Everything You Never Knew About the Piano
January 15, 2016
is both a percussion and string instrument, plays in treble and bass
clefs, is capable of playing a single melodic line or providing complete
harmonies, is the first instrument
many music students study, and is found in all musical genres in nearly
all cultures? If you answered "piano," you're correct! The piano is the
most widely recognized and most popular of all the musical instruments,
and rightly so. Despite its relative "newness"
- the piano as we know it did not appear until the mid-1800s - the
instrument's wide range, melodic and harmonic capabilities, and ease of
playability have earned the piano its reputation as the greatest of all
When someone mentions the word piano, it conjures an instant image. You
may envision a concert grand on stage, or your grandmother's old upright
piano in the parlor. Maybe you remember sitting at a console taking
lessons, or perhaps you dream of owning a piano
of your own. Choosing a piano that's right for you can be a challenge.
Many people suffer from the erroneous idea that there are only two types
of pianos: uprights and grands. But, both upright and grand pianos come
in a variety of sizes and styles, each designed
for different venues. Most people, when purchasing a piano for home use,
choose the upright variety. But, not all upright pianos are created
equal! To illustrate the differences between upright pianos, let's take a
look at each style, from smallest to largest...
Spinet: 36" to 40" in height:
The spinet piano is the smallest of the vertical pianos. In order to
accommodate its short height, the spinet piano utilizes a "dropped
action" mechanism. Piano action is the part of a piano that transfers
the force of the striking key to the hammer striking
the string. In outward appearance, spinet and console pianos are very
similar. There are more working parts in a spinet piano than in a
console piano, and repair is often costlier and more difficult. The
first spinet piano was introduced in 1935 and was popular
throughout the mid-twentieth century due to its compact size and
affordable price. Spinet piano production ceased in the 1990s.
Console: 40" to 43" in height:
The console is the most popular of the vertical pianos. The action of a
console piano sits directly on top of the keys and, as with all vertical
pianos, the hammers sit in an upright position. Once the hammer strikes
the string and the key is released, a spring
pulls the hammer back to its original position. The action of a vertical
piano is usually not as "quick" as that of a grand piano.
Studio: 44" to 48" in height:
The additional height of a studio piano gives it a richness and tone
comparable to that of many grand pianos. The location and feel of the
action is also different in a studio piano. Many newer studio pianos
mimic the feel of a grand piano.
Upright: 49" and above:
The tallest of the vertical pianos is the upright. Upright piano
production reached its zenith between the 1920s and 1940s, but
production declined with the rise in popularity of the smaller, more
affordable spinet piano in the 1930s. String length in vertical
upright pianos is nearly equivalent to that of small grand pianos, and
these pianos are also known as "upright grand" or "vertical grand"
As you can see, the differences between these four types of pianos
greatly affect the tone, touch, and playability of the instrument. Grand
pianos also come in a variety of sizes, ranging from the 4'6" petite
grand all the way up to the 9' concert grand! (The
differences between grand pianos is a whole blog post in itself!) So,
which upright piano is right for you? Is space a major consideration? If
you have limited floor space, you may wish to consider a spinet piano.
Do you want an instrument that fits with your
decor and will be a good first piano for a beginning student? A console
may be your best bet. Are tone and touch of paramount importance? A
studio or upright grand will provide the rich sonority of a grand piano
at a fraction of the space and price. Pellegrino
Music Center offers a wide selection of both new and used pianos, from
spinets to uprights to grands. Whatever your needs, there's a piano out
there that's right for you and we're here to help you find it!
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