Upright Piano vs. Grand Piano: What’s the Difference?

You may wonder if there are other differences and similarities between these two models except for the appearance. Most of us prefer having grand piano because it looks impressive, and the high-quality sound it produces is something all of the pianists want to get.

On the other hand, it seems that upright piano design is a decent compromise. With this instrument, you will get a similar sound at a lower price. Plus, it will take less space in small contemporary homes. However, that is not all. Let’s check the answer to big question – Upright piano vs. grand piano: what’s the difference?

Benefits of Grand Pianos

Benefits of Grand Pianos
Image: Noname Music

Build quality

The production of a high-quality grand piano takes at least a year. It is always a handmade product that passes through the detailed process, which includes:

  • Careful selecting the wood
  • Preparing the wood for bending
  • Merging all of the parts
  • Adding cast-iron plate and strings

Tone quality

The horizontal design and large size and shape of this model will allow the maximum control of both amounts of sound and tone. The tone is warm and deep, and bass sound is powerful thanks to long strings, especially when you open the lid.

The best advantage of grand pianos is that they allow musical expression by changing tones without entirely releasing a key. In the end, the soft pedal and sophisticated pedaling option quiets the sound and changes the tone color.

Playability

It is more comfortable and faster playing on a grand piano than on an upright model because of a specific action mechanism.

Since you don’t need to release the keys to repeat the note completely, you will be able to change dynamics instantly and perform complex trills and scale passages.

Benefits of Upright Pianos

Benefits of Upright Pianos
Image: Noname Music

Take up less space

The design of these compact pianos will save you the necessary space. Their width is 5 feet (1.5 m) on average, including both the keys and console. Since they are only 2 feet (61 cm) deep, it is an excellent option to place along the wall.

On average, upright models are at least 50 inches (1.3 m) high, but you can find higher models, as well. On the other hand, you can purchase a spinet, the smallest possible version of a vertical piano that is 37 inches (0.9 m) high.

All parts of these pianos, including action parts, strings, springs, and hammers, stand straight up. Thanks to the lid’s top position, you will get more sound without changing the piano position. Plus, the practical thing is that you can place the piano bench underneath the keyboard area.

Lower price

Upright pianos are far less expensive than grand pianos because of the simple design, less labor and material used, and a quicker building process. You can find this instrument for the price of $3,000, but you should pay at least $5,000 to $8,000 for a higher quality model. If you want to save money, you can buy a used, antique upright piano for $500.

Disadvantages of Grand Pianos

Disadvantages of Grand Pianos
Image: Noname Music

Take up a lot of space

Because of its dimensions, a grand piano is not the best option for you if you live in a small apartment. The smallest, baby grand starts with 59 inches (1.5 m), but the largest ones are 88 inches (2.2 m) long.

High price

Be prepared that grand pianos are highly expensive. Depending on the brand you choose, they will cost you anywhere between $20,000 to $300,000.

If you have a limited budget, you should look for a used model. However, avoid buying the piano older than 25 years without consulting an expert.

The high cost of repairs and tuning

A grand piano tuning can be quite expensive and usually range from $150 to $200, depending on the piano technician’s reputation. On the other hand, any repair can be a real nightmare. In case you have an old piano, you will need to pay more than $2,500 to enable it for regular use.

Complicated cleaning

It is not very easy to maintain a grand piano because of its unique design. You will regularly face annoying fingerprints and dust all over a shiny finish, and the only solution is to polish it often.

Keep in mind that leaving lid open results in dust collecting and trash accumulation between the strings and over the soundboard.

Expensive to move

When you need to move your grand piano, you will need to hire experts to get the job done appropriately. It will cost you around $500 for moving locally.

Disadvantages of Upright Pianos

Disadvantages of Upright Pianos
Image: Noname Music

Inferior action

Even though the upright piano with duplex action is an excellent choice, it loses a ‘battle’ compared to a grand piano. There is no repetition mechanism, and you can’t repeat a note quickly without releasing the key entirely.

Lower sound quality

Unfortunately, the upright pianos never sound as good as grand models because of the difference in the length of the strings. Plus, the design directs the sound upwards, and it sounds muffled unless you open the lid every time you play.

Poorer appearance

This model is not visually appealing, like a grand piano. Its box-like design is convenient to sit against a wall, but not attractive at all.

Other Differences

Pedals

The pedal functions are different in these two models.

Grand piano pedals:

  • Shift (soft, left, una corda) pedal changes the sound volume and the tone
  • Sostenuto (middle) pedal allows sustaining selected notes
  • Sustain (damper, right) pedal sustains all played notes

Upright piano pedals:

  • Soft (left) pedal reduces the sound volume
  • Muffler (practice, middle) pedal significantly mutes the sound
  • Sustain (damper, right) pedal sustains all played notes

Key length

Even though the visible key’ size is the same on both pianos, the overall length of grand pianos’ keys are always longer. That makes playing much more effortless and control over dynamics better.

Summary

If you are not sure which model to pick out, you should check your goals. If you plan to play this instrument for a lifetime, want to be a musician, and have a big house, the grand piano is the right choice for you.

Otherwise, if you don’t plan to reach a professional level but enjoy playing, the grand model is not truly necessary. An upright piano will do the job for this purpose.

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