In this article, I am going to show you all the types of pianos with examples so you can make a better judgement as to what type of piano you want to use when writing piano music.
Grand pianos are the "Rolls Royce" of the piano world. The piano that everyone sees being played in concerts and heard recorded on famous records and for good reason.
The Grand Piano is a beautiful instrument with rich and complex tonal qualities that are put to good use in the vast array of compositions written for it.
They typically have 88 keys, covering a wide range of seven octaves and three extra notes (A0 to C8).
Grand pianos come in various sizes, categorized into several types based on their length:
- Petite Grand: Usually under 5 feet in length.
- Baby Grand: Approximately 5 to 5.5 feet in length.
- Medium Grand: Typically around 5.5 to 6.5 feet in length.
- Parlour Grand: About 6.5 to 7 feet in length.
- Semi-Concert Grand: Approximately 7 to 8.5 feet in length.
- Concert Grand: Over 9 feet in length.
The dimensions affect the piano's sound and resonance, with larger grand pianos generally producing richer and more powerful tones.
Within the grand piano, the horizontal soundboard and strings running parallel to the keyboard allow for a more even distribution of sound, resulting in a well-rounded tone.
Grand pianos typically have three pedals:
- Sustain pedal (damper pedal): Allows the pianist to sustain notes.
- Soft pedal (una corda): Softens the volume and changes the tone.
- Sostenuto pedal: Sustains only selected notes, offering a unique expressive capability.
Grand pianos are often favoured for solo performances, chamber music, recordings, and concerts due to their exceptional sound quality and dynamic range.
Upright pianos, also known as vertical pianos, are a popular choice for many pianists and music enthusiasts.
You'll often find an upright piano in your local village hall or your Grandparent's house because they offer a space-saving design without compromising on musical quality.
Upright pianos can have 88 keys, covering the standard seven octaves and three extra notes (A0 to C8).
They offer a distinct tone that is different from grand pianos due to their vertical string arrangement.
While the tone may be more focused and less resonant than a grand piano, modern upright pianos are designed to produce a rich and pleasing sound. To be honest, I would choose an upright over a grand piano any day of the week.
I used my Fazer upright to compose, play and record all of my solo piano improvisations.
There are a few other, well-known upright pianos you may have heard of:
- A player piano, also known as a pianola, is a type of piano that can play music automatically using a piano roll without a pianist physically pressing the keys. You can watch this one playing The Entertainer
- A honky-tonk piano is a type of upright piano that is associated with the lively and upbeat music typically heard in honky-tonk bars and old-time saloons.
The electric piano is a musical keyboard instrument that produces sound through electronic amplification rather than traditional strings and hammers.
It was developed in the mid-20th century as a more portable and versatile alternative to acoustic pianos.
Electric pianos use various technologies, including electro-mechanical and digital systems, to generate and amplify sound. They come in a range of styles, from vintage models like the Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer to modern digital keyboards.
Electric pianos offer a wide variety of sounds, making them popular in various musical genres, including rock, jazz, and pop.
Modern digital electric pianos often come with features like weighted keys, touch sensitivity, and a wide selection of instrument sounds, making them versatile tools for musicians and performers.
Hybrid pianos combine the traditional acoustic piano with modern digital technology to offer a unique musical experience.
These instruments typically feature a real acoustic piano action and keyboard, paired with digital sound technology.
Hybrid pianos allow players to switch between the authentic acoustic piano sound and a variety of digital instrument sounds, making them versatile for different musical styles and settings.
Some models also offer recording and connectivity options, allowing musicians to connect to computers or other digital devices for music production or education.
Hybrid pianos bridge the gap between acoustic and digital pianos, providing the warm and expressive touch of an acoustic instrument with the convenience and versatility of digital technology.
Other Types of Pianos
There are a couple of lesser-known pianos that I think are well worth your attention.
The Square Piano
The square piano, characterized by its diagonal arrangement of horizontal strings, was popular from the 1760s to the 1860s.
It came in various designs and had various sound-altering features. By the 1830s, larger square grand pianos with enhanced mechanisms emerged and even square grand pianos.
Square pianos have a unique sound and playability and they're considered a distinct instrument from modern pianos.
Over time, they were replaced by space-efficient upright pianos. Despite their differences from modern pianos, square pianos have their own charm and history.
A toy piano is a small, simple, and colourful musical instrument designed for children to explore music in a fun and engaging way.
It is a simplified version of a standard piano and serves as an introduction to keyboard music.
Choosing the Right Piano
Now you know more about the different types of piano, you can feel more informed when choosing the right piano for your music. Woohoo!