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Grand Pianos vs Upright Pianos - Horizontal vs Vertical

Should I buy a  grand or a vertical piano? The answer depends on your space, budget and playing level is also a consideration for some.

The size of a piano is probably the single most important factor that determines the timbre and volume. The larger the piano, the longer the strings, and that translates to greater resonance of tone.This becomes more obvious in the bass section of the piano. As a piano decreases in size, it's overall timbre and volume will also change.  An upright piano may be quieter than a grand but in the right space it will fill a room with all the music one requires.

Grands usually cost three to six times more than a vertical of similar condition and quality. The idea of a grand piano in your home can be very attractive but avoid buying one that is cheap or in poor condition as the results can be disappointing and expensive. If your playing requires a grand piano, saving up and purchasing one of sufficient quality can be worth it.  If your playing doesn’t require a grand, the cost is prohibitive or the space in your home just doesn't exist, there are many vertical pianos that excel in timbre and volume, and many professionals use them everyday.

The mechanical action in a grand piano, at times, allows for more reliable repetition of notes and for more control of expression and tone than does vertical action. Also, the horizontal construction of a grand piano allows the strings to propagate to a different potential.  A grand piano is always the choice of concert artists but a vertical piano may be appropriate for many other uses and playing levels.

  • Size
    • Grand pianos are much bigger than upright pianos and require a large area of space in your home. Since the positioning of the grand piano is more flexible, a large grand piano may still fit comfortably in a smaller room, but the volume can get choked in a smaller space.
    • Upright pianos are very space efficient. Usually they are placed right up against a wall, so you must make sure you have set aside wall space for your upright piano.
  • Price
    • Grand pianos tend to be more expensive than upright pianos. If you are considering buying a grand piano, take into consideration whether or not you want to invest a large amount of money for a high quality instrument, especially if you or the person it's intended for is a beginner.
    • Upright pianos are less expensive, however, that has little-to-no influence on playability for most. Purchasing an upright piano of superior quality is obviously better than diving into an instrument that's going to save you money and ultimately tarnish the playing experience.
  • Sound Quality
    • Grand pianos have longer strings, which give the player a better key feel and keys that are more expressive for a piano player. This gives grand pianos a different tone and more output, which may be more attractive to professionals.
    • Upright pianos have shorter strings, which limits sensitivity to the pianist’s dynamic range. An upright piano emits sound from the back end, which is usually placed against a wall. An upright piano's timbre will differ from that of a grand and they tend to be quieter than their grand counterparts.
  • Moving costs
    • Since grand pianos are larger, they will require more money to move. Upright pianos are smaller and cheaper to move. If your dealership includes the cost of moving in the price or offers a free move with a purchase, the size of the piano may be irrelevant.

If it is at all possible, buy a grand piano at least 6 feet long or a vertical at least 48 inches tall; this is not a hard rule. This will give you ideal string length and tonal quality.  Smaller grand and/or vertical pianos can sound just a fantastic as larger instruments. The quality in timbre and volume is purely subjective, so be sure to play a lot of instruments when you visit your local piano showroom!

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