- Discover the different types of the piano
- Learn about the history and features of different piano types
- Find out which piano types are mainly used in different situations
- Also, check out our guide to the best Grand Pianos for all budgets!
From Mozart to Rachmaninov, the piano has been central to many epic compositions.
You might have also noticed that they come in different shapes, sizes, mechanisms, and sounds.
That is because different types of pianos are used for different occasions. Some sound louder, some are larger, and some have different systems for increased versatility.
In this post, we’ll go over the various piano types, discuss their features, while uncovering their history and typical uses.
What Are The Main Piano Types?
There are a total of 11 different types of pianos, which can be grouped into four main types:
- Grand Pianos
- Petite Grand Piano
- Baby Grand Piano
- Medium Grand Piano
- Professional Grand Piano
- Parlor Grand Piano
- Semi-Concert Grand Piano
- Concert Grand Piano
- Upright Pianos
- Electric Pianos
- Hybrid Pianos
While all the piano types feature keyboards and the playing techniques are very similar, they have fundamental differences in size, sonic performance, tonal color, and how the sound is produced.
1. Grand Piano
Grand pianos are the oldest piano type and also the largest and the most expensive.
They are characterized by horizontal soundboards that allow for greater soundboard area and longer strings, resulting in a louder and richer sound.
As the frame and the strings are horizontal in grand pianos, the strings typically extend away from the keyboard. That is why the action uses gravity to return to the rest position allowing the general action much smoother.
The piano can play with more control and faster as the hammers can be reset by gravity, unlike in upright pianos. Pianists have more dynamic and tonal control when playing grand pianos.
Grand pianos have different types that feature various sizes. They typically range from 1.5 meters to 3 meters. Depending on their sizes, the overall volume and the tonal richness vary as the sound gets better when the soundboard is larger.
Grand pianos have different uses, but they are mainly preferred by professional pianists thanks to their great feel, sound, and looks. While grand pianos serve different purposes, they are considered to produce the best acoustic performance.
While the sizes and the sonic performances of different grand piano types are different, the sizes and the types of piano keyboards are almost always the same. The modern piano layout with 88 keys is the standard.
Petite Grand Piano
The petite grand piano is the smallest grand piano, with lengths between 4′ 5″ to 4′ 11″. Due to their size, they have the weakest sound among the grand pianos. They are ideal for small rooms and sound like upright pianos.
Baby Grand Piano
Baby grand pianos are another ideal choice for domestic use in small living rooms. They are some of the most popular grand piano models and measure between 5’ to 5’5” in length.
Although they do not have the sonic performance of larger models, baby grands have a good balance of size, tonal richness, and volume output for small places.
Medium Grand Piano
Medium grand pianos are also referred to as classical grand pianos and have a length between 5′ 6″ and 5′ 8”. Like baby grand pianos, medium grand pianos are mainly used in living rooms or tiny concert places.
Professional Grand Piano
As the name suggests, professional piano players mainly use professional grand pianos in concert halls and large living rooms.
They have lengths of around 6’ and are considered one of the best grand pianos in terms of playing feel and tonal performance.
Parlor Grand Piano
Parlor grand pianos are also called living room pianos but do not let the name fool you, as they are designed for very large living rooms of aristocratic houses of centuries ago.
Parlor grand pianos have excellent tonal characteristics and overall volume output that can quickly fill a large living room or a medium-sized concert hall.
They are also the ideal centerpiece for a large room for their majestic and elegant look. They measure around 6’3” to 6’10” in length.
Semi-Concert Grand Piano
Also called ballroom grand pianos, semi-concert grand pianos are ideal for concert venues and music halls, thanks to their powerful sound.
Many professional pianists prefer semi-concert grand pianos in their gigs. They are around 7 feet in length and are some of the largest grand pianos.
Concert Grand Piano
The most prominent members of the grand piano family are the concert grand pianos, around 9” in length. They have the largest volume output, richest tonal capabilities, and most balanced sound.
Concert grand pianos are mainly used in orchestras by professional players and piano concerts in huge music halls.
2. Upright Pianos
Upright or vertical pianos take their name due to the positions of their strings inside the soundboard.
Unlike grand pianos, the strings are perpendicular to the ground, which allows for much smaller pianos without the tail part. As a result, upright pianos are mainly found in small places and are used by music students in houses, schools, and conservatories worldwide.
Upright pianos fall short in their tonal richness, and playing feel compared to grand pianos.
As the strings are vertical and the hammers do not get the help of gravity when resetting, they are slightly harder to play.
There are four main upright pianos: spinet pianos, console pianos, studio pianos, and professional upright pianos.
While the size is the deciding element, the types of piano keyboards among upright pianos are set to the modern piano standard with 88 keys.
The most popular upright piano types are the console and studio pianos, which are great for houses and daily playing.
While different types of upright pianos vary slightly, standard upright pianos are typically about 4’ in height, 5’ in width, and 2’ in depth.
3. Electric Pianos
As technology advanced, pianos that worked with electricity were developed in the 1920s. The types of electric pianos use an electrical circuit instead of the traditional hammer-string system of acoustic pianos.
There are many types of electric pianos, such as synths, electrically amplified pianos, MIDI keyboards, and electric pianos.
The digital pianos use a digital audio sampling technology to emulate the timbre of a traditional acoustic piano.
They often come with different voices allowing the users to choose their sounds from a library of different piano sounds.
Digital pianos are ideal for beginners or pianists who do not have a suitable space to put an acoustic piano.
Digital pianos can be highly expressive and give you the ability to choose from many unique piano sounds. Among the types of electric pianos, digital pianos are the most suitable types for piano players.
One of the most common types of electric pianos is the synthesizer, which uses oscillators and filters to imitate different sounds unattainable with acoustic pianos.
Electric pianos work like analog synthesizers simulating piano sounds using oscillators and filters. Unlike synths, they cover different piano sounds instead of different sound effects and voices far from the piano world.
There are also MIDI keyboards that do not have their own voice but are used to create sound through their keyboards with the help of different plug-ins and DAWs in computers or smart devices. They can be considered blank keyboards gave voice by plug-ins and DAWs, making them highly versatile.
Bear in mind that while some types of electric pianos, synths, and electric pianos come with built-in amps and speakers, not all of them do. So factor in space for an external speaker if that’s the case.
4. Hybrid Pianos
Hybrid pianos were created in the early 2000s to combine the advantages of both acoustic piano and digital piano worlds.
These pianos can be similar to upright, baby grand, and grand pianos but with a MIDI unit added to the underside of the piano so that they can be played acoustically or used as a MIDI controller or synthesizer.
Hybrid pianos have the traditional hammer-string system inside them, so they can be played as acoustic pianos. In addition, they can be played as a MIDI controller or synthesizer via the sensor system on the keyboard.
With MIDI units, hybrid pianos feature different functions such as playing MIDI accompaniment tracks with the built-in tone generator, connecting external MIDI devices, connecting the piano to computers for MIDI capabilities, using the built-in speakers or additional ports for audio and SMPTE input/output (I/O), as well as connecting to the internet for extra features.
What Are The 4 Types Of Piano?
The four main pianos are grand pianos, upright pianos, electric pianos, and hybrid pianos.
There are also specialized pianos like the toy piano, which are piano-like instruments for particular purposes. Toy pianos have different mechanisms than pianos and are used by children to step into the piano world.
The types of electric pianos differ from acoustic pianos as they use digital circuits instead of an acoustic system to create sound.
What Is A Small Piano Called?
There are many small pianos in different piano styles, however, the most miniature is the petite grand piano.
There are also toy pianos that aren’t precisely pianos, but are used to introduce children into the artform. Toy pianos are small, light, and have much fewer and smaller keys for children to play them easier.
Which Piano Is Best For Beginners?
As a beginner, starting with a digital piano is best as they are more affordable, take up less space, and are easier to maintain.
While the keyboard feel nowhere close to that of an acoustic piano, decent digital pianos have weighted keys that replicate the acoustic piano key feel.
What Type Of Piano Did Mozart Play?
Mozart was known for using fortepiano in his compositions and performances. The fortepiano is a small type of grand piano with a length of around 7’ and a weight of around 187 lbs.
It is two octaves shorter than the modern pianos and was made by Anton Walter, one of the era’s most famous Viennese piano makers.
How Many Keys Is A Full Piano?
The number of keys on a piano has changed over the course of history. By the end of the 20th century, modern full-length pianos were designed with 88 keys, giving pianists 7 and quarter octaves from A2 to C5.
- Before you head out, check out our post on the best free piano VSTs!