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Striking the Right Key: Finding a Piano That's in Tune with Your Home

Sam playing As Time Goes By for Rick in his Casablanca bar.

Josh playing chopsticks with CEO MacMillan on a giant keyboard in Big.

Daffy and Donald Duck battling it out on the piano in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Elton John, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder and Lady Gaga all wow stadiums with their piano skills. And concert halls around the world hush when Jan Lisiecki, Denis Matsuev and Yuja Wang take their places at their instruments.

Finding a piano.

As you can tell from the examples above, the piano plays an important role in our culture. In fact, a piano can almost become a character in its own right when in the hands—or at the feet—of a true virtuoso, real or fictional. Maybe that's why thousands of people around the world play or want to learn to play the piano. And since practice makes perfect, it's only logical to want your own instrument in your home. But with so many different kinds and sizes, how do you know which piano best fits your home and your lifestyle?

Upright or Grand?

The first question that springs to mind is whether to buy an upright or a grand. Though both are about 60 inches wide (the width of the keyboard), there are differences in the height and length. Let's take a look at both types.

  • Upright. Upright or vertical pianos are designed for smaller rooms. Since their strings are placed vertically and the top or front of the instrument can open for extra resonance, they can easily be placed against a wall. Their sizes range from the short Spinet (from 36 inches) to Professional (maximum 52 inches).
  • Grand. Grand pianos are the large, wing-shaped instruments you see in concerts. They're strung horizontally and designed to be opened to expose the strings for greater resonance. They range from the Baby Grand (starting at five feet) to the Concert Grand, which is an amazing 9 feet in length.

The world-renowned piano makers Steinway and Sons provide a good overview of the different types and sizes of pianos. Use it as a quick reference guide when checking the measurements against the space your piano will be occupying.

Size and Sound

Since the size of a piano determines the volume and sound quality, it's important to choose an instrument appropriate for the room it will be in. Piano Buyer explains small rooms can't absorb the sonic energy emitted by pianos larger than six feet. That means no matter how good your piano or you're playing, a space not large enough to accommodate the resonance of a larger instrument will detract from the tonal quality and as a result, your enjoyment. So even if an instrument sounds fantastic when you play it in the showroom, bear in mind most showrooms are larger than your rooms at home.

In general, it's safe to say if you live in an apartment or closely adjacent to neighbors, uprights like the Spinet, Console and Studio are the most practical choices in terms of size, volume and sound quality. If you live in a small to medium sized home, both the Baby Grand and Medium Grand are options. For larger homes, you can even consider a Living Room Grand or a Parlor Grand.

Invest some time and research to select the right instrument for your life. Because when cared for properly, a piano can bring you years of harmonious enjoyment as time goes by!

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