Grand pianos live up to their name. Each instrument is a work of both art and craftsmanship and, with time, develops its sound to have an individualistic character. As well, considering grand pianos last decades, the instrument brings with it a storied history, of students, professionals and owners performing and practicing on its keys. Or, in the case of new pianos, each one is ripe for a brand new narrative.
How Does a Piano Work?
The piano's precursor is the harpsichord, a Baroque-era instrument in which the strings were plucked from the interior. Yet, the harpsichord, especially compared to today's grand pianos, had several limitations in terms of sound color, timbre and dynamics.
So, in the early 18th century, harpsichord manufacturer Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristofori sought to revolutionize these areas. The "pianoforte" resulted. As the biggest difference, the pianoforte hit the strings with a hammer and featured a damper to lighten or mute the sound. These aspects resulted in a significantly larger dynamic range the user could control through pressure and by using the pedals - another feature that gave the pianoforte an edge.
Today, the grand piano strings and action - or the motions producing the sound - are located horizontally. This is compared to the upright piano, which situates the strings vertically and perpendicular to the keys.
To produce a sound, the player hits a key or, in many cases, a series of them. This causes the hammer to press down and the damper to lift. Once the key is released, the hammer does so as well, and the damper is reset on the string. Compared to other types of pianos, like the spring-utilizing upright, gravity powers this motion, creating a natural feel and resulting in a faster action.
Along with the action, grand pianos feature a series of pedals for altering the sound:
- The damper or sustain pedal, on the right, lifts the dampers far above the strings to sustain any note the player uses. The strings, as this occurs, have a greater range to vibrate.
- The sostenuto pedal, in the center, allows the player to sustain a single note, while the rest of the keys the player uses are naturally released. Often, the damper and sostenuto are used in conjunction with each other.
- Una corda, on the left, shifts over the full series of strings, so that part of the hammer hits only two strings. This results in a blunted, staccato effect.
Sizes of Grand Pianos
Grand pianos take up a significant amount of room. In turn, this instrument is available in multiple sizes:
- Petit grand piano: Not to be confused with a mini grand piano, the petit is the shortest length available. Petit grands range from 4 ft., 6 in. to nearly five feet and are designed as practice pianos for rooms with limited space.
- Baby grand piano: Baby grands ultimately deliver the best of both worlds for having a grand piano in your home. The instrument is large enough to resonate, especially when you lift the top up, yet is no larger than 5 ft., 6 in. long.
- Medium, professional and parlor grand pianos: All such lengths cover the midrange for grand piano sizes. Medium pianos are no longer than 5 ft., 8 in.; professional grands extend up to 6 ft., 2 in. long; and a parlor grand goes up to 6 ft., 10 in. The choice ultimately comes down to how much space you have available.
- Semi-concert grand piano: These pianos are the most common in concert venues and music halls and are the de facto professional size. A semi-concert piano ranges from just under seven feet to nearly eight feet in length.
- Concert grand piano: The largest grand piano is typically nine feet in length and, in turn, delivers the loudest, richest volume and greatest dynamic range available. Any time a soloist is performing with an orchestra, you'll spot a concert grand at the center of the stage.
Find a Grand Piano at Alamo Music Center
Based on use and space considerations, browse Alamo Music Center for the perfect grand piano. Find black, wood and white grand pianos, as well as new and used models from Steinway & Sons, Baldwin, Kawai, Yamaha, Young Chang and more top brands on sale. We offer multiple financing and layaway options, including 12- to 48-month, no-interest options at times, plus trial lessons and an extended warranty.