There are a few noticeable differences between a grand piano and an upright piano. The main difference is size. A grand piano’s strings are stretched out horizontally, not vertically, and as such takes up a lot more surface area of a room than an upright piano. An upright piano has the strings stretched out vertically, so it grows higher and higher while still keeping about the same floor space requirements. Another major difference is the action. In grand pianos, since the strings are laid out horizontally, the keys, action, and hammers all go up to hit the strings, and fall back down. Because gravity assists in the movement of the action, it is easier to play repeated notes a lot more quickly than in an upright piano. In an upright piano, the action moves forward and backward, so the response is slightly slower. Also, the keys of a grand piano are longer, allowing for more dynamic control.
The third difference is the use of the pedals. Almost all pianos have three pedals. The one on the right universally sustains the notes that are being played. On the grand piano, the pedal on the left moves the entire action over so that instead of hitting three strings, the hammers are only hitting only one or two. This creates a softer sound and a different tonal color. On the upright piano, this pedal only moves the action forward slightly, so that it does not have as much room to move as usual, creating the softer sound but not necessarily the different tonal color. The middle pedals also differ. On the grand piano, this is called the sostenuto pedal and is used very rarely and typically only in more advanced music. It allows the keys that are being played at the time the pedal is pressed to be sustained, while the rest of the notes are unaffected.
On most upright pianos, this pedal brings down a strip of felt in between the strings and the hammers, making the resulting sound very soft. The last major difference is in the resonance. The grand piano soundboard is horizontal, giving the feeling that the sound is rising up and around you, whereas the soundboard of an upright piano is standing up and, because of how it is designed, is usually placed right up against the wall. This means that the sound comes out the back of the piano, bounces off the wall and comes back directly at the player. Also, because grand pianos are typically bigger, the volume is generally louder.
So what are the benefits of purchasing an upright piano when the grand piano seems to be the better instrument? First and foremost, space. The grand piano was built to be placed in a concert hall, with the sound filling the entire room. Putting that same piano in a family’s living room would be a trial. However, the upright piano was designed for the residential home. It can be placed next to any wall, and still have room for other furniture, such as the standard living room set. Upright pianos also tend to be less expensive. Many families that are looking to purchase a new piano are those who wish their child to start taking lessons. An upright piano is less of an investment to make upfront while the child is still learning, and most dealers, like Kim’s Piano, offer a trade-in value for the instrument you have at home when you decide that the child is ready to upgrade to a higher quality instrument later on.