Different Types of Pianos: An Overwhelming Search

Written by: Leslie Carmichael

When I went searching for a new piano, I was utterly overwhelmed. I ‘thought’ I knew all about pianos, but when I walked into a piano store, it seemed like there were endless choices. I visited a number of different piano stores and played a bunch of incredible new and used pianos until I finally settled on a shiny black Yamaha U1 for my studio. I wasn’t disappointed. 

Whether you’re looking for a new or a used piano, it helps to know the different types of pianos and how they compare to each other. In this article, we’ll talk about the different types of pianos.


Different Types of Pianos 

There are three basic piano types that are remarkably different in sound and appearance. 

Upright. An upright piano is small enough to fit in the average American home. It’s called an upright because the piano strings and soundboard are placed vertically inside the piano. Hence the piano is upright or vertical rather than horizontal, like a grand piano. Upright pianos are acoustic pianos. 

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Grand. A grand piano is an acoustic, horizontal piano. That is, the strings and soundboard that create the sound of the piano are in a horizontal position. These pianos have a lid that opens to make the sound travel better. These pianos are much larger in size and are often found in churches, larger schools, and concert halls. 

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Digital. Digital pianos generally have the appearance of an upright, although some have the appearance of a small grand piano. The difference with a digital piano is that it doesn’t have strings at all; a digital piano makes its sound electronically. 

There is an additional category of pianos that we’ll discuss as well, including hybrid pianos or silent pianos. But first, let’s unpack the different types of upright pianos. 

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Upright Piano

Upright pianos typically come in 3 or 4 types. You’ll find spinet, console, studio, and what’s sometimes called a professional or upright piano. 

Spinet Pianos

Spinet pianos are the tiniest of pianos. They typically sit around three feet tall, and they’ll fit nicely in smaller homes. However, spinets aren’t being made anymore, so you’ll only find used ones that might need a lot of work. Spinets have a compressed action inside the piano, giving them a tinny, light sound. 

Spinet pianos use a special kind of hammer action called drop-action. Drop-action means you can press the levers from underneath the keyboard of the piano. You can see that in action, here. 

Console pianos 

Console pianos are a little bit larger than spinets, measuring around 40 to 44 inches high. Console pianos are some of the most commonly found pianos in people’s homes. They aren’t too large, but they are large enough to have a nice, full sound. 

According to Europianosnaples, Furniture Console pianos have legs in the front while continental console pianos do not.

Studio piano 

Studio pianos are a little bit bigger than a console, with a height of around 44 to 47 inches tall. A studio piano is the smallest piano with a full-size piano action, giving it a much better tonal quality and more musical expression. 

Studio pianos are often used for choir rehearsals and in music classrooms because they give rich, deep sound but are short enough that you can still see over the top to give directions to your students. 

Professional or Full-Size Upright 

A full-size upright is the largest of the upright pianos. Like the Yamaha U1, these pianos are often sought after by professional musicians who don’t have the room for a grand piano. They rival the grand piano in tone and musical expression. 

Grand Piano

Grand pianos are much larger in shape and size than upright pianos. Their large size is because the strings and soundboard are in a vertical position, maximizing the way the sound is produced and providing rich tones and musical expression. There are different sizes of grand pianos. 

Petit Grand

The petit grand is the smallest grand piano, which falls somewhere between 4 feet 5 inches to 4 feet 11 inches long. 

Baby Grand 

The baby grand is a little bit longer, between 5 feet and 5 feet five inches. The baby grand is the most popular grand piano found in homes because it is an excellent balance of size and sound quality. 

Professional Grand 

The next size in grand pianos measures between 5 foot 9 and 6 foot 2 inches long. These are often found in colleges and music schools. 

Concert Grand 

The largest is the concert grand, which you will find in concert halls, music venues, and large auditoriums where sound quality and volume are necessary. You may be familiar with the highly acclaimed Steinway Model D, the Bosendorfer Imperial Grand, or Yamaha’s CFX. Concert grands are typically around 9 feet long. 

Digital Piano 

A digital piano is a digital recreation of an acoustic piano. While acoustic pianos use strings to produce sound, a digital piano sound is produced electronically. A high-quality digital piano will use sampled sounds to create its piano sound. A sampled sound is a series of recordings of an acoustic piano used to create the acoustic piano sound. 

Digital pianos typically offer additional sounds, built-in metronomes, accompaniments, recordings, and other features not available on acoustic pianos. They can be as large as a baby grand or as small as a keyboard. 

Digital pianos are not inferior replications of acoustic pianos, however. On the contrary, they are a unique instrument with many benefits. Many beginners enjoy taking lessons on digital pianos, and professional players can also enjoy the benefits. 

You can find out more information about the differences between acoustic and digital pianos here.

Hybrid Piano

Hybrid pianos are unique, and there are very few on the market. A hybrid piano is a cross between an acoustic and a digital piano. These are often marketed as silent pianos. A silent piano will make sound just like a typical acoustic piano; however, at the touch of a button, the strings are silenced, and the piano will make sound digitally. When you switch to the digital mode, you can use headphones to practice without others listening in. 

Final Thoughts on All the Different Types of Pianos 

If you’re searching for a new-to-you piano, there are plenty of options for every budget and home. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the number of choices, so here are a few guidelines to help you. 

If you’re looking for the best possible sound, but money and space aren’t an issue, you may enjoy playing a baby grand, professional grand, or even a silent piano. 

On the other hand, if money is tight and space is tight, you might want to investigate a high quality-digital piano since they are not too expensive and don’t require a lot of room. 

But, if you’re like many people searching for a piano, you fall somewhere in the middle. You want a great-sounding piano that doesn’t require too much room or too much money. For you, you might be interested in a studio or professional upright piano or a high-end digital piano, depending if you want more sounds and options to choose from or you want a traditional acoustic feel and sound to play. 

No matter which piano you buy, you’ll be on your way to a lifetime of musicianship. 

Written By:
If anyone knows a thing or two about pianos, it's Leslie. Having played piano for the past 25 years and teaching for the past 15 years, she has vast experience compared to most. She loves to share her honest opinions about the brands and manufacturers in the industry. In her free time, Leslie loves to play with her dogs and go on hikes.

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