Grand Pianos and Upright Pianos - dummies

Grand Pianos and Upright Pianos

Pianos are the most popular acoustic keyboards hands down (pun intended), with a 300-year track record, an incomparable tone, and a sound-producing mechanism that has been refined to respond to every subtle variation in your touch. They come in two appropriately named designs:

Babying a grand piano

You may need a living room the size of a grand ballroom to house the 9-foot concert grand. If you don’t live in a castle, you may want to consider other sizes, from a baby grand (measuring in at about 5 feet) to other sizes up to 7 feet.


The grand piano has an enormous lid that you can prop open with a stick that comes with the piano. By propping open the lid, you can see the metal strings and other mechanical components . . . and maybe even those car keys that you misplaced last month.

Because the sound of a piano starts with the strings inside the instrument, you get a louder and more resonant sound when you leave the lid open, allowing the sound to project off the wooden soundboard. In the grand piano, the strings are horizontal, parallel to the ground, which means the sound travels upward from the ground and fills the room.

Going vertical with an upright

Upright pianos are small relative to grand pianos, but still substantial instruments that take up some floor and wall space. Also called verticals, these pianos sit upright against a wall and can vary in height from the spinet up to full-size uprights.


The strings in an upright are vertical and set diagonally — with the treble strings crossing the bass strings — to fit in the smaller upright case. Because the strings are perpendicular to the ground, the sound travels close to the ground.