What You Need To Know Before Buying A Baby Grand Piano
What Makes A Piano A Baby Grand?
Grand pianos, the three-legged “horizontally-sitting” stringed instruments were developed 300 years ago, an offshoot of the harpsichord and pianoforte. Originally, in sizes ranging from 6 to 8 feet, they were used in salons and house concerts. In time, larger concert halls and venues required more powerful sound, so the concert grand evolved into 9 and 10-foot pianos for professional solo and orchestral needs.
However, the increasing popularity of the piano in private homes, resulted in the need for a smaller grand piano. Upright pianos were being used because they didn’t take up a lot of floor space, but many people preferred the look of the three-legged design, if it was only smaller.
So how do you downsize a grand piano to a “baby” grand?
The 88-key keyboard had evolved (acoustic pianos with less keys were produced until the 1900’s) and become the standard piano width. More innovation would come with actions and stringing inside the case but the keyboard width itself could not be made smaller and still satisfy the wide musical scope of pianists.
So, in order to downsize the grand piano, it would have to be the string length and the tail of the piano that could be altered, not the width.
This new diminutive model – the baby grand – features a smaller soundboard and shorter strings – everything else remains the same. Since tonal quality of a piano is directly affected by the size of the soundboard and strings, manufacturers fight to create the best sound output for every square inch of the baby grand.
High-end piano manufacturers have been very successful at perfecting the sound of baby grand pianos. As an example, the maker of the Fazioli F156 baby grand, one of the finest pianos made, says that a critical factor in the sound of its pianos is the scientific selection of its woods, such as the “resonant spruce” obtained from the Val di Fiemme (where Stradivari reportedly sought woods for his violins.). Similarly, three different types of wood are used for the bridge caps, chosen for the most efficient transmission of tonal energy for a particular register. An incredible level of detail goes into their design and construction. Faziolis include very fine voicing — even perfect tuning of the duplex scales. The idea of all this detailed work is to make a baby grand, constructed with as much care, sound like Fazioli’s magnificent grand pianos, but suitable for a smaller environment than the concert hall.
In today’s piano world a variety of baby grand piano choices are available, including rare woods, acrylic components, metal components and customized colors and shapes. The globalization and development of piano production in Asia by many manufacturers brought pricing down dramatically, while the use of computer-controlled machinery continues to increase the quality and affordability of entry level models.
What Are The Dimensions Of A Baby Grand And How Small Can It Be?
So – you’ve decided to buy a baby grand. A certain amount of planning will help in your decisions and choices. How much room do you need?
When measuring your available space, remember that 3 feet of it is needed for the stool or bench. What’s left will dictate the appropriate length of the piano itself. Every baby grand piano is approximately 5’ (back to the 88-key keyboard) in width. A schematic of your room is often helpful.
Baby Grand Piano Length
A baby grand piano is usually between 4’11” to 5’9” long, depending on the manufacturer and the model. The length is measured from the front of the piano keys to the very end of the backside or tail. See image below.
The shorter the piano, the shorter the strings and the smaller the soundboard. Every “petite” baby grand piano (under 5 feet) simply must be associated with a loss of tonal quality. A good rule of thumb is that the longer the piano, the better the piano will sound.
Baby Grand Piano Width
There are slight variations in baby grand piano widths from brand to brand, usually between 2 to 3 inches as a result of rim thickness or cast-iron plate design. The width of a grand piano is the same as the width of an upright piano (+/- 2 or 3 inches). So, while a vertical or upright piano may seem more compact, in reality its placement is limited to a wall (because the back of a vertical piano is sometimes not always pretty), and a baby grand can be placed with the front, tail or side into the room.
Tuck a baby grand into a cozy niche, just as you might an upright piano.
Placement & Positioning of a Piano
When planning your room, there are several things to consider when placing a baby grand piano. Try to avoid direct sunlight because UV rays can fade the wood finish. If you have windows treated with a protectant film, this is not a concern.
Pianos prefer a stable humidity level – 45% is ideal. Significant humidity fluctuations caused either by excessive air conditioning or heat from a furnace or fireplace will cause wood to expand and contract. Changes in humidity will result in a piano requiring more tuning, prolonged extra dry air may cause soundboard cracks, while extra humidity might cause strings and other metal to tarnish and keys to stick.
So, what do you do if your placement options are limited and your humidity fluctuates? There are remedies. You can have your piano technician install a Piano Life Saver System which is a humidifier and dehumidifier all in one.
Now that you’ve worked out the space the baby grand piano will occupy – how will you position it? Keys to the wall or keys into the room? Tail in or tail out? The good news is that there is no right or wrong. The one exception might be that if you have the piano lid opening directly into the wall, you will restrict the “sound bloom” of the piano. Otherwise – anything goes. A baby grand piano looks and sounds beautiful from many different angles. When the piano is delivered, ask the movers to try several different positions to see what you like best.
Lid open to the Wall – Not Recommended
Lid open away from Wall - Right
What Is The Weight Of A Baby Grand Piano?
Just as piano dimensions can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so do the weights of baby grands vary. Petite baby grands are closer to 600 pounds while larger baby grands will weigh approximately 700 pounds. You don’t have to worry about that much weight damaging or leaving marks on your floors. That’s easily avoided by using caster cups. Caster cups distribute the weight of the piano and act as a cushion to protect your floors. We, at Euro Pianos Naples, make it a point to include these caster cups with the purchase of every piano.
Don’t Save On Piano Moving Costs
Pianos are composed of a myriad of complex internal mechanisms, and while the heavy weight of the instrument might suggest an indestructible piece of furniture, it is anything but. It is an expensive and delicate keepsake that requires special care. A piano, ANY piano, should only be moved by professional piano movers and NOT by standard house movers if you want to avoid damage.
What do professional piano movers know that the DIY or house movers don’t? There is a body of knowledge and specialized equipment required to properly move a piano. It has to be wrapped properly, tilted without damaging the lyre and legs and secured to a piano moving board also knows as a skid board. Many specialized piano moving companies have special equipment, dollies and mechanized trollies to insure safety.
The cost to repair the inner and/or outer damage to the piano case caused by non-professional movers can be substantial. Always ask for a piano mover’s insurance certificate that specifically covers and names you and your piano. Every move is different, and a professional mover can anticipate the challenges of your particular location. Don’t ever think there isn’t an answer to problems of delivery, however. Want to see how complicated piano moves can be? Watch this video of a professional mover’s challenge.
How Much Does A Baby Grand Piano Cost?
Prices for new baby grand pianos range anywhere between $10,000 to $120,000. Variances in the quality of pianos and the corresponding differences in materials, engineering, design and workmanship translate into pricing differences between manufacturers. The old adage “You get what you pay for” is definitely true when it comes to a product as complex as a baby grand piano.
You might compare shopping for a baby grand piano to shopping for an automobile. Brands make an enormous difference. If you purchase a Rolls Royce you expect a very high quality in craftsmanship, materials, design and exclusivity as well as a memorable VIP shopping experience. On the other hand if you purchase a Suzuki, you are purchasing a fully functional car with a different quality level at a very different price point. The same can be said for baby grand pianos.
Mass-produced baby grand pianos come from factories that churn out 20,000 to 50,000 pianos annually – they typically cost between $10,000 – $20,000. There’s a limit to what can be expected from a factory that ships out 50,000 pianos annually. A baby grand piano from one of these factories will have the same shape and the same number of keys as the high-end manufacturer, but there the similarities end.
A high-end baby grand piano like Fazioli, Bluthner, or Bosendorfer takes up to 2 years to produce going through hundreds of hours of meticulous piano regulation, assembly and quality control not unlike the finest Swiss watches. It’s the little things, often unseen, that count the most. Such quality piano-building has to increase the price of the piano as well as its value.
What else might affect the price of baby grand pianos? Think of the typical black finish as the “base” model. While a black baby grand piano is quite elegant, not everyone wants a black piano. Some prefer to customize their homes, creating an interior style, furnishings, colors and themes. A modern light color design might not fit with a basic black piano. In that case, they could customize a piano to enhance this decor. These days a variety of manufacturers offer many colors, exotic finishes, some involving hi tech components like carbon fiber and acrylic which are leading to new designs and piano shapes. Acrylic is super popular right now and Euro Pianos Naples offers the Aire™ acrylic baby grand piano available in black and white finishes. Notice how a black piano with acrylic is no longer “heavy” looking.
Adding upgrades—such as a state of the art of player systems which transforms the baby grand piano into a versatile entertainment center or adding a transparent piano bar will affect the price as well.
7 Things To Consider When Buying A Baby Grand.
Baby grand pianos vary in size – try to purchase the largest (longest) baby grand you can afford or have room for. You will not be sorry. Avoid purchasing a grand piano less than 5’. Don’t forget to leave 3’ room for the bench.
2. The Interior
Thousands of parts inhabit a baby grand piano, and most people don’t know many of them. Buyers should be made aware of the important parts, their quality, and what their purpose is.
- The Plate sometimes called the Harp or Cast Iron Frame holds over 18 tons of string tension in place. Two popular manufacturing methods are sandcasting (the more time consuming method preferred by the better manufacturers as it enhances the tone) or quick molding vacuum casting commonly used in mass produced baby grand pianos.
- The Soundboard is a large, thin wooden board that sits under the plate and strings, and its purpose is to transform the string energy into audible sounds. Quarter sawn spruce grown in high altitudes (slow growing densely grained wood) is used in the higher end pianos. The edges are tapered to increase flexibility which results in greater sound dynamics. Spruce ribs reinforce the soundboard. Designing the placement of the ribs and installing the soundboard is a very delicate process. Some manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure this “heart” of the piano is perfect. This of course greatly adds to the expense of the piano. Engineered, laminated soundboards are increasingly popular in consumer grade mass produced pianos.
- The Strings attach to hitch pins at the tail of the piano and to tuning pins on the pinblock. More than 200 strings serve the 88 keys. There are treble strings (with three strings per key), bass strings (a single string per key) and mid-range strings (usually 2 strings per key). High-end piano manufacturers spend a great deal of effort engineering their pianos to ensure a barely noticeable tonal transition between the treble, mid and bass string sections. Bass strings are typically a steel wire wound with copper. High-end baby grand pianos may feature hand wound bass strings to improve sound quality, otherwise most bass strings today are machine wound.
- The Action is the mechanical assembly which translates the depression of a piano key into a hammer motion that strikes the strings. The Action is one of the most complex areas of the piano consisting of thousands of moving parts. Hammers, hammer shanks, springs, felts, back checks, bushings, keybeds (a frame on which the action sits) and the better that each component is individually the better they will work together providing consistently even play. Some manufacturers use carbon fiber to minimize wear and tear on piano actions. I’ve heard that Renner actions are the best? Renner manufactures actions for a variety of piano makers in different price ranges. Does Steinway use a Renner actions? Steinway New York build their own actions in house. As such, Steinway New York replacement parts are available only through Steinway at premium prices. Steinway in Hamburg (as well as Fazioli arguably makers of the finest pianos) use Renner actions. Fazioli even goes a step further – they spend additional time meticulously disassembling, testing and reassembling the Renner action. Your baby grand action should be regulated by a technician as part of ongoing piano maintenance. Regulation is in addition to tuning.
- What is duplex scale? A duplex scale adds sympathetic vibrations to the speaking length of the string. Duplex scale is not a must. Some manufacturers incorporate them even adding tunable duplex scales to further purify the tone and some manufacturers like Bosendofer (a Tier One piano) do not use duplex scale at all in their design. Our advice is not to overthink this feature.
3. The Exterior
The exterior of a piano is not only about the cosmetics, parts of the exterior also affect the sound.
- The Rim of the piano are the pieces of wood bent to surround and hold the interior mechanisms. In most cases the thickness (more layers are better) and the type of wood (how long it has been seasoned, if naturally or kiln dried) is a good indicator of the quality of the piano. On expensive pianos you may find rims with up to 18 laminations or layers of maple and mahogany.
- Number of Pedals. Three pedals are the standard. Sustain pedal on the right which lifts all the dampers, Sostenuto in the middle which selects the specific note(s) a pianist wishes to individually sustain, and the Soft pedal on the left which decreases the power of the entire piano by lifting all hammers closer to the strings. Very basic baby grand pianos may have a middle pedal that is not a true Sostenuto (they cheat by lifting the dampers in the bass section). Unless you are a professional pianist you’ll be using only the right and left pedals. Pedals are made of solid brass or in some consumer grade pianos they are brass plated. If you’re installing a player system on your piano, make sure your installer leaves the right and left pedals functional. Some installers may cut corners.
- Adjustable Lid Prop(s) has the purpose of giving the option of having the piano fully open or somewhat open. Having multiple adjusting levels is a plus because it gives you control over the sound output and the look.
- The Fallboard is the piece that falls forward to cover the keyboard when it’s not in use. Most modern pianos will have a slow-closing fallboard to prevent it from dropping too quickly.
- The Casters at the bottom of the piano legs allow your piano to be rolled (if you have the appropriate flooring to do such a thing). Most baby grand pianos will have single wheel brass casters. Expensive baby grand pianos may have double wheel solid brass casters.
4. The Difference Between Piano Brands
There are dozens of brands in the piano manufacturing industry today producing everything from baby grand pianos to concert grand pianos, some among these concentrate on producing the most exclusive and highest quality pianos while the purpose of others is to produce a more affordable baby grand piano.
If you’re buying one of the iconic brands like Fazioli, Bosendorfer, Bluthner, Sauter or Steinway you know that you will receive a very high level of quality albeit at a premium price tag.
The quality of economy pianos has improved dramatically since the introduction of computer numerical control (CNC) machinery manufacturing. Many European and American companies have implemented a strict level of quality control as well as incorporated their designs to produce a quality entry level instrument. With the strong demand for affordable ($10,000 – $20,000) pianos, these companies have introduced lower priced lines of pianos to successfully compete on the market. Cost cutting is usually achieved by using less expensive materials, less intensive quality control and regulation in the final stages. Keep in mind, if you are buying an Essex (an entry level brand designed by Steinway) you are not buying a Steinway.
By law, piano warranties are either full or limited. If you had a 10 year full warranty, it would remain in effect for the entire ten years, regardless of piano ownership, whereas limited warranties cover only the original purchaser. If you plan on selling or trading up within a few years, a full warranty offers protection to the new owner, increasing the piano’s value to them, and may justify a little higher selling price or trade-in value.
The length of warranties is usually five to fifteen years, and their length has nothing to do with the quality of the instrument. Warranties are often marketing tools, and can be used just to bolster sales. The owner has the responsibility to annually tune, regulate and check the piano.
6. New Versus Used
When you decide to purchase a baby grand piano, you may be considering a used baby grand vs a new one. You might be lucky to find a pre-owned baby grand piano (5 – 10 years old) from a top-quality manufacturer, well maintained not having been too heavily used (because that can sometimes add wear and tear) and save a little bit of money over buying a new baby grand piano. Unfortunately, that may be a rare find. You’ll most likely be buying remotely – hopefully from a trustworthy seller. It is imperative to have an independent piano professional who will inspect and report on the piano. Make sure to get the serial number (age) as well as the model number (specifications & where it was built). Those two things will provide you with details about the origin of the piano.
Most of the used piano market is comprised of pianos that are 50+ years old and cheaper for a reason. Besides the exterior or case of the piano which may have nicks, scratches, or discoloration, your most important factor is what is the condition of the piano inside. A soundboard crown that is gradually flattening over time may increasingly be less capable of producing its original sound dynamic. Discolored and tarnished strings (maybe even rusted) may rattle and even break. A pinblock which is responsible for holding the tune of the piano may no longer be capable of retaining the tension necessary to keep the piano in tune having been repeatedly had each pin turned and twisted during tunings. Ask yourself – are you planning on using the piano for musical purposes or is it simply decorative. Are you willing to sink money into the higher maintenance fees required by an older piano?
If your answer is no, you’re better off buying a new warrantied piano and sleeping well from the get go.
What about rebuilt pianos? Do not expect a properly rebuilt piano to be cheap. There are very few shops or technicians capable of doing this type of work well. When you take an old piano and completely gut it, you are in effect (re) building the piano. Some parts will of course remain such as the rim and the plate of the piano and these will just be refinished. Everything else will be rebuilt or replaced. If you find a rebuilt Steinway or Mason & Hamlin, are you really buying a Steinway or is it just a pretty cabinet carrying the Steinway logo with a subpar piano parts and workmanship. Some dealers take advantage of the name but it is up to you to research to confirm that the rebuilder is qualified and using top notch parts and materials.
7. Player Systems
Today’s player piano systems offer an entire entertainment center invisibly housed under your baby grand with sophisticated electronics that provide state-of-the-art sound, and extensive libraries of music controlled by the user.
The addition of a player piano system won’t affect the use of your piano in its normal capacity at all. But now you can be entertaining, dining, or sitting quietly and listening to the greatest artists playing the musical selections of your choice as vividly as if the artists were performing them right at your own piano. The technology today is incredible and you will get more use out of your piano.
All electronic components are under the piano, they control the keyboard and the pedals. Your piano is playing itself, creating a sound-experience which can be described as the musical equivalent of “high definition,” enchanting every listener.
The player system is operated using a device of your choice be it iPhone, iPad, Android or via a front mounted control box. The latest models of PianoDisc or QRS PianoMation can also be controlled through Alexa.
Repertoire includes numerous award-winning artists, Grammy winners, Top 10 chart artists and winners of international piano competitions.
A player system can be added to a new or existing piano. To ensure proper installation and operation of this fairly complex system, we recommend using only certified PianoDisc or QRS technicians. Euro Pianos Naples provides PianoDisc installations and upgrades in South Florida.
Is A Digital Baby Grand Piano As Good An Acoustic Baby Grand Piano?
Simply put no. But there are certain features in a digital baby grand that you might find appealing.
What do you think sounds better an orchestra or a recording of an orchestra? To reproduce the sound of a piano, it must be recorded using a very high-quality microphone to an audio source, then reading the audio file onto a high-quality device after which the sound is reproduced through the speaker system (probably the weakest link in the chain). Digital pianos only produce previously recorded sounds, while an acoustic piano allows you to create an array of tonal nuances. There is no comparison between the sound of an acoustic baby grand piano to that of a digital grand piano.
Nuances Of Touch
The action on a baby grand piano as you read above is a complex mechanism consisting of thousands of moving parts that transform energy to the string when you press a key. The more expensive digital baby grand piano will try to mimic the weight distribution of an acoustic piano key, but advanced pianists will still notice the limitations of the action.
Acoustic baby grands come with three or four pedals. Some digital baby grands have only one pedal. If pedaling is important to your playing, make sure to purchase a digital baby grand piano with 3 pedals.
Add-Ons And Perks
What the digital piano may lack in terms of sound, they make it up with some additional features.
Instruments besides the piano. With the digital piano, you can produce the sound of almost any instrument, ranging from a saxophone to a choir and everything in between. You can compose with the different instruments, choosing what best suits you. A drum beat track, for example, could transform your keyboard into a small ensemble.
Recording: Your digital baby grand has a port that connects to your computer. This connection allows you to record and store your own music and playing as a digital file. This is a very useful tool, especially for budding songwriters, who can manipulate their recordings with software. Acoustic pianos can be outfitted with a recording strip that would do just the same.
Volume control: The digital piano comes with a volume knob and a headphone output, allowing you to practice anywhere without disturbing others. This is the single biggest advantage to purchasing a digital grand piano.
Staying in Tune: Because there are no strings, digital pianos do not require tuning. If you are in a climate where you are unable to stabilize the humidity (we are talking about drastic humidity changes), you should consider a digital piano. Beachfront restaurants or cruise ships come to mind.
Exterior Case: Design options are very limited for digital baby grand pianos. Unlike acoustic pianos which are available in rare woods, acrylic, inlays, metal and the like.
Size: Acoustic pianos make use of every possible inch of length to improve sound (longer strings, larger soundboard area) whereas digital pianos employ acoustic systems. That is why digital pianos can be as short as 2 feet. Any additional length is for decorative purposes only.
Digital baby grands can cost as low as $3,000 and go up to $25,000.00 depending upon the size and features you choose.
The resale value of a digital piano is much less than that of an acoustic piano. Think of reselling a digital piano like reselling a computer. Because the technology changes so rapidly even the best-selling models will become obsolete. And then there’s the question of repairs if something fails. Will you be able to find a replacement circuit board 5 or 10 years down the road? Therefore, the acoustic piano is costlier but a much better investment in the long-run.
Baby Grand Pianos We Really Like
F156 – by FAZIOLI
This baby grand piano may look like a traditional typical baby grand piano but it is anything but. There is so much going on under the hood that results in stellar sound quality, lightning fast action, exterior and interior design on this piano is just beautiful. Less than 150 Fazioli pianos are produced annually making this a truly hand crafted instrument. If this is your selection – you are guaranteed to be a member of a very exclusive club. And, if money is no object, know that Fazioli also builds outstanding designer pianos.
Besides their line of traditional looking pianos, Bluthner also produces an ever-expanding line of acrylic baby grand pianos. The Hive elegance is available in black, white or red as a baby grand and in larger sizes.
This is a baby grand piano we designed in response to our clients seeking an affordable transparent grand piano. The Aire™ is available with white or black trim and your choice of chrome or brass hardware.