Buying a piano for your home is an exciting decision, whether for lessons or personal enjoyment. As you consider your budget and space in your home, you will need to determine if a vertical or a grand piano best suits your wishes and requirements.
Each variation of upright and grand pianos offers advantages and disadvantages in size, quality, keyboard action, and tone. The specific person who will use the piano is an essential factor in choosing a vertical or grand. A young student and an advanced musician will need different features for their musical goals.
Environmental factors in your home also impact your choice of piano style. Your available space may be limited by heat or moisture issues, dictating the need for a smaller instrument.
In this article, we hope to provide helpful insights for choosing a grand or vertical piano and some comparisons of the pros and cons of each.
Vertical and grand pianos come in various models of quality and craftsmanship suitable for beginner students to professional musicians. A seven-foot grand piano might be a bit extravagant for a young child but may be necessary for an advanced musician needing superior action and tone. A student can, however, make significant progress on a studio or full-size upright for many years.
While you may desire a small grand piano in your home because of its aesthetic appeal, still consider the possibility that a full-size upright might surpass it in quality and be a better instrument. If you want the best piano for your budget, compare the features of taller uprights to any smaller grand pianos you are considering, as they could be superior in some brands. Focusing on quality is always best if young musicians will be playing it for years to come.
The available space in your home will play a vital role in your choice of piano. A vertical piano is an obvious choice if there is only a small corner in one area. Many people underestimate the amount of space they need for either a grand or upright piano. You will need to allow room to place the bench in the correct position for children and adults that will use the piano.
Placing the piano away from harsh environmental elements is crucial. These include direct sunlight, heating and air conditioning vents, and drafty windows. Trying to squeeze a six-foot grand piano into an area that is not large enough could result in damage through the years from any of these circumstances.
Grand pianos generally fall into three size categories ranging in lengths from 4 ½ feet up to 9 ½ feet. These categories are commonly known as small or baby, medium, and concert grand pianos. Grand pianos are measured with the lid closed from the front of the keyboard to the furthest point at the back.
o Small grands range from 4 ½ to 5 ½ feet
o Medium grands range from 5 ½ to 7 ½ feet
o Concert grands range from 7 ½ to 9 ½ feet
Each size offers a unique feature and price point for the intended user and provides a more resonant sound than upright pianos. The exception is pianos under five feet long, which tend to sound and respond with similar musical expression as the larger, more expensive vertical pianos.
The most outstanding aspect of a grand piano is its longer strings, especially in the bass and midrange areas. These longer strings create a deeper, more consonant tonal quality than an upright piano. The design of larger pianos blends the treble and bass tones better and develops the sounds in a much more pleasing way than verticals.
The keyboard action on a grand piano is more sophisticated than in vertical pianos and allows for exceptionally reliable repetition of notes and control of tonal production. Longer grand pianos also have longer keys, providing the performer with optimal musical expression.
Grand pianos offer the distinct advantage of size and quality, giving musicians the luxury of creating subtle musical nuance, lush harmonies, and exceptional precision. In addition to the highest craftsmanship, grand pianos often possess beautiful cabinet work with elegant finishes that make them a centerpiece in your home. Grand pianos remain the top choice for the best opportunity in musical growth and artistry.
The significant disadvantages of choosing a grand piano are, no doubt, its sheer size and cost. Even a small grand can prove challenging to fit into a space already shared with many other home furnishings. Grands are often three to six times more costly than comparable vertical pianos. A grand piano also requires the assistance of professional movers should you sell it or move to a new home.
Vertical pianos, or uprights, are generally classified into four size categories ranging in height from 36 inches to 60 inches. These categories include spinet, console, studio, and full-size or professional upright. Vertical pianos are measured from their lowest point on the floor to the highest point on their back.
o Spinet pianos range from 36 to 40 inches
o Console pianos range from 40 to 44 inches
o Studio pianos range from 43 to 47 inches
o Full-size, or Professional uprights, range from 47 to 60 inches
Decades ago, spinet pianos were popular, but we do not recommend them because their size compromises both tone and quality to the point of being a very poor investment.
On the other hand, upright pianos of at least 44 inches in height serve as great instruments for students and amateur musicians. Schools and practice rooms commonly use institutional-style studio pianos, but manufacturers also make elegant versions that look beautiful in any home.
Verticals that range from 48 inches and taller are the best quality of all uprights. Even though they seem to tower quite high, they do not take up any more floor space than the shorter versions.
The sound produced by an upright piano tends to bounce back at face level because of its vertical construction, giving the performer less control over musical expression. Shorter strings and a smaller soundboard cannot produce the same resonance as a grand piano. You also find the keyboard action is less sophisticated than a grand, making the repetition of notes feel sluggish and somewhat unreliable. Vertical pianos also have shorter keys than grands, hampering subtle musical expressions.
Remember that the larger and longer a piano is, the better quality it will be. That means the tallest of vertical pianos often possess excellent craftsmanship and even rival the smallest size of grand pianos, making them worthy instruments.
A distinct advantage to choosing a vertical piano is its smaller size which enables it to fit easily in a corner or limited space. They are also much easier to move than a grand piano, either within your home or to a new location.
Vertical pianos are substantially less expensive and an excellent option for young students or those with simpler musical needs. Many top piano brands such as Steinway and Sons, Yamaha, and Kawai, have a superb selection of great quality uprights to consider.
A vertical piano’s overriding disadvantage remains its limitations in tone production and action. String length, action, and key size are all compromised due to their smaller size and construction. If you are a serious musician needing an instrument that can take you to your highest level of playing, a vertical piano will not meet those needs.
Choosing between a grand or a vertical piano will be influenced by your home’s space, intended use, and overall quality. Grand pianos are beautiful and superior in tone, but costly. However, many mid-to-tall vertical pianos are a less expensive option for students and families that need a good working instrument.
We caution piano buyers not to compromise quality for a very small piano just because it has an ornate cabinet or is cheap. The sound and action could prove very disappointing, and you will be stuck with an inferior instrument that will not get used. Finding the highest quality piano, whether upright or grand, should be an important factor in your decision.
At Hulme and Sweeney Piano Service, we invite you to talk with us about the piano that best suits your needs, space, and budget and allow us to answer any questions you may have.