The Different Types of Pianos to Be Aware Of

back view photo of a man playing a black grand piano
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When it comes to music, very few instruments can replicate what the piano does. While it is possible to purchase digital keyboards, there’s nothing like a traditional piano. Of course, there are a number of pianos available, so if you’re looking for a new piano, there is something out there for you; it depends on how much room you have and the amount of money you’re willing to pay. When shopping for pianos, here are the different types of pianos you should keep in mind.

What Should You Look for in a Piano?

The right piano for you comes down to what you’re looking to use it for. As you check out the different pianos, you’ll see it is important to keep three key factors in mind. Not many instruments compete with the piano in terms of price. That is because the piano isn’t just an instrument. It very much is a showpiece and a piece of furniture.

Price

The right kind of piano is going to fit into your budget. There is an incredible range of price when it comes to
all types of pianos. You can purchase a decent used keyboard for around $100. From there you may end up spending tens of thousands of dollars on a larger piano. If you’re experimenting with musical instruments, either for yourself or for a child, it’s a better idea to start off with the keyboards on the lower spectrum of the price point, and then go for something larger and more expensive should you find out this is the right instrument for you.

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Size

The different types of pianos don’t just vary wildly in terms of price, but also in terms of size. A digital piano can be folded up and slid under your bed for easy storage. Then you have upright pianos that are great for pushing against walls. Some digital pianos can be built into an upright design. From there, you can go larger with a baby grand or a grand piano. These are large pianos that will require the majority of a room with the amount of space. Unless you have a home where you can devote an entire room to the piano, chances are grand or baby grand pianos are simply too large for the amount of space you have.

piano key inside piano keys music
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Number of Keys

The number of keys on a piano can vary somewhat based on what you’re shopping for. The traditional, classic piano has a total of 88 keys (52 white and 36 black). The 88 keys give you a total of seven octaves plus a minor third. However, if you’re shopping around for older pianos, you’ll find some have only 85 keys, giving you a full seven octaves but not the minor third.

There are a handful of older manufacturers that sell different sized keyboards, with a handful going well over the 88 key design. Stuart & Sons, for example, built a 102 key piano, while Imperial Bosendorfer built a 97 key piano. Many of these older antique pianos will feature a secondary lid that goes over these extra keys. This way, if you want to play with the regular 88 key design you can do this, but if you want a more extensive piano, you can open the lid. This is an interesting feature to have, but if you’re playing from sheet music, almost none of the music you have access to will include notes from these added keys.

Many digital keyboards will have fewer keys. You might find a keyboard with 76 keys or some that move into the 60s (or lower). If you want the full playing experience, you will want to go with the full 88 key design, but it is important to know smaller designs are options.

types of pianos: digital piano
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When Looking at Digital Pianos

Digital pianos have some unique features that will depend on the sound and feel you’re going for. If you’re just trying to learn keys and how to play, it won’t matter as much, but if you want your digital piano to replicate that of a real piano, there are some features that are especially important.

If you’ve ever talked about playing a digital piano with someone who was trained on an acoustic piano, they will tell you the biggest difference is the overall feel with the keys. Digital keys work very much like a computer keyboard. The keys are compressed and an electric signal is activated, creating the note. That differs from how an acoustic piano works. With an acoustic piano, the key pushes down a hammer on the interior of the instrument which then strikes a string. The harder a key is pressed the harder the hammer strikes the key and the louder a note is played.

With this in mind, there are digital keyboards that featured “weighted” keys. This is designed to give more of a real piano feel to it. If you’re looking for a real piano feel and sound it’s best to go hands-on with the digital piano before buying it. This way, you’ll know just how much it’s like an acoustic piano.

What Types of Pianos Are on the Market?

When searching for different types of pianos, you’ll want to know what kind of options are available. The right piano is the one that fits into your budget (and your house), so keep these different styles and builds in mind.

types of pianos: grand piano
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Grand Piano

In terms of size, grand pianos are by far the largest types of pianos. Naturally, there are always specialty pianos, such as grand pianos with two keyboards or the pianos with well over 100 keys, so the sizes can vary some, but the grand piano is the largest. The grand piano places the strings of the piano horizontally. The strings are longer and will produce louder, richer sounds than any other piano option. The top of the piano can also be opened or closed based on how full someone wants the music to be. There are also three basic size designs of the grand piano.

The concert grand piano is the largest of the three which measures between 7 and nearly 10 feet in length. The next size is known as the parlor grand (or the boudoir grand). This measures just over 5 to just over 7 feet in size. The third option is the baby grand which is popular for individuals who want a grand piano but who don’t have the room in their home for the larger options. This piano is usually just under 5 feet in length.

types of pianos: classical vintage
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Upright

The most common traditional piano found in homes is the upright piano. This is also referred to as a vertical piano. These types of pianos are compact and, while they do not give the full sound of a grand, it is an excellent piano to have in homes with the traditional string design, the lower price point, and the reduced amount of space it takes up (although these pianos are still extremely heavy).

The hammers are located vertically instead of horizontally. Because of this, an upright piano is more likely to need tuning (the hammers are more likely to slip out of proper alignment as the weight of the hammer pulls down on it).

There are three types of pianos for the upright category. There is the studio cabinet, which is between 42 and 45 inches in height. This is the shortest upright piano that uses full-sized hammers. The next option is the console piano, which uses shorter hammers and is slightly shorter than studios. Then there is the spinet upright, on which the hammers are below the keys.

types of pianos: digital piano
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Digital Pianos

Digital pianos come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Some electric pianos are designed specifically to have an electric sound to it, while others are designed to mimic regular pianos. If there is a sound, shape, or size of digital piano you’re looking for, you’ll find it available.

Features

Beyond the size, the price, and whether you want a digital or traditional piano, there are a few other features to consider. First, there are hybrid features that use an acoustic design and run everything through a digital recorder. This is great if you want to record what you’re playing to then download it to a computer.

You’ll also want to consider the pedals. Many digital pianos do not come with pedals, or at most may come with one pedal. Regular acoustic pianos use three pedals (which will mute and sustain selected notes). If you buy a digital piano, you’ll probably need to purchase secondary pedals to add these features.

Conclusion

There is no limit to the types of pianos available. Whether you want a digital compact piano or a full-size grand piano, you’ll always discover there are a number of options that will fit your needs. You just need to make sure and keep in mind exactly what you’re looking for, the amount of space you have, and the amount of money you have to spend.

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