When looking to purchase a new piano, many people are unsure on what size piano they need for their room. Even doing research, it can be difficult to tell what the differences are between certain types of piano, how they will sound in your room and how they may impact your home.
Today we’re going to be discussing the main types of acoustic piano, the kinds of rooms they are suited to and things to consider when beginning your journey to finding the perfect instrument for you.
There are a number of different types of pianos out there, each with their own complex names and models, however ultimately when looking at acoustic instruments, we are generally comparing just two:
Of course, Digital pianos also exist, however this is an article for another day and currently, the entire music industry across the world is experiencing crippling shortages of digital pianos, learn more here.
Grand pianos are the classic image of a concert piano that many may be familiar with, these instruments are extremely large, belong in the centre of a room or reception and can be played extremely loud and offer a real sense of grandeur to any room they find themselves in. Generally a showpiece of any room, they are a definite talking point and can produce some truly sensational sound. As they are significantly larger, require more materials and generally speaking, have more craft put into them, broadly speaking grand pianos (depending on quality) tend to be more expensive than that of upright pianos. This however does not mean that they are inherently ‘better’ as if the piano is not right for the room, it won’t have the best impact.
Upright pianos are primarily designed for home use and are typically kept against a wall to save space. Despite being smaller instruments, the level of sound that upright pianos put out is still almost always enough to fill most living room or music room settings. For the most part, these instruments are likewise in no way inferior to grand pianos and a well produced upright piano is more than capable of carrying any pianist to even a professional or advanced level of play.
When it comes to the size of many pianos, many are often surprised by how large pianos, particularly grand pianos can be. The size of a piano is highly variable on both grand and upright models and does have a significant impact on the level of sound the instrument can produce.
Generally speaking the larger (or longer) the instrument, the more sound it can put out. Of course this is also linked to how well the instrument has been produced, for example a smaller, well produced piano can often be more powerful than a larger, old or ill produced piano.
Most pianos are around 5ft wide across the keyboard. This is because pianos keys are generally all the same width and fitting 88 of them into an instrument as well as the actions to make them work requires a fixed amount of space, there are a few pianos out there with 96 or even over 100 keys, but these are extremely rare. The same can be said for slightly smaller pianos with fewer than 88 keys, however these are generally best avoided as you will be restricting yourself to the smaller number of keys and they can significantly limit what you can play.
In terms of the different types of pianos, in grand pianos, the difference in size generally refers to the length of the soundboards. The smallest grand pianos typically start from around 4 and a half foot, and the largest concert grand pianos can be as large as 12ft long, however these are almost always unsuitable and impractical for home settings.
With these, we enter the different kinds of grand pianos out there, starting with baby grand pianos, these are pianos that do maintain the traditional iconic grand piano shape and structure, but with a slightly shorter soundboard. These instruments are fantastic for home settings or small hall spaces that have the space to house them.
The next step up from this is that of the home, pavilion or boudoir grands and these are likely the largest instruments that can be used as home pianos without a specialist room. These instruments can still reach exceptional levels of sound, response, touch and tone that are exceptional. If you are looking for a grand, these slightly larger instruments can be perfect if put in the correct sized room, which we’ll discuss in the next section. The largest of these instruments that at Millers we’ve ever sold is that of the C.Bechstein B212.
Finally we have that of concert grands, which as the name implies, are generally more suited to concert halls or performance halls. Due to their size, the level of sound that these instruments can put out is truly sensational and will often overpower almost any living room they are put in (not to mention that they are exceptionally large to move around!)
When it comes to upright pianos, the same principle applies in that the larger the piano, the more sound it can project, however the measure of upright pianos is typically that of height (and in some cases depth) instead of length.
Upright pianos typically start from around 110cm and can extend anywhere up to 140cm in height. This height may not sound like much but that added length can add a huge amount to the sound and tone of the instrument. More height means longer strings and ultimately a larger soundboard, which means the taller instruments are typically able to project louder. This is also where depth can be a factor worth considering as the more room the soundboard has to fill inside the instrument, the louder the piano can be.
As mentioned however, size isn’t everything and particularly now with modern production techniques, manufacturers are able to create some incredibly compact pianos that have the feel and sound projection of pianos much larger than themselves. Perhaps most notably is that of the C.Bechstein A4, an incredibly compact instrument that easily has the potential to outpower instruments with far larger heights or even some grand pianos.
Which Size Piano Is Right For Me?
Generally speaking, the larger a room, the larger piano it will be able to house, however there are a number of other factors which may influence this.
Here are a few very broad general rules of thumb. For a smaller space, an upright piano will be needed and for the most part, a smaller upright piano will be just fine. Those looking at uprights that are 130+ centimeters tall, the room may be slightly too small depending on the amount of space and furniture in the room, however this is something that our piano experts will be able to advise on.
For medium sized rooms, almost any upright piano will likely be suitable for you, for those however who are concerned about noise from neighbouring rooms or next door, silent pianos are also worth considering, even the oldest of pianos can be retrofitted with silent piano systems. Learn more here.
For larger rooms, we begin to transition into the world of grand pianos vs upright pianos and this is where things like positioning of the instrument come into play. We’ve written extensively about this in another article, so would highly recommend reading this too!
Of course the other thing to be aware of when looking at pianos is of course also the ergonomics of the room, whilst it may be tempting to try to fit a grand piano into a slightly smaller room, if it makes the entire rest of the room unusable or uncomfortable, it’s not a great idea!
If you’d like further advice or suggestions on trying to find the right acoustic piano for you, we’d highly recommend visiting our showroom and contacting our piano experts for expert advice you can trust.