The major classifications of pianos is pretty simple. There are two types: Grand pianos (which sit on three legs, horizontally) and Upright pianos (which are built vertically and usually sit against a wall.
The confusion usually starts when people talk about baby grands. Are they talking about grand pianos? Or is a baby grand a totally different instrument? If so, why are they different?
Is It Just A Matter Of Size?
I think the old cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words is true here as well:
The answer is yes and no. You can see above that size is a major difference, but it is not the only difference. A baby grand (on the right) is usually 5’ to 5’7” long – from the keyboard to the tail. Baby grand is just one of the names people use when talking about grand pianos. There is also the petite baby grand or petite grand which is from 4’7” up to 5”. Both are very popular.
But there are other categories of Grand Pianos, and their lengths roughly determine their names. Keep in mind that most of these so called categories bear names that are not carved in stone with the exception of the concert grand category. Let’s go back to the photo of the 2 pianos we started with, the one on the left is a 9’2” concert grand.
- Concert grands run from 8’11” and above
- Semi-Concert Grands are generally 7’4” to 8’10”
- Parlor Grands are generally 6’8’
- Drawing Room Grands are generally 6’4”
- Professional Grands are generally 6’
- Living Room Grands are generally 5’10”
- Medium Grands are generally 5’7” to 5’9”
- Baby Grands are generally 4’10’ to 5’6”
- Petite Grands are less than 4’10”
You might note that the width of these grand pianos is basically the same for all categories no matter their length. Five feet give or take is the normal width and 88-keys is a standard keyboard. Some piano builders make minor changes to the width and number of keys, but not many.
But length is not the only difference. Each category of grand piano is somewhat different from the others in performance capacity.
Why Is The Performance Capacity Different?
The soundboard and strings of a grand piano are positioned inside the piano case. As a key is depressed, a hammer strikes the string from below producing sound that resonates off the soundboard. The size of the soundboard, the crown, and the materials it’s made of plus the length of the strings, their quality and how the piano is strung, can influence the tonal quality of the piano. Generally though, the larger the soundboard and longer the strings the greater the volume and tonal quality and variety.
As you can see by the names of the classifications, pianos are designed for different purposes. The job of a concert grand is to cut through the orchestra (unless it’s a piano solo) to reach the balcony and back rows of huge concert halls. That much sound in an average sized living room would be downright painful. So one normally only sees concert grands in churches, concert halls and grand rooms in grand homes. A semi concert grand would serve smaller venues well etc. down the line. It really comes down to just stopping to take a few minutes to think about how the piano will be used and how much room have you allocated for a piano.
And if all of this isn’t confusing enough, there are even greater differences between grand pianos and vertical or upright pianos. But that’s another article on it’s own!!
In closing, when it comes to pianos, there is much to know. A handmade piano can be almost as unique as a human being. No two high-end pianos will sound alike or feel alike. Each will have its own personality or tonal colors. The differences tend to blur in less expensive, mass produced pianos where most manufacturers aim for consistency rather than individual colorations. Visit our blog where you’ll find a wealth of piano articles and information.
About Euro Pianos Naples
Euro Pianos Naples specializes in luxury pianos.The company’s origin dates back to 1965. Euro Pianos represents world renowned European brands as well as its own acrylic instrument – The Aire™ baby grand. Apart from being a successful retailer, consultant, and entrepreneur organization, Euro Pianos is actively engaged in the artistic and community life of Naples, Florida as an organizer and supporter of musical events throughout the years.