A grand piano is a piano that has its strings and soundboard parallel to the floor.

Advantages:

Grand pianos are considered to be better than upright pianos (which have strings perpendicular to floor) for a few reasons:

  1. Sound - Longer bass strings - Grand pianos larger than 6' in length have longer bass strings than uprights. The tone of a piano depends greatly on the length of the strings and longer is better (generally). Also, the horizontal soundboard produces a sound that is more "full".
  2. Feel - Superior roller action - The "action" mechanism (or moving parts that rest on the back end of the keys) gives a much better playing response than even the best uprights (which have a vertical action). The horizontal action has a distict feel. The keys feel balanced rather than springy and the action is much less likely to develop a sticky feel.
  3. Look - Aesthetic appeal - The grand piano is often thought of as a good looking piece of furniture with its large amount of wood, the curved shape of the soundboard, and the impressive lid prop. Many homes and businesses have grand pianos in them for the sole purpose of showing off a nice piece of furniture.

Disadvantages:

  1. Price - You can easily spend over $60,000 when purchasing a fine concert grand and even a low end baby grand can run you over $10,000. This simple fact alone prevents most people from purchasing one. An upright can be had for nearly 1/4th of the price.
  2. Size - It takes a very large room to accommodate a grand piano. The full rich sound of the instrument requires plenty of space around it in addition to its already larger girth. The weight can also make moving them into a space quite difficult. You'll find most grands weigh over five hundred pounds and can be as much as thirteen hundred pounds. A strong and stable floor is required.

Other features:

Nearly all grand pianos have 88 keys, including 36 that are black keys (or sharps). There are also a few made with 85 keys and one, the Bosendorfer 9'6" concert grand, has 97 keys.

On models with two pedals the left one is the soft pedal and the right pedal is the sustain pedal. The soft pedal shifts the entire "action" mechanism slightly to one side causing the hammers to only partially strike the strings. (An upright's soft pedal works by moving the "action" closer to the strings.)

On models with three pedals the center pedal can have different uses. On most high quality grand pianos the center pedal is a "sostenuto" pedal. A sostenuto pedal only sustains the bass notes played immediately before pressing the pedal (acting like a third hand if you will). On cheaper models the middle pedal is often just a "bass sustain". Some models use this pedal instead as a "practice pedal". When a practice pedal is pressed a felt strip is inserted between the hammers and strings which muffles the sound greatly so people aren't disturbed by a practicing student.

Classifications of Grand Pianos:

It is now more common to specify the exact length of grand piano rather than using these older terms, but still many manufacturers maintain these titles on their pianos:

  • 5' 8" and smaller is a "Baby Grand"
  • 5' 9" - 5' 11" is a "Boudoir Grand" or "Living Room Grand"
  • 6' - 6' 3" is a "Professional Grand"
  • 6' 4" - 6' 7" is a "Drawing Room Grand"
  • 6' 8" - 6' 10" is called "Parlour", "Artist", "Salon" or "Music Room Grand"
  • 7' 4" to 8' 6" is a "Half Concert Grand" or "Semi Concert Grand"
  • 8' 11" and larger is a "Concert Grand" or "Orchestral Concert Grand"

Sources:
Arthur A. Reblitz "Piano Servicing, Tuning and Rebuilding: For the Professional, the Student, the Hobbyist", 1985
http://www.baldwinpiano.com/

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