Why Are the Ends of the Piano Different Sizes?

The piano is an instrument that uses hammers to hit sets of two or three strings and produce specific pitches. Piano makers have found several ways to condense, compress and change the layout of these strings inside the piano. For a pianist, the size of the piano will determine what type of music will sound best. There are pianos for appropriate for small intimate settings, large orchestral halls and jazz clubs.


The end of the concert grand piano has a curvature due to the differing lengths of strings, making the piano smaller from left to right. Higher pitched strings are smaller and on the right-hand side of the piano' lower pitched strings are longer and are situated on the left-hand side. These different string lengths allow the piano to play from low to high. The curvature molds to the length of the strings, making the ends of the piano different sizes.

Common Models

The ends of different types of pianos will also be different sizes. The most commonly used pianos are the concert grand, baby grand and upright pianos. A concert grand piano is longer than a baby grand piano, as the length of the piano makes it possible to provide extra tension to the strings. This tension contributes to the overall volume of the piano. A baby grand piano has a smaller end; this contributes to its relatively weak ability to produce sound. Finally, the upright piano has a narrow and flat end since the strings move straight up and down instead of flat across the instrument.


The upright piano has a box shape, forcing the rolling of the strings inside the piano; this accounts for the smaller sound of the instrument. An upright piano would be a poor choice for a concert hall and is better suited to small jazz ensembles and intimate gatherings. The baby grand has a longer end and produces a larger and brighter sound than the upright; baby grands find themselves in small music studios and small- and medium-sized concert halls. The full concert grand piano is the largest instrument and produces a sound that is richer and more complex than the other instruments. Because of its size, it is suitable for use with an orchestra and in large concert halls.


There are several sizes of grand pianos that a concertgoer should know; the different sizes allow for different timbres and specialized music. The "petite grand" is the smallest grand piano and is usually between 4-1/2 to 5 feet long. The baby grand stretches from 5 to 5-1/2 feet. The parlor grand is about 6 feet long and the ballroom grand about 7. Finally, there is the concert grand that can be as long as 9 feet.


"The Study of Orchestration"; Samuel Adler; 2002.
Steinway: Our Pianos [http://steinway.com/pianos/]


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