If you have ever wondered about the different upright piano types, read this article for some interesting information.
Broadly defined, there are two basic piano categories: horizontal and vertical.
- Horizontal pianos, also known as grand pianos, have strings laid horizontally in the sound chamber, and hammers strike the strings from button up.
- In contrast, vertical pianos have upright sound chambers with strings constructed vertically, hence the name upright pianos. Interestingly, vertical pianos have hammers that hit the strings horizontally.
The grand piano category has grand pianos and baby grand pianos based on size. Similarly, upright pianos have four different styles due to their height. From smallest to largest, they are:
- Spinet height 36″ – 40″ (91 cm – 101 cm)
- Console height 40″ – 45″ (102 cm – 114 cm)
- Studio height 45″ – 50″ ( 115 cm – 126 cm)
- Upright Piano height >= 50″ (>= 127 cm)
A Brief History
The modern piano was invented about 300 hundred years ago by Bartolomeo Cristofori. Back then, pianos were horizontal instruments because harpsichords inspired them.
In the late 1700s, some innovative piano makers built upright pianos with a diagonal string layout in vertical sound chambers. Since then, upright pianos have become very popular due to their compact size and usually lower cost.
Spinet Upright Piano Type
Spinet is the smallest of all upright piano types. The height of spinets is between 36″ and 40″. While spinets are no longer manufactured, you can still find used ones in piano shops. You may find some spinets made in the mid-century 1900s and sell for $1500 to $3000, depending on the models and qualities.
The compact design and size make spinet pianos ideal for small apartments. With their relatively lower price, spinets were popular in Europe and America in the 1930s.
On the other hand, spinets do not offer space for the action above the keyboards; instead, the hammer action is below the keyboard using vertical wires attached to the backs of the keys. This is also known as the drop action mechanism. Only the spinets have this kind of drop action. Because of the drop action, the sound qualities of spinets are not as good as other types of upright pianos.
The console-style upright pianos are taller than the spinets, with a height between 40″ and 45″. The additional space affords the full-sized action directly above the keys, making the piano sound much better than the spinets.
Console pianos are very popular for home use because they can also be beautiful furniture for any living room. They have a nice sound and good action that are perfect for beginners or someone who plays piano as a hobby. They usually have an affordable price tag, whether a previous-owned or new piece, ranging from $2000 to $5000.
The term console style is also commonly used in many digital piano models. Digital pianos do not require a large sound chamber for strings, hammers, and sound resonance, just enough room for speakers; therefore, the backs of the digital pianos are low and similar in size to the console-style upright piano.
Studio Upright Piano Type
The studio, or called institutional, upright piano type, is commonly used in schools, teaching studios, and worship houses. This type of upright piano is taller than the console style and normally has a height of 45″ to 50″. With their larger size, they do come with better sounds and actions. They are also slightly more expensive than console pianos.
The upright pianos with heights equal to or greater than 50″ are considered full-size upright pianos, also known as professional uprights. They are probably the most common type of vertical piano, and people call them upright pianos.
It goes without saying they are the most expensive vertical pianos and are ideal for professional musicians and pianists. Since these are the largest vertical pianos, they come with larger soundboards for sound resonance, producing high-quality sound.
Even though professional upright pianos cost more than other vertical pianos, they can last for a long time with proper maintenance.
While the back of the different style upright pianos come with various heights, the height of a piano keyboard is still within the normal range of 28 ~ 30 inches from the floor to the top of the white keys. This height suits most adult players.
Although you may purchase any one type of upright piano, I think you may want to avoid the spinets. Since spinets are no longer manufactured, finding service and parts for replacement could not be easy. Like any purchase, it is truly a personal choice. Knowing the different upright piano types will help you make an educated choice and find a piano that best fits your goals and budget.