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Musicians' Corner January 2016

Everything You Never Knew About the Piano
January 15, 2016

Piano InteriorWhat 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 musical instruments.

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.

Piano SizesConsole: 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" pianos.

Piano Dropped ActionAs 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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