Which One Should I Choose - Grand or Upright Piano?

Posted by Yoke Wong on 4/20/2011 to Learn To Play Piano
grand piano

More than 20 million people in the U.S. play the piano. Piano lessons remain among the most popular activities children participate in. Interestingly enough, most people including piano owners know virtually nothing about how a piano works or what should be considered before buying one.

This article is designed to help you understand more about the structure of a piano as well as some of the selections and criteria to consider before investing in any piano.

Upright/Vertical Piano

Upright pianos come in different sizes. The height of an upright piano is measured from the floor to the top of the piano. There are four different types of upright piano:

  • Full size upright – 48-60 inches
  • Studio – 43-47 inches
  • Console – 40-43 inches
  • Spinet – 36-39 inches

The size of a piano is the single most important factor influencing its tonal quality. The smaller the piano is the worse the tonal quality, especially in the lower bass.

Grand Piano

The length of a grand piano is measured from the very front of the keyboard to the very back of the piano.

  • Concert grand – 7-9 feet
  • Medium grand – 5.5-7 feet
  • Baby grand – 4.5–5.5 feet

If money and space are not an issue, buy a grand piano that’s at least 6 feet long or a vertical that's at least 48 inches tall. Don't even consider a baby grand that's less than 5 feet or a vertical that's less than 40 inches.

Piano brands can be categorized by different pricing points. Very similar to shopping for a car, shopping for a grand or a vertical piano takes research. Currently, Asian countries, predominantly Japan, Korea and China manufacture the majority of pianos.

European countries also manufacture pianos, and they range from high-end to mid-level pianos. The U.S. has manufactured pianos for a century now. A few of the famous brands are:

High-End Pianos (Equals the Rolls-Royce of pianos)

Steinway (U.S. manufactured), Bosendorfer (Austria; this grand piano has more than 88 notes.) Fazioli (Italy), Bechstein (Germany).

Mid-Priced Pianos The Japanese and Americans mainly manufacture these pianos.)

Yamaha (Japan), Kawai (Japan), Petrof (Czech), Baldwin (U.S.), Boston (a joint venture between Japan and the U.S.), Charles Walter (U.S.)

Low-End Pianos (The Koreans and Chinese mainly manufacture these pianos.)

Young Chang (Korean), Samick (Korean), Pearl River (China), Kimball (U.S.), Nordiska, Wurlitzer

There are many piano brands available to the general public. Some manufacturers own many brand names. A good example is the Boston piano. Kawai manufactures this piano, but Steinway designs it.

Shopping for a grand piano or an upright piano

Before you decide to buy a piano, you should ask yourself the following:

  1. Proficiency
  2. Depending on your proficiency level, you may want to purchase something that’s slightly higher quality than you think you deserve. Avoid cheap, old used pianos for your child’s first piano because you want the instrument to be a good investment and something of value yet fun for your child to enjoy. I have had many parents tell me that once they upgraded their pianos from a basic keyboard to a better-quality, acoustic, upright piano, the child instantly became interested in practicing piano. If an acoustic piano is beyond your buying abilities, you may consider a digital piano. Many manufacturers produce good-quality digital pianos at a reasonable price. Yamaha Clavinova, Technics, Rolands and a few others brand names have improved significantly over years.

  3. Space
  4. A vertical piano is about 5 feet wide and around 2 feet deep. Also take into consideration the bench and room to sit. The height of the vertical is not an issue. Grand pianos vary in size and range from 5 to 9 feet long.

  5. Finance
  6. No doubt this is the biggest factor preventing people from getting the piano they want. People are willing to spend $5000 USD to purchase a brand-new, wide-screen TV and yet are reluctant to buy a $3000 USD vertical piano. Understand that most pianos retain their value quite well and also serve as furniture. I recommend that people save money to get a better-quality piano than settle for a poor-quality one. If you don’t maintain the piano by tuning, you shouldn’t buy one. Grand pianos overall cost at least three times as much as an upright piano. Many Asian piano manufacturers are producing baby grand pianos in recent years to offset the price difference. Often, these baby grand pianos are of poor value; they don’t maintain their tone as well as other qualities over the years. I advise people to choose a higher-quality, upright piano than settle for a poor-quality inexpensive baby grand piano.

  7. Grand piano versus upright piano
  8. The decision primarily depends on the space and money you have. The action of a grand piano allows for faster repetition of notes and for better tones.

I highly recommend reading the "Piano Book" by Larry Fine. The book provides extensive research and recommendations for many different piano brands. The author is a piano tuner/specialist and has serviced many different pianos. If a person has a limited budget for a piano, I recommend a Japanese-manufactured piano because of its value and economy. Very much like the car industry, the piano industry has grown to favor the Japanese-made piano.



Justin V.
Date: 4/20/2011 11:24:43 PM
Thank you for the detailed explanation of the differences between grand and upright piano. I have the Piano Book - it is an excellent tool!
johnson clement
Date: 9/19/2011 5:54:59 AM
I'm so curious to play and learn piano particularly an upright one
Date: 3/5/2015

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