Posts tagged size

Full Size Grand Pianos

So… over the years there have been many terms bantered about with regards to pianos – terms like “upright grand” or “baby grand”.  In this blog we’re going to discuss what a “full size” grand is.  First of all, i would just like to point out that there is no official guide to piano sizes.  These names have evolved and so their usage is also vague at best.  For what it’s worth, however i’ll give you the ‘insider scoop’ on how retail stores and piano dealers categorize grands.

First of all, let’s set a few ground rules shall we? Full size seems to imply that smaller grands are somehow missing something – as if there is such a thing as a half size or 3/4 size piano… not so.  All pianos have the same amount of keys. All pianos have roughly the same amount of strings.  So what exactly is changing then from one size to another? It’s the length.  The term ‘baby grand’ in my mind is anything 5’5″ and under.  Today we see modern manufacturers producing really small pianos at 4’9″, 4’11″… 5’0″, 5’1″ etc.  In the olden golden days Steinway (among others) consolidated sizes to 5’2″, 5’7″, 6’1″, 6’10”, 7’4″ and 9′.  Yamaha has had huge success with a 6’6″ piano as opposed to Steinway’s 6’10”.  Regardless, pianos under the 5’7″ mark have usually been considered baby.  Full size refers more than anything to string length.  Once you surpass the baby grand size in strings, the piano blossoms.  More so even on the 6’1″ grand. Now at the extreme other end, the term ‘concert grand’ has been reserved for 9′ pianos while semi-concert is the 7’4″ – 7’6″ range.  So if a baby grand goes up to 5’5″ and the semi-concert is at 7’4″, then the term ‘full size’ would fit in the middle there.  So the way i define full size is a piano between 5’7″ and 7′ in length.  Hope this gives you an idea about what we’re talking about.  Just FYI, you won’t magically step over the threshold from one piano size to another, you’ll just hear the difference that length makes when you gradually increase the size.  Take a look at the pics below and see how the rim (the curved end part on the piano) is quite different.  Pictured: Yamaha A1 (4’11”), Yamaha C5 (6’7″), and Yamaha CF (9′).

Terms of Endearment

I get asked this question ALL the time: “Is this a full sized grand?”  Hmmm full size… as opposed to half or quarter? lol.  Well there are about three terms which get bantered about in the world of pianos and they are ‘concert grand’, ‘full size grand’ and ‘baby grand’.  For those in the know, those terms DO get used, however, what is more talked about is size in feet and inches… or in europe, metres.  The size is, first of all measured from the very tip of the keyboard to the very back round part of the grand piano.  The width (left to right) barely changes due to the fact that there are usually the same amount of keys (88) and the rim and ‘cheek blocks’ on either side of the keys don’t vary a lot.  I always count on 60″ to be safe for the width (actuals are anywhere from 57″-60″).  Length, however, varies greatly.  The “baby grand” term usually is defined as 4’11” to about 5’5″.  The ‘full size grand’ varies greatly from 5’7″ to 6’10”.  Just for interest sake, there’s a size (which is my personal favorite) called ‘semi-concert grand’ which is 7’4″ and then there’s the ‘concert grand’ size we see in concert halls at a whopping 9’4″!  The biggest challenge in finding a piano is to become educated in the general categories.  These have evolved into: 5′ , 5’8″, 6’1″, 6’6″, 7’4″ and 9’4″.  Once you familiarize yourself with these lengths, you’ll appreciate the differences in all because they’re REALLY quite different at every stage.  But don’t take my word for it… go out and try playing a few… and for heaven’s sakes… don’t ask if it’s full size… just say you’d like to try some 5’8″ or 6’1″ grands… you’ll look more edumacated…lol.

Size matters…

When it comes to pianos… size matters!  Bigger is ALWAYS better.  In pianos there are four areas where size comes into play: the soundboard, the hammers and shanks, the strings and the keystick.  All of these four areas contribute to a piano sounding as rich as possible and feeling as consistent as they can be.  The soundboard is the amplifier to the piano.  The more square inches of soundboard, the greater the resonating area (if it’s manufactured correctly).  The longer the stings on a piano (which means either length in a grand or height in an upright), the deeper the voice of the piano.  The longer the shank (within reason), the better the blow distance of the hammer to the string (and also less of an arc is required).  And finally, the longer the keystick, the greater the control.  That is why taller uprights are considered ‘professional’ and semi-concert grands and concert grands are 7 and 9 feet long… Bigger is ALWAYS better.

Pictured are two pianos – the one above  is a small upright piano.  The one below is a tall professional instrument.  Note that the size of the ‘action’ – the mechanism is considerably taller in one than the other.  This provides better control over the keys – especially in the area of quiet playing.

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