Do I need a Grand Piano, or is an Upright Okay?

Updated: Apr 15

When purchasing a new piano, it’s common to assume that grand pianos are better in every way, and if you have the money to, always get a grand. However, that’s not always the case. Piano sound, tone, and volume are affected by 3 main things (assuming a high quality piano), the size of the piano, the shape of the piano, and the set-up of the piano.

The size of the piano determines the size of the strings in the piano, the things that actually make noise, and arguably the most important part of the piano for sound production. The longer the string, the better the sound in a nutshell. (You can learn more about how string length affects sound here). Counterintuitively, an upright can sometimes have longer strings than a grand. This is because the advertised length of a grand piano includes it’s action and keys, making the actual string shorter than the advertised length of the piano; an upright piano has it’s strings running diagonally meaning the string length is longer than the advertised height. This means in some circumstances, an upright piano can have a richer and better tone and sound.

The shape of the piano, grand vs upright (there are others out there! They’re much rarer, but you can read about them here) affects not only the projection and sound of the piano, but the fundamental way the action works, what connects the keys to the strings. In a grand piano, the action returns to the neutral position using gravity, which is completely uniform across all keys, creating a more uniform feeling. In an upright, the action returns using a spring, and while manufacturers try very hard to create a uniform feeling, it will never be as uniform as with a grand action. The grand action also comes with one more benefit, it enables fast repetition. The grand action has a piece called the repetition bar, which stops the key from resetting all the way, and lets it be played faster.

To get the most out of you piano, it must be set-up correctly. Set-up includes tuning, string prepping, mating of the hammer with the string, regulation, and much more. Each of these steps is important to making sure your piano feels good, gives the player control, and keeps it in tune for longer. If you’d like to learn more about how a piano is set up, let us know, and we’ll write an article about that!

The piano is a complicated device, and requires many things to produce a brilliant sound. Sometimes an upright will be better for your needs, but the grand has it’s many advantages too. Thanks to Jared Maltba from Valley Piano Tuning for his help with this article! If you have more questions, please leave a comment, visit our website, or call our store, we’d be happy to help you on your piano journey!