Art
Fact-checked

At MusicalExpert, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What are the Different Types of Pianos?

Pianos are not one-size-fits-all instruments; they come in diverse forms, each with unique characteristics. From the grandeur of concert grands to the compact charm of uprights, and the modernity of digital pianos to the rarity of specialized fortepianos, there's a piano for every space and aspiration. Curious about which piano might resonate with your musical journey? Let's explore together.
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

Piano manufacturers design their products according to the needs of a particular venue or performer. A professional concert pianist playing with a full orchestra might need a full-sized concert grand piano, while an accompanist for a small church may only need an upright piano. There are other gradations along the way, and even some electronic elements to consider.

The largest type of piano is called a concert grand. This type can often be found in recital halls and orchestral stages. Because of its size and tuning requirements, musicians usually go to the piano rather than the other way around. Concert grand pianos generate very vibrant tones, especially in the lower registers. This is important when a solo pianist must compete with a full orchestra.

Concert grand is the largest type of piano.
Concert grand is the largest type of piano.

For most people, the largest practical size of piano is either a grand or a baby grand. These use the same horizontal soundboard configuration as a concert grand, but are not nearly as long. A typical grand piano is about 3/4 the size of a concert grand, and a baby grand is about 1/2 the size. Both use a hinged lid to direct the sound towards the audience during performance. Many schools of music keep several grands and baby grands available for student recitals or for visiting performers.

Small spinet pianos can often be purchased secondhand or found at churches, schools, and in other social venues.
Small spinet pianos can often be purchased secondhand or found at churches, schools, and in other social venues.

For home use, many amateur pianists select upright pianos. These use vertically mounted strings to significantly reduce horizontal length. This means that an upright piano can be installed in a living room or den without taking up any more room than a couch or bookcase. The sound of an upright may not be as full as a grand, but it is perfectly suitable for informal performances. Many upright pianos are handed down from generation to generation.

Baby grand pianos may be used during student recitals.
Baby grand pianos may be used during student recitals.

Some pianos also come equipped with pick-ups and amplifiers to create an entirely new sound. Electric pianos first became popular with jazz musicians, because the pianist could duplicate the solo breaks of a guitarist along with the chording of a piano. These instruments can also be carried on the road without the detuning problems of a traditional piano, many traveling bands use electric pianos and synthesizers almost exclusively.

Electronic synthesizers are based on the piano.
Electronic synthesizers are based on the piano.

Some people learning to play may encounter rehearsal pianos with a limited number of octaves. These are mostly intended to accompany music theory classes or for basic keyboard courses. Some recent do-it-yourself piano courses even include a very small electronic keyboard which can be rolled up and stored between sessions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main categories of pianos?

The main categories of pianos are grand pianos, upright pianos, and digital pianos. Grand pianos, known for their horizontal soundboards and strings, range from baby grands to concert grands and are prized for their rich tonal quality and dynamic range. Upright pianos, which have vertical strings and soundboards, are more compact and suitable for smaller spaces. Digital pianos, which use electronic samples or synthesis to emulate acoustic piano sounds, offer versatility and features like volume control and headphone jacks.

How does the size of a grand piano affect its sound?

The size of a grand piano significantly affects its sound. Larger grand pianos, such as concert grands that can be over 9 feet long, have longer strings and larger soundboards, which produce a fuller, more resonant tone with greater volume and sustain. Conversely, smaller grand pianos, like baby grands, have a more compact sound due to shorter strings and a smaller soundboard, but still maintain the characteristic grand piano richness, albeit with less projection than their larger counterparts.

What are the advantages of choosing an upright piano over a grand piano?

Upright pianos offer several advantages over grand pianos, particularly in terms of space and cost. They are more compact, making them suitable for smaller living spaces or practice rooms. Upright pianos are also generally more affordable than grand pianos, making them a popular choice for families, schools, and individuals on a budget. Additionally, they still provide a good quality sound and touch, which is sufficient for most practice and recreational playing needs.

Can digital pianos replicate the feel of acoustic pianos?

Many digital pianos are designed to closely replicate the feel of acoustic pianos. They often feature weighted keys that mimic the hammer action of traditional pianos, providing a similar tactile experience. Some high-end models incorporate advanced technology, such as graded hammer action or progressive hammer action, to even more accurately simulate the varying touch response of each key on an acoustic piano. However, purists may still notice subtle differences in touch and response.

What should I consider when choosing between different types of pianos?

When choosing between different types of pianos, consider factors such as space, budget, purpose, and personal preference. For professional performance or serious study, a grand piano might be preferred for its superior sound and touch. An upright piano could be ideal for casual playing or learning in a home environment. Digital pianos offer convenience, portability, and additional features like recording and silent practice with headphones. Ultimately, the choice should align with your musical goals and practical constraints.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular MusicalExpert contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Learn more...
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular MusicalExpert contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Learn more...

You might also Like

Discussion Comments

roser

If you're looking to start playing piano, the cheapest and most accessible option would probably be to buy a digital piano. Although technically it couldn't regarded as a real piano - more of an electronic keyboard that tries to accurately emulate a piano - they can still sound and feel great to play and are ideal for beginners. It has the benefit of being much smaller (although the keyboard has no less octaves than a real piano) and portable as well as the possibility to use headphones which is great if you want to practice at night and not wake up the people you live with. In fact if you're just learning, headphones are ideal because you're going to be repeating patterns over and over again until you get them down and that can become very annoying to have to listen to repeatedly, as my family frequently informs me.

Engelbert

Although a grand or baby grand piano would be nice, for those of us without that kind of money to afford such a thing it's important to note that there's certainly nothing wrong with an upright piano. You can probably pick one up for pretty cheap second hand, although you'd have to pay to have it moved into your house obviously and that could be pricey. Sometimes though, old upright pianos can develop a certain charm to their sound. One of my favorite modern pianists/composers Dustin O'Halloran has been known to use a 1930's Sabel upright piano and it sounds gorgeous.

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • Concert grand is the largest type of piano.
      By: surpasspro
      Concert grand is the largest type of piano.
    • Small spinet pianos can often be purchased secondhand or found at churches, schools, and in other social venues.
      By: tomispin
      Small spinet pianos can often be purchased secondhand or found at churches, schools, and in other social venues.
    • Baby grand pianos may be used during student recitals.
      By: Pavel Losevsky
      Baby grand pianos may be used during student recitals.
    • Electronic synthesizers are based on the piano.
      By: nikkytok
      Electronic synthesizers are based on the piano.