It can be confusing regarding spinet vs upright piano because upright piano may broadly refer to all vertical pianos. On the other hand, the upright piano may also refer to one of the vertical pianos.
In our article Upright Piano Types, we discussed four types of vertical pianos: spinet, console, studio, and upright (a.k.a. professional) pianos.
To clarify the matter, let’s establish a ground rule for our discussion here: spinet piano is one of the four types in the vertical piano category, also known as the upright piano category
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What is a Spinet Piano?
A spinet piano is a smaller type of upright piano characterized by its compact size and unique construction. It typically measures around 36 to 40 inches, shorter than traditional upright pianos.
Since a console piano is not much taller than a spinet, they look very similar. People may think they are the same. However, there is a fundamental difference between spinet pianos and other types of upright pianos.
The distinguishing feature of a spinet piano is its drop action mechanism, where the keys are connected to the hammers at an angle, causing them to drop vertically rather than horizontally when pressed. This design allows for the piano’s compact size but can result in a different touch and feel than the larger upright pianos.
The larger upright pianos have full-length keys that connect directly to the hammer action; hence generally the superior action.
History of Spinet Pianos
The spinet piano has a fascinating history that dates back several centuries. Its history can trace back to the early harpsichords of the late Renaissance and Baroque periods. Harpsichords were popular keyboard instruments known for their plucked string sound.
The spinet, a smaller version of the harpsichord, emerged in the late 17th century and featured a more compact size and a different mechanism for producing sound.
The spinet piano gained popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially in homes with limited space. They were more affordable than larger pianos. Many renowned piano manufacturers, such as Broadwood, Erard, and Steinway, produced spinet pianos alongside their larger models.
As the 20th century progressed, the spinet piano’s popularity declined. This was partly due to advancements in upright piano designs that provided better sound quality and touch while maintaining a compact size. The introduction of the console piano, a slightly larger upright piano, further diminished the demand for spinets.
Are Spinet Piano Still Made?
Spinet pianos were once popular due to their affordability and space-saving design. However, people generally regard spinets with a lesser quality of sound and touch than larger upright or grand pianos. Their popularity has decreased in recent years.
Today, spinet pianos are not manufactured and are often found in antique or vintage piano collections. While they may not be as highly regarded for their sound and touch as larger upright pianos, they still hold historical and nostalgic value for some piano enthusiasts.
What to Know Before Buying A Spinet?
When you come across a spinet-like piano, make sure it is truly a spinet, not a console piano by checking the drop action.
If you are seriously considering buying a spinet piano, there are several important factors to keep in mind.
Sound Quality and Touch
It’s important to understand that spinet pianos generally have a different sound and touch compared to larger upright. The shorter string length and shorter keys with unique action mechanisms can result in a less dynamic and less responsive playing experience.
Condition and Maintenance
Since spinet pianos were popular in the mid-20th century, many of them are now considered vintage or antique instruments. Assess the condition of the piano carefully. Also, pay attention to factors such as the condition of the strings, hammers, and overall structural integrity.
Additionally, inquire about the piano’s maintenance history and any necessary repairs or restoration it may require. Generally speaking, spinet action maintenance cost is higher than other upright pianos because of its drop action is harder to fix and adjust.
Price and Value
Spinet pianos are normally more affordable compared to larger pianos, but prices can vary based on factors such as brand, age, condition, and location. Research the market value of spinet pianos to ensure that you are paying a fair price for the instrument.
Also, consider your long-term musical goals and whether a spinet piano will fulfill your needs or if a larger upright or a digital piano would be more appropriate.
To summarize, when we talk about spinet vs upright piano, it is really about this specific small upright piano with drop action. No manufacturer produces spinets anymore, however, you still can find them in antique or piano dealers, or private sellers.
Just like shopping for any piano, when you buy a spinet, play the spinet piano you are interested in. It allows you to assess the sound and touch qualities and determine if they meet your musical expectations. Moreover, pay close attention to the condition of the instrument, since a spinet requires a higher maintenance cost than a larger upright.
It is advisable to have an experienced piano technician or tuner assess the piano before making a purchase. They can provide insights into the instrument’s condition, potential repairs, and overall value.
By understanding the differences between a spinet vs upright piano, you can make an informed decision when buying a spinet piano that best suits your needs and musical aspirations. Additionally, taking impact factors into account and conducting thorough research will get you on the right path.
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