Upright pianos are in a class of their own. They have a unique sound and feel.
I have many good memories of playing an upright piano, including learning to play one as a child. That is what eventually led to my music career.
Upright vs Console Piano: What exactly is the difference?
I’m excited to share my insights into both upright and console pianos, two popular choices for home pianists and music schools alike.
We’ll examine the key differences between these acoustic piano types, touching on aspects like sound quality, size, and other factors.
Upright vs Console Piano: A World of Variety
From spinet pianos to horizontal pianos, there’s an incredibly wide variety of pianos.
In this post, you’ll learn about the impact of various qualities that make each type stand out: How longer strings and larger soundboards affect the sound quality and how each piano type might fit better in specific settings like home use or music schools.
Comparing Key Features
The main difference between console and upright pianos lies in their size, which directly affects the size of the soundboard and, consequently, the tonal quality produced.
Console pianos are smaller, making them popular for those with limited space, like a small room. While the small soundboard can still produce a high-quality sound, it won’t quite match the richness of a larger piano.
Upright pianos have a taller frame and offer different action, with the strings running vertically from the top of the lid. This design allows for a larger soundboard, similar to a baby grand, and delivers a more resonant sound.
While both console and upright pianos offer excellent performance, their strengths lie in their distinct designs and tonal qualities.
Spinet Pianos: Compact Size, Unique Action
Spinet pianos are the smallest of vertical pianos, a popular choice for small spaces or smaller apartments.
They typically have a height of around 36-40 inches and are known for their small size and indirect blow action. This drop action mechanism is unique to spinet pianos. It involves a series of levers that connect the keys to the piano action, enabling key repetition.
However, this design has inherent limitations due to the shorter keys and the position of the action, which can affect the overall sound quality.
History of Spinet Pianos
Historically, spinet pianos were more prevalent in the mid-20th century, with models like Baldwin’s Acrosonic Spinet gaining popularity. They provided an affordable and space-saving option for piano students and hobby players. However, as modern pianos evolved, the demand for spinet pianos declined. They are now less commonly found in piano stores.
Console Pianos: A Balance of Size and Sound
Console pianos, measuring around 40-44 inches in height, are slightly taller than spinet pianos and offer a better sound quality due to their larger soundboard and longer strings.
The action of a console piano is similar to that of a standard upright piano, with the backs of the keys attached directly to the action.
The result is a more responsive and precise playing experience, making console pianos a good choice for home and institutional use.
History of Console Pianos
The history of console pianos can be traced back to the early 20th century, with companies like Young Chang and Kawai producing high-quality models. These pianos gained popularity as they provided an outstanding balance between size, sound quality, and affordability, making them a top choice for many piano teachers and students.
Studio Pianos: Versatile Performers for Various Settings
Studio pianos, often found in music schools and recording studios, are a versatile option that offers a higher quality sound than both spinet and console pianos. With a height ranging from 45-48 inches, a studio piano has a larger soundboard and longer strings, which provide a richer tonal quality.
The full-sized action in these pianos allows for more precise playing, making them an excellent choice for professional pianists and piano students alike.
History of Studio Pianos
Studio pianos have been around since the early 20th century, designed to meet the demands of professional musicians and institutions. Brands like Steinway, Yamaha, and Baldwin have produced some of the most renowned studio upright pianos, popular choices today.
Full Size Upright Pianos: Powerful Performers for Professionals
Full size upright pianos, also known as professional upright pianos, are the largest vertical piano types, standing at 48 inches or taller.
These pianos, such as the Yamaha U series or Kawai upright pianos, boast the longest strings and largest soundboards among vertical pianos, delivering powerful sound and exceptional tonal quality.
The full-size action in a professional upright piano allows for greater precision and control, making it a preferred choice for professional musicians and concert halls.
History of Full Size Upright Pianos
Full size upright pianos date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when companies like Steinway started producing these larger, more powerful instruments. Although they take up more space than their smaller counterparts, these pianos continue to be a popular choice for professional use and serious players.
Grand Pianos: The Pinnacle of Piano Performance
Grand pianos, also known as horizontal pianos, come in various sizes, including baby grand, medium grand, and concert grand.
Baby grand pianos, the smallest of the three, measure around 5 feet in length, while concert grands can reach up to 9 feet or more. With their larger soundboards, longer strings, and horizontal design, grand pianos offer unparalleled sound quality and tonal richness, making them the ultimate choice for concert halls and professional musicians.
History of Grand Pianos
Grand pianos’ history dates from the early 18th century to the first horizontal pianos. The craftsmanship and innovation in grand piano design have evolved, with companies like Steinway, Yamaha, and Bösendorfer leading the way in producing high-quality, prestigious instruments.
Upright vs Console Piano
Both upright and console pianos offer excellent sound quality and performance. The primary distinction between them is their size and soundboard dimensions.
With their smaller size and soundboard, console pianos are ideal for home use and smaller spaces. Full size upright pianos deliver a more powerful sound and larger soundboard, making them the preferred choice for professional musicians and institutions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the main difference between an upright and console piano?
An upright and console piano’s main differences are their size and soundboard dimensions. Console pianos have smaller soundboards, making them suitable for smaller spaces and home use.
On the other hand, Upright pianos are taller with a larger soundboard, resulting in a more powerful and resonant sound, making them ideal for professional musicians and institutions.
How does the size of a piano affect its sound quality?
The size of a piano directly affects the strings’ length and the soundboard’s size. Larger pianos typically have a larger soundboard and longer strings, which result in a richer, more resonant sound.
Smaller pianos, with their smaller soundboards and shorter strings, may produce a pleasant sound but might lack the fullness and richness of larger instruments.
Are console pianos suitable for professional pianists?
Console pianos are perfect for many pianists, from beginners to intermediate players. However, professional pianists may prefer larger upright pianos or grand pianos due to their superior sound quality, larger soundboards, and longer strings.
What is the smallest type of vertical piano?
The smallest type of vertical piano is the spinet piano, which typically has a height of around 36-40 inches. They are known for their compact size and unique indirect blow action, making them suitable for small spaces.
Which type of piano is best for small spaces?
Console pianos and spinet pianos are both excellent choices for small spaces due to their compact size. Console pianos offer slightly better sound qualities than spinet pianos, so they might be better if sound quality is a priority.
What is the difference between a baby grand, grand, and concert grand piano?
Baby grand, grand, and concert grand pianos are all types of horizontal pianos that differ in size and string length. Baby grand pianos are the smallest, measuring around 5 feet long, while concert grand pianos can reach up to 9 feet or more.
The larger the piano, the larger the soundboard and the longer the strings, resulting in a richer, resonant sound.
Can I learn to play piano on a digital piano?
Digital pianos are an excellent option for beginners and intermediate players looking to learn the piano. They offer a variety of features and can closely mimic the touch and feel of acoustic pianos, making them an affordable and versatile choice for learning and practicing.
How often should I tune my piano?
You should tune your piano at least once or twice a year. However, humidity, temperature changes, and the instrument’s age can affect the tuning stability. Consulting with a professional piano tuner will help you determine the best tuning schedule for your specific piano.
Are older pianos worth restoring?
The value of older pianos depends on factors like brand, model, and condition. Some older, high-quality pianos like Steinway or Yamaha may be worth restoring if they have been well-maintained.
However, consulting with a professional piano restorer or technician is essential to evaluate the instrument and determine if restoration is worthwhile.
Each type of these beautiful instruments offers unique characteristics and qualities that cater to different needs and preferences.
You can find a piano to suit your specific situation, space, and budget, from the more compact spinet to the larger upright pianos.
The larger uprights can deliver the sound and feel equivalent to that of small grand pianos while using less space and being well suited for home use.