Comparing Different Types and Sizes of Pianos

USA, Utah, Lehi, Young woman hands playing piano
Tetra Images - Mike Kemp/ Brand X Pictures/ Getty Images

The piano comes in many different styles, designs, shapes and sizes, which fit into two basic categories: vertical and horizontal pianos.

Vertical Pianos

They are called vertical pianos because of their height and the position of the strings. The height of this kind of piano ranges from 36 to 60 inches. There are 4 types:

Spinet - With its height of around 36 to 38 inches, and an approximate width of 58 inches, spinets are the smallest of the pianos. Given its size, it is the popular choice of many people who live in limited living spaces such as apartments. One noted downside of spinets is called "lost motion," which means it has less power and accuracy due to its size and construction.

Console - Slightly larger than the spinet, its height ranges from 40 to 43 inches and is approximately 58 inches wide. This type of piano comes in various styles and finishes. So if you're particular about your furniture complementing, consoles give you a variety of choices. It's made with a direct action, thus producing more enhanced tones.

Studio - This is the kind of piano you usually see in music schools and music studios. It is around 45 to 48 inches in height and has a width of approximately 58 inches. Because of its larger soundboard and longer strings, it produces good tone quality and is very durable.

Upright - This is the tallest among the vertical pianos, with a height ranging from 50 to 60 inches and an approximate width of 58 inches. This is the type of piano your great grandparents or grandparents used to play. When cared for properly, it stands the test of time and maintains its rich tone.

Horizontal Pianos

Also known as grand pianos. They are called horizontal pianos because of their length and the placement of their strings. Grand pianos are said to produce finer tones and have the most responsive key action. There are 6 basic types:

Petite Grand - This is the smallest of the horizontal pianos. It ranges in size from 4 feet 5 inches to 4 feet 10 inches. It is indeed small but still powerful.

Baby Grand - A very popular type of piano which ranges in size from 4 feet 11 inches to 5 feet 6 inches. Baby grands is a popular choice because of its sound quality, aesthetic appeal and affordability.

Medium Grand - Larger than the baby grand at around 5 feet and 7 inches.

Parlor Grand - These ranges in size from 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet 1 inch. The parlor grand piano is also called living room grand piano.

Semiconcert or Ballroom - Next size up from the Parlor Grand piano, it is approximately 6 feet 2 inches to 7 feet long.

Concert Grand - At around 9 feet, this is the largest of all the grand pianos.

Note: All sizes are approximations.

Other Piano Differences

In addition to the dimensions, different styles of pianos vary in their number of pedals and sometimes, their number of keys. Most pianos have 88 keys, though some older pianos have 85 keys, and some manufacturers make pianos that include additional keys (notably, Bösendorfer). Most contemporary American pianos have three pedals: una corde, sostenuto, and damper. European pianos tend to have two pedals. Many older pianos smaller than grands have only two pedals. Some rarer instruments have additional pedals, or pedals with different functions, such as transposition.

Note that this article addresses only contemporary acoustic pianos intended for performance—a wonderful instrument, to be sure, but one that has many predecessors and cousins. There are also electric pianos, player pianos, and a great number of other similar keyboard instruments, including fortepianos and other historical instruments, practice pianos (smaller instruments, with fewer keys), harpsichords, virginals, and a wide variety of organs.