What Came First: Upright Pianos Or Grand Pianos?

upright pianos

Grand or upright? This is the first question you need to answer (unless you are buying a digital piano) when you decide to buy or rent a piano from SoCal Pianos in Ontario & Palm Desert, CA (appointment only at both locations). Let’s start things out with a little history. The very first pianos date back 300 years. Because they were quite large, they got the name “grand piano.” The upright piano came along about some 80 years after the grand.


Both types of pianos produce sound the same way. When a key is played it activates a hammer that strikes a wire. The ensuing vibrations produce the sound of a specific musical note. The major difference between the two is that an upright piano is configured to take up less floor space. Let’s take a closer look at how the two compare:

Grand Piano

  • The reason grand pianos are larger is that the strings are arranged on the soundboard horizontally.
  • A baby grand is about five feet in length while a concert grand can be nine feet or more.
  • The lid of the piano can be raised to aid in sound projection.

Upright Piano

  • Spinet uprights (rarely made today) can be as little as three feet wide.
  • Strings are arranged vertically to make the piano more compact.
  • Console and studio uprights are typically five feet wide.


The answer to this question is it depends on your needs, wants, and budget. Without getting into all the details, a grand piano almost always produces superior sound with a greater dynamic range (the difference between the softest & loudest sounds). This is why nearly all concert halls use grand pianos. The biggest drawback for most non-professionals is the price. An upright piano costs significantly less than a grand piano while still providing excellent tonal quality. That’s why you will find upright pianos in most high schools, colleges, and private homes.


If the person who will be playing the piano is serious about music and has demonstrated the ability to perhaps play professionally, then sound quality is important, and a grand piano is a good choice. But in most situations, an upright piano makes much more sense for the typical household. SoCal Pianos will be happy to show you both types of pianos at our showrooms in Ontario & Palm Desert, CA (appointment only at both locations). Listening to the grand and upright pianos in person will let you hear the difference so you can decide what’s best for you.