Piano Basics

Difference Between Grand & Upright Piano

Today keyboards come in all shapes and sizes. They also come in 2 popular variations of either acoustic or electronic. An acoustic grand piano can be the size of an entire small room or it can be a much smaller upright piano. Digital keyboards tend to be much smaller.

It should be mentioned at this point that the word acoustic means “not electric”. It does not mean “with strings” as many people tend to think, associating only musical instruments like piano, guitar, cello with the term. Instruments like saxophone, trumpet, pipe organ, harpsichord etc. are all acoustic instruments as long as you are not viewing an electric version of them. many instruments today have their digital counterpart including the cello and the violin.

Piano is perhaps the most popular acoustic keyboard. The piano was developed for the 1st time almost 300 years ago and since then has grown in its design and sophistication although it’s sound producing mechanism basically remains the same. The sound and the tonal quality of the piano has been refined over the years to respond to every subtle variation of your touch. An acoustic piano comes in 2 main designs, Grand Piano and Upright/Vertical Piano.

Grand piano

upright piano

Grand piano can measure 9 feet if you are looking at the proper concert grand piano. Needless to say this an un-practical option for most of the piano enthusiasts. Not to mention unaffordable. You will need the room the size of the ballroom to be able to easily accommodate this instrument. However, since the sound and tonal quality of a grand piano is incomparable, you may want to consider other models such as the baby grand which measures about 5 feet. The brand can also comes in other sizes up to 7 feet. A grand piano does tend to be considerably more expensive than an upright piano.

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Upright piano

Upright pianos are also called ‘verticals’ as they sit upright against the wall and can vary in height from a spinet up to full size upright pianos. This is a more common instrument that can usually be found in many homes. You probably had it in your high school music room as well.

Difference between a grand piano and an upright piano

The main difference between a grand piano and an upright piano is its design and the way the sound mechanism is placed inside the instrument. You can easily tell between a grand piano and an upright cannot just by looking at it.

Design Difference

The grand piano has an enormous lid that can be propped open with a stick that comes with the piano. This propping up system is something like propping up the hood of your car engine when you want to peer inside. By propping open the lid you can expose the metal strings and other mechanical components of the piano. By opening the lid of a grand piano you can get a louder and a more resonant sound since you allow the sound to freely resonate off the wooden soundboard.

Doing something similar with an upright piano, i.e. opening the lid of the upright piano, does not make much difference to the sound since the strings are in a different position and behind the piano facing the wall.

In order to get a bigger sound from an upright piano you can try pulling the piano away from the wall a little bit more.

String Layout Difference

In the grand piano the strings are horizontal and in the upright the strings are vertical and set diagonally with the treble strings crossing the bass strings to fit in a smaller upright case.

The difference in the string layout affects the resulting sound of the 2 pianos. The strings in an upright are perpendicular to the ground so the sound travels close to the ground. In contrast, the strings in a grand piano are parallel to the ground which means the sound travels upward from the ground and hence fills up the entire room more effectively.