Casio Privia PX-870 Piano

Piano History: What are the different types of pianos?

Plato said, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” But for one instrument to continuously give music for centuries, it is only the piano instrument. Made in 1709, for more than three centuries now, it is still the coveted musical instrument that the world prides to perform magnificent music. Many devices that came before pianos like harpsichords and others ceased to be of no use anymore. But, the piano has its place in the music world for now and the future.

About upright pianos:

An upright piano is one of the musical instruments that were more popular during the 19th and 20th centuries. It is the instrument where the soundboard and the plane of the strings run vertical and perpendicular to the keyboard. Hence it takes fewer floor spaces than the standard grand piano. They come in various sizes and shapes and mostly were popular as per their heights. As per their size, upright pianos are of many types. The vertical piano action, which is the hammer and damper mechanism, mainly differs from the grand piano action.

The vertical action returns to the resting position by way of springs, unlike that of grand where gravity plays a role in the resting position. It amounts to the characteristic touch of the upright pianos that are distinct from that of the grand pianos. But the biggest advantage of the vertical pianos is their compactness and cost-effectiveness. They are idle pianos for schools, homes, and unlike grand piano for concert stages.

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The invention of upright pianos:

Most of the people and mainly those who love music will sure know that it was Bartolomeo Cristofori who invented the piano in 1709. But for many, to know who invented upright piano will be possible on a search in Google. It is John Isaac Hawkins, who was a civil engineer and an inventor of the mechanical pencil who invented the modern upright piano. Born in southwest England’s Somerset, he patented the contemporary upright piano in Pennsylvania. It was during his medicine and chemical filtration studies in the US that Hawkins got the ingenious idea of making a small upright piano with a folding keyboard. Even before Hawkins, many tried to bring out a practical and useful upright piano. Domenico Del Mela is one among them and also known as the inventor of the piano.

But his pianos were obscenely tall, and the strings started at the height of the keys. But the ingenious idea of Hawkins was to begin the strings from the floor. In addition to it, he added a complete iron frame along with a suspended soundboard. Hence it became the first modern piano, which is a compact and widely accepted music instrument at those times. Hawkins then came back to England to create a museum of useful mechanical inventions.

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Evolution of upright pianos in the 19th century:

After Hawkins inventing the modern upright piano, it underwent development during the 19th century to become more sophisticated and advanced in many of its features. Robert Womum, an English inventor, added tape check to the upright pianos. It included a spring to help the hammer return to its resting position rather than relying on the weight of the keys to come back to the resting position. This action by Robert Womum increased the sound quality for the upright pianos. During the early 19th century, the publication of an issue of Repository of Arts in 1812 listed upright pianos as an item in high demand as it is an instrument with a high degree of reputation. Hence the popularity of the vertical pianos grew extensively during this period.

Advantages & Uses of upright pianos:

The upright piano is the hero for pianists for more than two centuries now. They made it possible for even common man to own pianos for the past two hundred years. It’s popularity only grew over time rather than any other musical instrument. Due to its various advantages over the grand piano in size, cost, and compactness, it is widely used by the masses. While the grand piano is for musicians and other great people to conduct concerts, the upright piano is music lovers’ delight to own at less cost and have them safe in their homes. For those who can afford, there is even an upright piano with tall frames and long strings, which are called upright grand pianos.

Many authors classify the modern pianos as per their height. Also, as per the modifications of the action that . are necessitated for accommodating to the height. Upright pianos are mostly used in

  • Churches
  • Community centres
  • Schools
  • Music conservatories
  • University and other institutional music programs
  • In practice and rehearsal sessions
  • In many homes across the world


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Types of upright pianos:
For more than two hundred years now, the demand for upright is steady, and only there are demand variations as per their types. With many types, hence it is common to get confused about buying the right type of upright piano. Though most of the types of upright pianos give the same quality of sound, they mainly differ in styles and heights. But the fact is irrespective of their types as per heights, their standard width is 5″ or 152 cm, and depth is 2 to 2.5″ or 61 to 76 cm. It is this small height that makes the upright pianos now even suitable from homes to flats with limited space across the world.

There are four types of upright pianos, mainly differing in heights and prices.

But each of the four types caters to different specific situations and needs of the performers. The four types of upright pianos include

Spinet piano:

The smallest and the shortest of the upright pianos are the spinets. The typical height of a spinet is below 40″

or 101 cm. This height of the spinet is measured from the top of the lid to its bottom. Just a few inches above the keys, the top of the piano comes with a drop action mechanism that is operated by vertical wires attached to the back of the keys. Spinets are the most compact pianos and for any space limits. Also, they cost less than $ 3,000 and are now more rented for beginners to practice.

It is because manufacturers have now stopped manufacturing spinets due to inferior sound quality because of their key configuration and strings.

Also read: Types & Sizes of Pianos Explained

Console pianos:

Console pianos are the most affordable pianos, now costing an average of 3000 to 4000 dollars. They have an average height of about 40 to 44 inches or 102 to 111 cm. The hammers and strings in a vertical position that stretch downwards. Hence, the action of this type of piano sits directly on top of the keys. This non-drop action mechanism makes its sound quality better than the spinets. The direct blow action mechanism involves the keyboard to engage the shorter hammers directly. Many hobby piano players and home pianists prefer this type of upright piano as they find it satisfactory for their daily practice.

Studio upright pianos:

Studio pianos’ average cost is from 5 000 to 10,000 dollars, and there are luxury studio pianos, which can cost more. Their height is on an average between 44 to 48 inches or 112 to 120 cm.

The full-size action of the studio pianos sits directly on the keys and has a larger soundboard and longer strings.

The increased tallness gives them more resonant and high tonal quality. Being durable and stable, it is ideal for beginners and those with tight budgets.

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Professional pianos:

The tallest of the upright pianos are the professional pianos and measure 48 inches or 121 cm. Its full sound quality due to its large soundboard can even rival many of the smaller grand pianos. Professional pianos are ideal for music schools, teaching purposes, and for professional musicians for performing in stages.

For music lovers and performers, upright pianos are the ideal choice for the past two centuries. Depending upon the need and budget, they can choose any one of the above to enjoy the music for a happy and peaceful life.