Pianos come in varying sizes and shapes, but the two main types of piano that you’re likely to see are upright pianos and grand pianos.
Grand pianos are known for their large body which houses the strings – strung horizontally, and are often used in performance situations for their incredible sound projection and resonant qualities.
Upright pianos, however, are cheaper, more common, and much easier to fit into your home or practice room. This is because upright pianos have vertically strung strings, making them more compact and with a much smaller footprint.
In this article we’ll look at the four main types of upright piano:
- The Professional Upright
- The Studio
- The Console
- The Spinet
Table of Contents
The Professional Upright Piano
While the term ‘upright’ can be used for all different types of vertically strung pianos, the largest of these types is also known as the upright piano, although sometimes as the ‘full-size’ or ‘professional’ upright to differentiate it.
The professional upright is the largest of the vertically strung varieties of piano, measuring in the range of 48” (122cm) to 60” (152cm) tall.
Being so tall also means that professional uprights have the largest soundboard, and therefore produce the most resonance of all the upright piano types. Typical dimensions for professional uprights are usually around 58” (147cm) to 61” (155cm) in width, and around 24” (60cm) deep.
A professional upright can weigh anywhere between 500 lbs (227kg) to 1000 lbs (454kg), making them not exactly convenient to move around.
A high quality professional upright piano can produce tones to rival baby grands, and with such a small footprint and considerably cheaper price tag (compared to a grand of any size), they are not to be overlooked.
Often found in schools and in some performance situations, upright pianos are immensely popular due to their size, resonance, and long-lasting sound quality when properly maintained.
Because of the larger size of the professional upright, they are known for having the best sound of all the upright varieties, especially in the bass octaves.
Top manufacturers include Yamaha, Zimmerman, and Kawai.
The Studio Upright Piano
Next down in size is the studio piano. Ideal for teaching for its slightly smaller size, but still noted for its great sound quality, the studio piano is ideal for practice rooms and at-home use.
In its build, it is very similar to the professional upright, though smaller. In turn, this means it has a smaller soundboard, and therefore has slightly less resonance and projection compared to a professional upright.
The studio piano is the smallest piano that has a full-size action. The action is the mechanism by which the pressing of the keys is translated to the hammers striking the strings. It is crucial in determining the sound quality and tonal properties of the instrument, as well as the instrument’s playability to any individual musician.
In terms of dimensions, an average studio piano will stand at 44” (111cm) to 48” (122cm) tall and 58” (147cm) wide, with a depth of 24” (60cm). In terms of weight, a studio piano will fall anywhere between 400 lbs (181kg) to 500 lbs (227kg) on the scales.
Top manufacturers include Essex, Bechstein, and Yamaha.
The Console Upright Piano
Console pianos are very popular at-home instruments, largely due to their compact shape and relatively good sound quality despite their size.
It is highly unlikely that a console piano would ever be used in a performance situation, but for practice and hobbyists, they are more than satisfactory.
Falling in between the studio and the spinet in terms of size, the average console piano will stand at between 40” (101cm) to 44” (111cm) tall, 58” (147cm) wide, and 24” (60cm) deep.
Console pianos weigh in between 350 lbs (158kg) and 450 lbs (204kg), making them a lot more maneuverable than larger varieties. This is another factor that makes them an immensely popular piano, and therefore there is a plethora of options available when it comes to purchasing.
In terms of action, the console uses a more traditional design, wherein the action sits directly on top of the keys. When a note is played, a string retracts the hammer back to its original position. Popular manufacturers include Baldwin, Kawai, and Yamaha.
The Spinet Upright Piano
The smallest of all the upright pianos, and unfortunately the only one that is no longer in production, due to better-sounding options available in the only-slightly larger console piano.
The spinet is tiny, standing at only 36” (91cm) to 40” (101cm) tall, with a width of 58” (147cm) and a depth of 24” (60cm).
They usually weigh around 400 lbs (181kg), but can weigh even less depending on the materials used for the body.
Because of its size, the action in the spinet piano had to be modified. It uses what is known as a ‘drop-action’ or ‘indirect blow-action’ mechanism for producing sound.
While this is ideal for saving space and keeping the design and size of the spinet compact, it does result in less control for the musician over the sound, and usually means that spinets cannot offer the kind of responsiveness and nuance that a professional would demand from their instrument.
Another major downside comes from the fact that the spinet is so small. While it is great for maneuverability and fitting into small spaces, it suffers from a small soundboard and a lack of resonance from its strings.
Also because of their relative obsolescence, they are much harder to maintain and to get repaired if something goes wrong. However, they are cheap! And they can be a great beginner instrument to have at home for practicing, or for fun if you’re only a casual player.
As you can see, the main variance between all these upright piano varieties is their height. While the depth and width are usually consistent between all models, the height of the piano can greatly affect the sound of it.
This is because the strings are strung vertically, meaning that if they are going to be longer, to offer a cleaner and more resonant sound, the body of the piano has to be extended upwards to accommodate them.
Overall, which piano you buy will depend on your level of capability, the amount of space you have either at home or in your practice room, and your budget.
Of all the pianos on this list, the console is the most popular today in terms of sales, and it’s easy to see why. It’s small enough to be convenient and compact, yet it does not suffer from the same lack in sound quality that the even smaller spinet does.