Shopping for a piano seems like a pretty straightforward task until you start learning about all the available types of pianos. If you are unfamiliar with the different piano types and styles, you may find yourself wondering where to even begin. Should you choose acoustic or digital. Grand or upright? Low maintenance or superior sound quality? It can all be a bit daunting. Read on to learn how to pick the best instrument for you.
Two Types of Pianos
You’ve already settled on buying a piano. But do you know what kind of piano you want? The two basic categories of pianos are acoustic and digital. Acoustic pianos are known for the mechanical functions of the instrument that make the sound possible. When a key is depressed, a felt-covered wooden hammer strikes a string or group of strings to produce a sound. A dampener silences the string when the key or pedal is released. Due to the length of the strings in combination with the sheer volume of strings (typically around 230 strings on a full-size 88 key piano), acoustic pianos are fairly large and quite heavy. Acoustic pianos range in weight from 300 – 1400 pounds.
Digital pianos, on the other hand, are played the exact same way an acoustic piano is played, but take up far less real estate. Digital pianos use sound sampling, exact recordings of acoustic pianos, to produce their sounds. Because they can only duplicate those sounds that they have previously recorded, they are more limited in nuance and expression than an acoustic piano. However, with the advancements in technology, digital pianos have come a long way, and very nearly rival their traditional counterparts. Digital pianos have many benefits that make them attractive. Due to their smaller size, they fit in spaces that an acoustic piano would not fit. They are more resilient to temperature and humidity changes. They are also far more portable.
Why Are Grand Pianos So . . . Grand?
Within the two main types of pianos, there are subsets. In acoustic pianos, there are horizontal pianos (commonly called grand pianos), and vertical pianos. Within those subsets, they can be further broken down. Horizontal pianos come in a range of sizes:
- the petite (4’5’ to 4’10’)
- the baby (4’11” to 5’6”)
- the medium (5’11”)
- the parlor (5’9” to 6’1”)
- the ballroom (6’2’ to 7’)
- concert grand (9’)
The concert grand is the largest of the grand pianos and is the piano that most people picture when they think of a grand piano. A highly polished, glossy black beauty measuring over 9 feet in length. The size is not all about stage presence either. The largest of the grand pianos, it is commonly used in symphonies and concert halls due to the depth and range of volume that can be produced on a concert grand. The longer strings allow for both softer and louder tones than its smaller grand piano counterparts.
Now that you’ve been convinced that the concert grand is by far the most superior instrument among the pianos, don’t throw out every other option. Although the concert grand produces a sound fit for a concert hall, it may not be the right fit for the acoustics of your space (not to mention available space). The petite grand and baby grand both produce music that will enchant and enthrall your audience.
You should not rule out vertical pianos at this point. Although smaller than their horizontal siblings, they are still quite enjoyable to play and listen to. There are also several varieties of vertical pianos.
- The spinet is the smallest of the group at a height of 37’
- The console is 40” to 43”
- The studio ranges from 45” to 45:
- And the upright, the largest of the vertical pianos, is 50 – 60”
All vertical pianos have approximately the same width of 58’. The hugely popular player piano falls in the tallest category, the upright. Height, width, and depth all need to be taken into account when you begin searching for your piano.
A Sound That Suits You
It’s wise to spend some time in your local piano store that boasts a wide selection of pianos to sample. You will quickly hear the different tones produced by the various styles of vertical and horizontal pianos mentioned above. Shorter vertical pianos will have a markedly more subdued sound. The tone will vary based on the quality of the materials used, among several other factors. You will hear everything from melodious and smooth to metallic and tinny. Many of these various sound styles are featured in specific genres of music. If you lean more towards classical music, you may want to consider a smoother sound. If you have a flare of country and honky tonk, the tinny sound may be more appealing.
If you are looking to produce more sounds than just those made by hammer striking string, you will definitely find yourself considering a wide range of digital pianos. Most digital pianos come with samplings of more than just piano sounds. Most can produce 16 or more other instrumental sounds, from strings to woodwinds to choir. Digital pianos can also be quite complex with regards to their technology and available features.
Will It Fit?
Another aspect of pianos that you need to consider is their sheer size, and where you are going to place your piano in your home. If you are leaning towards an acoustic piano, be aware that ideally, they need to be kept between 40% and 70% relative humidity, and will hold their tune and sound the best when kept at a constant temperature of 68°. For these reasons, placing an acoustic piano against an outside wall, especially a wall with a window, is not ideal for these instruments. The outside walls of your home tend to fluctuate more in temperature, and you will find your piano needs more frequent tuning. If the humidity fluctuates too low or too high, the wooden case of your piano will shrink and expand, causing gaps in the case, and negatively impacting the sound quality of your instrument.
If you are dealing with a smaller space, or if the space is dual purpose, you may want to consider a digital piano. Some digital pianos are designed to look very similar to their acoustic counterparts. They are intended to be set up and then left. They can more easily be moved and rearranged and can be placed on an outside wall, but they are not designed to be disassembled and reassembled repeatedly. Other digital pianos are fashioned with mobility in mind. They can be set up in minutes on a folding stand, and can just as quickly be taken down and stored when not in use.
Before heading out to the store, choose the location for your piano, and measure it, including room for the piano bench, to make sure you know what will fit in your space.
Where Are You Going?
How do you envision yourself using your piano? Will you primarily be playing it for your own personal enjoyment? Do you imagine yourself playing for friends and family? Are you hoping to join a band? Do you want to play for special events? If you have the space, and you don’t plan on playing away from your home very often, an acoustic piano may be right for you.
If you dream of taking your show on the road and want to be able to set up anywhere, anytime, you are probably going to be looking at digital pianos of the more mobile variety. There are custom-made bags that will protect your precious instrument in transit, and make it much easier to carry and set up.
How Does It Look?
What words would you use to describe yourself? Traditional? Practical? Modern? What types of furniture styles are you drawn to? Because, in addition to being a beautiful instrument, pianos are also works of art, and worthy of display. With all the numerous types of pianos available, you need to consider how this instrument will fit into the aesthetic of your space. Aside from the different styles and sizes of pianos, they also come in a variety of finishes. There’s the classic high gloss black of the grand piano and the medium oak of a console piano. You can find pianos with a dark cherry stain and pianos that are stained a light blonde. Consider your space, and choose the piano that is going to compliment your style.
Time to Talk Tender (You Know… Money??)
Pianos have a wide price range. It’s important to establish your budget before setting foot in the store. But how do you do that without having any idea what a piano costs? There is something for every budget. So, don’t get discouraged. The beautiful 9-foot concert grands we were talking about a bit ago start in the low $20,000s. If that’s not really in your budget, never fear. The smaller baby grand and petite grand are still both beautiful works of art, and much more affordable. You can find those starting at around the $2,000 mark for an entry-level. The range of prices is just as wide on the digital piano side of things. You can buy an entry-level digital piano for under $1000. But, you can easily spend upwards of $10,000 or more when you really start getting into the bells and whistles. And remember, there is a very large used piano selection available. Now that you’ve set your budget, it’s time to start shopping.
Where can you go to test all the various styles of pianos, hear their various tones, and see for yourself what style, size, and type you want? Where can you see both new and used pianos, acoustic and digital? Where can you find helpful staff that are piano experts, and can help you find the piano that is right for you? Is there a piano store in Northern Utah that can do all of this? The Ogden Piano Gallery has it all under one roof. Come in today and find the piano that your heart is longing to play.