Acoustic Piano: Grand & Upright?

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23 May Acoustic Piano: Grand & Upright?

Let’s begin at the beginning. The Grand piano is the original form of the piano we have today. Upright pianos were designed after the fact as a compromise for the price and space. They take up less room, which is often a factor, and they are priced at less, which is also often important. But do they perform differently or just look different? The short answer is that they are so different that it’s almost surprising that they are both called pianos.

One held misconception is that Grands sound better than Uprights. This is not necessarily true at all. The quality and volume of sound produced by a piano is a function of several factors. The quality of the materials, the craftsmanship, the length of the strings, the size of the soundboard, and the scale design of the instrument are a few of the main elements to consider.

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So, if an Upright can sound just as good as a Grand, why should you spend more money on a Grand piano? The answer lies in the action. The mechanical components that start with the keys that your fingers depress and end with the hammer that strikes the strings creating the sound are called the action. In a Grand piano, most of the components move up and down, using gravity to reset them to the resting setting, ready to be played again. Gravity is very even, one end of the keyboard to the other. In an Upright piano, many of the parts move in a horizontal direction, and since gravity does not function in that direction, springs are used to move these components back into the rest position.

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While these springs can be regulated to be quite even, it’s never going to be as perfect as gravity. Springs wear and fatigue over time, creating unevenness from one note to the next as well.  In addition to this, in order to repeat a note on an Upright piano, the key must be allowed to come all the way back to the top of the stroke before it can be played again. In a Grand, a note can be repeated after the key has only come up about 1/3 of the way to the top. This means that a Grand action gives the player additional control and can be played faster. Certainly almost any reasonably skilled player would enjoy the touch of a grand, but it will not hold you back if you purchase an upright.