The first piano was built around 1700, but underwent several adjustments in the first 150 years or so. These days the piano is fairly basic but there are electronic varieties to choose from as well as the traditional varieties. I’m a fan of the electric digital piano because I don’t like having to get a piano tuned. Of course, the down side of an electric piano is obvious. If there is a power failure, I won’t be able to play. Bummer.
In the nineteenth century the piano became the primary source of home entertainment, and learning to play became an important part of childhood education. The United States developed as a major producer of the instrument, with early centers in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York making instruments for a seemingly infinite domestic market. By the second half of the twentieth century, however, other forms of home entertainment that competed with the piano led to its decline from the once-ubiquitous place it held in culture, though the instrument is still to be found in many homes and most public buildings.
Kids today are entertained with an X-box.
Pianos have two basic categories: the vertical and horizontal pianos. Let’s take a look at them – from smallest to largest.
Vertical Pianos – They are called vertical pianos because of their height and the position of the strings. The height of this kind of piano range from 36 to 60 inches. There are 4 types:
- Spinet – With its height of around 36 to 38 inches, and an approximate width of 58 inches, spinets are the smallest of the pianos. Given its size, it is the popular choice of many people who live in limited living spaces such as apartments. One noted downside of spinets is called “lost motion,” which means it has less power and accuracy due to its size and construction. Most children learn on a spinet. After all, you don’t want to invest a fortune just to discover your child will not follow through.
- Console – Slightly larger than the spinet, its height ranges from 40 to 43 inches and is approximately 58 inches wide. This type of piano comes in various styles and finishes. So if you’re particular about your furniture complementing, consoles give you a variety of choices. It’s made with a direct action, thus producing more enhanced tones. My folks gave me a console once I was asked to be church pianist.
- Studio – This is the kind of piano you usually see in music schools and music studios. It is around 45 to 48 inches in height and has a width of approximately 58 inches. Because of its larger soundboard and longer strings, it produces good tone quality and is very durable. These instruments can withstand hours of use per week.
- Upright – This is the tallest among the vertical pianos, with a height ranging from 50 to 60 inches and an approximate width of 58 inches. This is the type of piano your great grandparents or grandparents used to play. When cared for properly, it stands the test of time and maintains its rich tone. That means you need to get it tuned once a year.
Horizontal Pianos – Also known as grand pianos. They are called horizontal pianos because of their length and the placement of their strings. Grand pianos are said to produce finer tones and has the most responsive key action. There are 6 basic types:
- Petite Grand – This is the smallest of the horizontal pianos. It ranges in size from 4 feet 5 inches to 4 feet 10 inches. It is indeed small but still powerful.
- Baby Grand – A very popular type of piano which ranges in size from 4 feet 11 inches to 5 feet 6 inches. Baby grands is a popular choice because of its sound quality, aesthetic appeal and affordability. I recently saw a white Baby Grand, but I believe I like the black ones better.
- Medium Grand – Larger than the baby grand at around 5 feet and 7 inches.
- Parlor Grand – These ranges in size from 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet 1 inch. The parlor grand piano is also called living room grand piano.
- Semiconcert or Ballroom – It is approximately 6 feet 2 inches to 7 feet long.
- Concert Grand – At around 9 feet, this is the largest of all the grand pianos.
I only had the privilege of playing a Concert Grand one time. It was like driving a luxury vehicle as opposed to a junk car. There’s no greater joy than to play an instrument that is tuned and in good repair. When the key response of the piano works with you, there’s just nothing that brings more satisfaction. Steinway, Baldwin, Yamaha and Kawai are all very good brands.
For years my favorite piano was my Japanese Yamaha Console – (it had a distinctive little mark on the right side). As it got older and in need of repair, I sold it and bought a gently used Yamaha Clavinova. It has all different sounds and never needs tuned… boom! The key response is excellent as well, which makes me very happy.
Here’s to pianists everywhere – and here’s to great pianos! 🙂