What is the Difference Between an Upright Piano and a Grand Piano? A Guide

If you’re wondering “what is the difference between an upright piano and a grand piano?”, you’ve come to the right place. Understanding the distinction is crucial for both beginners and seasoned musicians. This article provides a step-by-step explanation to help you make an informed choice.

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What is an Upright Piano?

An upright piano, as its name suggests, stands upright and tall. The soundboard and strings are oriented vertically, parallel to the wall it’s often placed against.

This vertical orientation gives it a compact footprint, making it an ideal choice for smaller living spaces, such as apartments or modest homes.


The engineering behind an upright piano is a marvel of space optimization. While a grand piano lays out its internal workings horizontally, an upright piano stacks them vertically.


The pinblock in an upright piano is crucial for tuning stability. It holds the tuning pins in place, ensuring that the tension in the strings remains consistent over time. The quality of the pinblock material can impact the instrument’s overall longevity and sound quality.


The soundboard in an upright piano is smaller compared to that of a grand piano, but it is engineered to maximize its resonance within the limited space. The soundboard amplifies the vibrations from the strings, transforming them into the sound that fills the room.

Strings and Hammers

In an upright piano, the strings run vertically, and the hammers strike them from below. This efficient use of space is what makes it possible for the upright piano to fit into tighter spaces while still producing a good sound.

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The more compact dimensions of an upright piano make it a more portable option, but it’s essential to understand what that entails.


While still heavy, upright pianos are generally lighter than grand pianos, making them easier to lift and move. However, it’s still advised to enlist professional movers who specialize in piano transportation to avoid any damage.


The upright piano’s vertical orientation means its width and depth are much less than a grand piano, making it easier to fit through doorways and navigate around corners.

Transport Costs

Because they are smaller and lighter, upright pianos usually cost less to move. If you foresee needing to relocate your piano, either within your current home or to a new location, the upright’s portability can save you both effort and money.

Sound Limitations

It’s important to note that while upright pianos offer great sound quality for their size, they do have some limitations.

Resonance and Sustain

Due to the smaller soundboard and the vertical orientation of the strings, the resonance and sustain are generally less in an upright piano than in a grand.

This might be less of an issue for beginners or hobbyists but could be a deciding factor for more advanced players or professionals.

Tonal Quality

The compact size and construction also mean that upright pianos might not offer the same tonal richness and depth that you would expect from a grand piano. However, advances in materials and construction techniques are continually improving the sound quality of upright pianos.

Suitable Settings

While an upright may not be the first choice for a professional concert setting, it is often more than adequate for practice, smaller performances, and recreational playing.

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Another advantage of upright pianos is that they are generally more budget-friendly. They are manufactured with fewer materials, and their simpler construction often makes them less expensive than grand pianos.

What is a Grand Piano?

A grand piano distinguishes itself with its horizontal layout. The soundboard and strings run parallel to the floor, often resulting in a richer, more resonant sound. The extended area also allows for a larger soundboard and longer strings, contributing to its superior tonal quality.


In a grand piano, the internal construction features a more complex mechanism. The hammers strike the strings from below, just like in an upright piano, but the horizontal layout allows for a more nuanced control over the action, providing the pianist with a greater expressive range.

Space Requirements

Owning a grand piano is as much about having the space to accommodate it as it is about enjoying its musical capabilities. Due to their horizontal layout, grand pianos occupy a significant amount of floor space.

Room Dimensions

Before making your purchase, it’s essential to measure the room where you plan to place the piano. Standard grand pianos can range from approximately 4.5 to 9 feet in length. Ensure that the room can accommodate not only the piano itself but also leave space for comfortable movement around it.

Room Acoustics

The acoustics of the room are equally important. A room with a lot of soft furnishings may absorb sound, whereas a room with hard surfaces may cause the sound to reverberate too much. You might also consider hiring an acoustics expert for advice on optimizing your space for sound quality.

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Remember, grand pianos aren’t just large; they’re heavy. Think about the piano’s path from the delivery truck to its final location in your home. Ensure there are no logistical obstacles that could make the transport challenging.

Sound Excellence

The sound of a grand piano is what sets it apart and justifies its larger footprint and higher price.

Soundboard and Strings

The larger soundboard and the extended length of the strings contribute to producing a richer, more nuanced sound. These elements allow for greater vibration and resonance, which gives the grand piano its distinctive tonal quality.


Grand pianos offer an extensive range of sound dynamics—from pianissimo to fortissimo—that are hard to replicate on an upright piano. This range gives the musician a broader scope for expression, making it ideal for both classical and contemporary music.

Professional Use

Due to these advantages, grand pianos are often the instrument of choice for concerts, professional recordings, and music schools. Their superior sound quality meets the demands of professional musicians who require a high level of nuance in their performances.

Premium Investment

Purchasing a grand piano is a significant investment, both financially and spatially.

Material and Craftsmanship

Grand pianos are often made with high-quality materials, including superior wood for the casing and soundboard, and high-grade steel for the strings. The craftsmanship involved is labor-intensive, contributing to the higher cost.

Resale Value

On the bright side, a well-maintained grand piano holds its value well and could even appreciate over time. This makes it not just a purchase but an investment that could benefit future generations.

Additional Costs

Don’t forget to factor in ongoing maintenance costs, including tuning and potential repairs, as well as any initial costs like delivery and installation.

For more articles on piano questions, click here: Piano Questions: Your Ultimate Guide to Understanding All About Pianos

Conclusion: What is the Difference Between an Upright Piano and a Grand Piano?

Whether you should go for an upright or a grand piano depends on various factors including the space you have, your budget, and your sound quality requirements. Knowing the difference between an upright piano and a grand piano can help you make an educated decision that suits your needs.

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