What Different Types of Pianos Are There?

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The different types of pianos offer a variety of styles, ambiance, tone, and feel to cater to any individual’s personal preference.  When considering purchasing a piano, take into account the reason for the piano, the space you have available and, of course, the price range that is affordable.

Here is an overview of various piano types, each of which, has its own pro’s and con’s.

The Pianoforte:

The first piano was called the pianoforte and was fashioned by Bartolomeo Cristofori in 1698.  Cristofori was an Italian instrument maker and it was his pianoforte which served the likes of Mozart and Beethoven as they became inspired and wrote and played their timeless piano masterpieces.  In fact, the pianoforte was already more than 100 years old by the time Beethoven was writing his last sonatas.   Pianofortes, which evolved from the harpsichord, did not gain noticeable popularity in Europe until the 1760’s.

As time marched on and as the industrial revolution ensued, piano technology kept pace; and improvements to the piano made themselves known:  new, high-quality piano wire, precise cast-iron frames and the ability to increase the tonal range from the five octaves of the pianoforte to seven or more octaves on newer pianos.  All this was, indeed, very exciting!

The Upright Piano:

A gentleman by the name of Johann Schmidt from Austria is credited for the upright piano (aka: vertical piano) which emerged around 1780.  About twenty years later, Thomas Loud of London added an improvement to Schmidt’s creation.  Loud’s new and improved version had strings that ran diagonally.

Upright pianos that are manufactured today have strings that are arranged running up and down along the piano’s back.   There are a variety of upright pianos to choose from:

1:  The Spinet or Apartment Piano:

The Spinet or Apartment piano is the smallest of the uprights and measures at only 58” wide and 36” to 40” high.  A drawback of a spinet, however, lies with the tone quality which is poor when compared to larger uprights.  The small strings of the spinet contribute to the compromised sound quality.

2:  The Console Piano:

If one desires an upright piano that is slightly larger, the console piano is a nice option since if offers a richer sound than the spinets and is available in more finishes and styles.   Consoles are anywhere from 40 to 45” high.

3:  The Studio Piano:

A type of upright that is commonly found in churches, schools, or vocal studios is, well, the studio piano.    At 44 to 47” high, the studio has a sound quality that rivals a baby grand.  This is due to the studio pianos having longer strings and a larger soundboard.

4:  The Upright Grand:

Out of all the upright pianos, the Upright Grand can stand a full 60” tall and boasts of possessing the richest and strongest sound of all the verticals.

The Player Piano:

Just a brief history and a little FYI:  A player piano is a self-playing instrument that contains an electro-mechanical mechanism that operates the action of the piano.   This type of piano was very popular in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries and sales really peaked in the mid 1920’s.  The stock market crash of 1929,  however, pretty much wiped out production of this unusual musical piece.

With all that being said, let’s fast forward to 1881 and take a big skip across the Atlantic Ocean to Cambridge, Massachusetts.  John McTammany  received a patent for the first player piano he dubbed, a “mechanical musical instrument” which utilized narrow sheets of flexible, perforated paper designed to automatically trigger the notes.  Eight years later, a man by the name of William Flemming received a patent for a piano player that could be operated through the use of electricity.

The Horizontal Piano:

Horizontal pianos have all the fun!  The strings of the horizontal pianos are arranged parallel to the floor.  They are the pianos chosen for concerts or symphonies; and the sound?—let’s just say the horizontals give the best sound possible—the richest and the strongest!  For this reason, professional musicians such as Billy Joel and Elton John prefer these gems.

Several types of horizontal pianos include:

1:  The Petite Grand:

The smallest of the horizontal pianos is the Petite Grand and it lives up to its name since it is a mere 4 to 5 feet long and fits beautifully in small spaces.

2:  The Ballroom Grand Piano:

The next step up in size and, also, the largest of the horizontals is the Ballroom Grand piano which is almost 7 feet in length and also called the Semi-Concert Grand piano.    Orchestras or large concerts utilize this type of horizontal since the 9-foot long strings create a robust tone that caters to very large rooms and large audiences.


The larger the piano, the louder and richer the sound created; and modern pianos can also produce sound electronically.  But no matter what type of piano you might choose, just love it for what it is—a delightful and magnificent musical instrument designed to enrich our world with the beauty of music– whether it is produced by a 6-year old just beginning to understand the keys or a 60-year old who wants to feel like a kid again.   A world filled with piano melodies is a more beautiful world, indeed!  You can bring your own melodies into the world by visiting Play By Hear.


About this post:

As the asst. administrator for a search engine marketing organization, Daniel Holdeman functions as a visiting poster so as to benefit companies within the United States. He works in The City of Angels, and is delighting in these days along with his pleasant better half and their three squirts. Mr. D encourages readers to visit his Google Plus area at some point.

Guest AuthorWhat Different Types of Pianos Are There?

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