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Everything you need to know about piano types

In this section we will show you the types of piano that exist and we will tell you a little about their origins and anecdotes.

It’s important to understand the differences between the types of piano, and above all to think about what we want to do with it. Do we simply want to perfect our way of playing? Or do we want a portable instrument that we can take with us everywhere?

Don’t miss our selection of this year’s best digital pianos:

The history and origin of the piano

First of all, it must be clear that the piano has a history, since long before the key instrument, instruments such as the harpsichord and the organ were played. But by 1700, composers and interpreters needed to develop “emotions” in their musical performances. The mechanism invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori in 1700, and we can say that it is the origin of the current mechanism.

There’s no doubt that the instrument for which the most music has been composed, whether good or bad, is the piano.

Jeremy Siepmann

The relationship between the need to express emotions, and the mechanism of the piano, lay in the ability of this instrument to regulate its volume and dynamics by pressing the keys in one way or another. This made it possible to establish more dimensions in composition and interpretation. In the same piece, the interpreter could express calmly, and gradually increase the volume and intensity to express haste and discomfort.

Since then, the piano has taken off in a popularity that will have no end, imposing itself totally during the nineteenth century, to the other key instruments. Everyone wanted to have a piano in their house or restaurant, to animate the evenings, and the piano was the best option. Those were the golden days…

The piano was the center of social life

The piano was the center of social life. The West exported thousands and thousands of pianos annually to places as far away as India and Pakistan.

I’m sure you’ll be interested in…

Who invented the piano then?

As we have said before, the original mechanism that allows the regulation of the volume of the note by pressing with one force or another, is attributed to Bartolomeo Cristofori; but since then, the system has been improved and there are many contributions made by various craftsmen from the beginning. A great role in the manufacturing of pianos and improvements had, for example, Gottfried Silbermann, in Germany.

Curious stories like Bach’s belittling Silbermann’s first pianos cannot leave us indifferent and are worthy of mention. Silbermann, although a great craftsman, was not characterized by his emotional stability. Well, at this point you know why the piano is so important; let’s get into it with the types of pianos there are, how they work and what each one is useful for.

If you want to know more about origins and anecdotes about the piano

How does a piano work?

The piano is an instrument that uses strings and a keyboard. Basically when the key of a note is pressed, an ingenious mechanism hits the string that produces the sound and this vibration is amplified when it reaches the “piano harmonic table”; this is how the sound of the piano is produced.

Although its mechanism means that it can also be classified as a stringed instrument in shops, we will always find it in the pianos and keyboards or key instruments section. It’s not a percussion instrument as it is proposed in some cases.

How many keys and octaves does a piano have?

For a keyboard instrument to be considered a piano, it normally has 88 or more keys. If you choose a keyboard with fewer keys, it is very possible that we cannot play certain songs as they will be made for a keyboard with more notes and octaves. Although most pianos today are designed with the 88 keys, mentioned above. Actually 88 keys are just over 7 octaves – the keys are grouped so that they are very easy to differentiate. From one do to the other, there are 8 white keys, which are an octave. The black keys are the altered, flat or sharp notes, depending.

keyboard octave

keyboard octave

And what kinds of pianos are there?

Pianos could be grouped into 3 types: grand, upright and digital pianos. The following info-graphics are quite useful to identify the differences between these types.

piano types

There are quite a few differences between these pianos, and one very important one has to do with the space each of them occupies. Let’s talk about them separately so that the concept is clearer.

Grand Piano

The largest of the pianos and the one with the greatest sonority. Not to mention that they are the most expensive… playing a grand piano is undoubtedly one of the greatest pleasures there is for any pianist. But it’s not within the reach of just anyone to have one, and its cost can easily exceed 50,000 euros. And its size doesn’t help either…

Dimensions of a grand piano

Grand pianos are pianos where their mechanism are horizontal, so if the lid is open their sound will come out unhindered and with all its intensity. You have to be aware of the dimensions of a grand piano and measure it well to ensure that it will fit in the room where you want to have it. Not only do you have to think about the room you’ll need, but if you can get it into the room.

In Spain, you can get a grand piano from about 50,000 € for the cheapest models. The sizes as well as the terms used to categorize the sizes of pianos varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but here is a commonly used list for grand pianos:

  • 8’7″ to 9’2″ – Concert Grand
  • 6’8″ to 8’6″ – Recital Hall Grand
  • 5’8″ to 6’7″ – Professional Grand
  • 5’2″ to 5’7″ – Parlor Grand
  • 4’8″ to 5’1″ – Baby Grand

A grand piano is too expensive an instrument to venture to transport. It is quite possible that you will need special machinery and experience to move them. It also makes no sense to spend the money the grand piano costs and then be unwilling to spend the EUR 300 their transport may cost. Its weight is usually around 250 kg minimum and the width of the keyboard a meter fifty or similar.

If you want to know more about grand pianos, their brands and curiosities:

Vertical Piano

The upright piano is very practical in terms of space, and that’s why it’s usually the most popular to have in a house, not to mention the digital piano of course.

Although its dimensions are much more comfortable than those of the grand piano, you must be aware that its weight is still high. When asked how much an upright piano weighs, we could say that it easily weighs more than 150 kg. Wall-mounted pianos normally do not exceed 150 cm in height, and have all the mechanics in the vertical.

We could classify them among those with the mechanism below the keyboard (spinet), those with a direct machine (at the same height as the keyboard) that are usually studio oriented, and the old verticals that have the mechanical system above and are louder.

How much does an upright or acoustic upright piano cost?

There is a great variety of products, but you can get upright pianos from 3000 €; below this price, the quality may not be what we expect. They can also be bought used for its price.

If you want to know more about upright pianos:

Digital Piano or Music Keyboard

Although it has different names, when we talk about electronic pianos or digital pianos we’re talking about the same thing.

Basically, we’re talking about a keyboard with at least 88 keys and that which imitates the touch of a real piano when played. In general, we can say that the sound of a digital piano won’t match that of a grand piano, but today the quality of its sound and the feel of weighted keyboards has improved significantly.

Digital pianos stand out, mainly for opening the doors to the world of music computing, and for their portability. As we have counted before, during century XIX and principles of the XX, any place of leisure or particular domicile counted on a piano on the wall. But today this is no longer the case. So more and more professionals choose to perform with a digital piano keyboard, to take it to any performance. As studio pianos, they are a very suitable solution, as their price is much more affordable and weighted keyboards (which imitate the real thing) are getting better and better.

Of course, it’s convenient to study sometimes with a real piano, even if you have a digital one. Mainly not to get used to just one touch, but most study times can be done on the digital with more than acceptable results.

Performance with digital pianos music keyboards

Performance with digital pianos music keyboards

In addition to the possibility to learn with music software, comes music production. The world of electronics and synthesizers opens doors that can only be reached with the digital piano. That’s why we have an entire section for this instrument in the link below.

How much does it cost to buy a Digital Piano?

They can be found with a weighted keyboard from about 300 €, especially if you buy online – although each physical store is increasingly priced more competitively. As we have done before, we recommend you to visit the section about the digital piano.

Maintenance of a piano

In the case of the digital piano’s maintenance, it is not necessary. On the other hand, grand and upright pianos do need some maintenance. The main thing is to keep them clean and at a stable temperature; when it comes to tuning and transport, always choose professionals – and if you can, take out insurance.


How much does it cost to tune a grand or upright piano?

Normally the piano has to be tuned once or twice a year, and the price for a normal tuning is around 80 € in Spain, or 120€ in England, approximately.

We developed the topic much more in the following post

And what piano to buy for learning?

Well, at this point you know the types of pianos there are and a little bit of their advantages and disadvantages. In order to choose the type of piano that suits you best, you must have a pragmatic vision. We have to think about our budget, where we want to go with the instrument, how much time we will dedicate to it…

Some points to keep in mind that will help you in your decision:

Do you have money and a lot of space?

In this case, which is not usually the most common, you can think of a grand piano, which in addition to being an instrument, can be considered a work of art and an investment; especially if it is properly preserved and transported by professionals. However, if you want to get closer to music computing, you will need a digital piano or to install a sound module to the grand piano.

You have a budget of more than 3000 € but you only want to study and play in places with a piano.

In this case the option of a wall-mounted piano is more advisable, because if you have a suitable place of study and you will only perform in places that have a piano, you do not need to transport the piano with you. This is usually an option chosen by classical concert pianists.

I have a tight budget, but I want to study classical music.

It is often difficult to afford a wall-mounted piano, especially if, for example, you want your child to learn, but you are afraid to invest a lot of money and then the little one won’t like it.

The digital piano is a very good option to enter the world of the piano, and to continue with it, because its quality has improved a lot. Although it’s true that if the student intends to be a professional concert pianist of classical music, it is convenient to be as much as possible in contact with real touch pianos.

In this case it’s recommended to buy a digital piano and look for places or people who have a real piano at home, and don’t bother to give up time to practice or rent it for a small amount. This way, there is a proportion of study time on a wall-mounted or grand piano.

I want the piano to compose, play contemporary music, and perform in various formats and halls.

In this case the best option may be a digital piano; even if you’ve learned with an upright or grand piano, you’ll do well to have one. The sad reality is that in most concert halls there is no piano, as it used to be. Many weighted digital piano models can be transported relatively easily, and this makes them the reference for musicians with these needs.And as we have said repeatedly, opens the door to the use of synthesizers and other electronic complements which are also portable.

I just want to compose music.

In this case you don’t need to play a piano as such, nor do you need your keyboard to have all 88 keys, which greatly improves the budget possibilities. So you can choose a simple 61-key keyboard without weighted keys, or connect a MIDI key to a computer.  You can find options from € 80. Although, if you have a digital piano, you can also connect it to your computer and use all its features. Next, we leave you links to posts of interest with comparisons and selections of pianos that will help you a lot if you are thinking on buying one:

Piano accessories: pedals, benches and adjustable benches

A very important aspect in pianos and instruments is ergonomics.

It is very possible that we spend many hours studying with our instrument, so it is important to choose benches or adjustable benches for our piano. Above all, to avoid back pain after studying for many hours at a time, do not hesitate to see our analysis of the perfect piano bench. We also teach you the perfect posture to sit, without getting hurt. On the pedals, in the case of digital pianos, wall or grand pianos come with built-in pedals; but many digital piano models have them with a separate accessory, and connected by a cable.

There’s a variety of qualities and it’s important to choose the one that has a pleasant touch for you. The main pedal is called the sustain pedal, it is the pedal that keeps the note sustained over time even if you don’t press the corresponding key. We hope you liked this guide. If you think it can be useful to more people don’t hesitate to share. Thank you for reading about us!