” properly, as you need a two-octave vocal range to do so. But when you’re singing along in a piano bar, it doesn’t matter if you can’t reach all the high (or low) notes. You might not immediately associate country music with piano bars, but this country tune seems to be a consistent request. Check out the song being performed in a piano bar here!
“Friends in Low Places” is one of many songs that was inspired by a passing moment. Bud Lee, one of the writers who worked on the song, was out to lunch with friends and realized he hadn’t brought any money. But he then realized “I have friends in low places. I know the cook.”
12. “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot
You might not think a rap song with silly but lovable lyrics would be a popular choice of piano bar song. But piano bar performers say it’s commonly requested. “Baby Got Back” is fun and easy to sing along with, but it takes some imagination and musical skill to really bring it to life on a piano. This video of a piano bar performance lets you see one adaptation.
13. “Your Song” by Elton John
Many of the best piano bar songs on the list are upbeat and energetic. But “Your Song,” with its mellow lyrics and easy musical groove, is also a big hit at most piano bars. You’ll know why if you’ve seen a live rendition like this one.
This is a piece of music that has the ability to transform the emotional landscape of any room. So it may not be surprising that it also transformed the musical landscape in the 1970s. “Your Song” started a trend of emotional songs that featured vocals against a soft piano or guitar backdrop.
14. “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond
Some people might think it’s over-requested and overplayed, but “Sweet Caroline” is easily one of the best sing-along songs of all time. The infectious chorus makes it one of the best piano bar songs, too. Check out this quality piano bar performance to see what we mean!
This Neil Diamond song isn’t only popular at piano bars, though: there’s a tradition at Fenway Park where “Sweet Caroline” is played before the Red Sox bat in the 8th inning. The audience sings along to the “dum-dum-dum” in the chorus.
15. “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard
Rounding out the list is one of the best hair metal songs of all time. In fact, “Pour Some Sugar on Me” is #1 on Rolling Stone’s reader poll of the best hair metal songs. The guitar-driven style means that this is a demanding song to adapt for piano. But that doesn’t stop piano bar pianists from playing it or patrons from requesting it! This video lets you see one dueling piano bar’s version.
As you can tell from listening to the song, there are myriad influences behind it. Many of the verses are reminiscent of rap. The band has noted that they were inspired to combine rock and rap because Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C. wrote “Walk This Way,” a song that was effectively a rap/rock hybrid.
Whether you want to check out a dueling piano bar for the musical skill, the heartfelt sing-along, or both, the piano bar experience is one you can’t miss!
But what do you think? Tell us your favorite piano bar songs in the comments, and please don’t forget to like and share if you found this list useful!