Are Grand Pianos Any Good?

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Written By Sarah Barlow

Chief Music Officer

For many professional pianists, the grand piano is the standard when it comes to quality and sound. Others who have never had a grand piano before may wonder, what’s all the buzz about grand pianos?

Why People Love Grand Pianos

Grand pianos do not just sound good, they are also aesthetically pleasing. This is why grand pianos are centerpieces that adorn many living areas used for entertainment. Compared to uprights that have to sit against a wall, grand pianos lend a certain elegance to the room.

Good Reasons To Buy A Grand Piano

Grand pianos look luxurious and elegant but buying a grand piano isn’t just about how it looks, it is also about how well it works for the pianist. If looking to buy a piano, the following reasons will convince you to buy a grand piano:

  • Better Action Mechanism

The action mechanism of grand pianos allows the pianist greater control of the dynamic range of the piano. It also allows pianists to play faster than on uprights because the hammers rely on a repetition lever rather than springs for key returns.

  • Impeccable Sound

Grand pianos produce a bigger and more refined tone than uprights. Longer strings, larger soundboards, and upward projection of sound contribute to the deep and rich sound made by grand pianos.

A grand piano enthusiast explained the difference between the sound of grand pianos and uprights:

“Comparing same build quality uprights and grands, the answer is mainly the string length and soundboard area are larger on a decent grand. Uprights are limited to a maximum height (these days) of around 132cm but grands are available up to 280cm and even bigger. The longest bass strings must fit into this size, and longer is better (less inharmonicity caused by thickness being a substantial fraction of length in the small uprights), so the sound is purer. Larger soundboard means better matching to the string, so the decay time is longer on a good grand.”

[Source: Music Stack Exchange]

  • Pedals

The pedals on a grand piano have more functionality. The pedals are important for producing certain sound effects on the piano. Most uprights only have two pedals, the grand piano has three:

  1. Una corda

This pedal shifts the action so that the hammers hit fewer strings than normal. As a result, a soft tone is produced.

  1. Sostenuto

This sustains all the notes played before pressing the pedal.

  1. Damper pedal

A damper pedal sustains all notes

The pedals on a piano can change how a piano piece sounds:

“Grand pianos have a middle pedal called a Sostenuto pedal, which captures keys which are depressed and lets them ring while keys played after the pedal can play without being held on. Uprights on the other hand have a middle pedal that serves as a “practice pedal” which essentially mutes the whole instrument. Usually this middle pedal is missing or non-functional on an upright.”

“Soft pedal is called the una corda pedal. There are 1-3 strings per pitch on the piano. 1 for the lowest bass strings, 2 for mids, and 3 for trebles. The una corda pedal works by shifting the entire action to the right, making the hammers hit fewer strings or in the case of the bass strings, make glancing blows.”

[Source: Music Stack Exchange]

  • Durability

The build quality of grand pianos is different from uprights. The best grand pianos take almost a year to build and require the best materials to manufacture. Grand pianos are built for longevity, they can last for many years and even become family heirlooms.

Do Grand Pianos Stay In Tune?

No, grand pianos need to be tuned at least twice a year. The same goes for upright pianos. All pianos need it regularly as infrequent tuning causes a piano to go out of tune very quickly. 

Most pianists tune every six months:

“I have mine tuned about every four to six months which usually catches it before it really NEEDS it. I practice between 3-5 hours a day and am a “gentle” player”

“I have my piano tuned every 6 months. It’s a new instrument, and with the Dampp-chaser installed it stays very stable through out the year. By following this schedule, I am able to keep the piano in relatively good tuning before it sounds nasty.”

While some do not think that twice is enough:

“I just finished tuning mine today. This was my first self-tuning, and I plan on doing it about 6-8 times a year… maybe more if it needs it. I am going to keep the lever out, however, year round to shape up bad notes daily. Simple… knock one out, tune it! 2 times a year isn’t enough, in my opinion”

[Source: Piano World]

How Long Do Grand Pianos Last?

If properly cared for, grand pianos or any type of piano can last for 60 to 120 years before needing a complete rebuilding or replacement. The life of any piano depends on three things:

  • How much the piano is used

The more a piano is used the more it is liable to get damaged or out of tune

  • How well it’s maintained

Proper maintenance is required for a grand piano to function properly.

A grand piano enthusiast emphasizes this fact:


[Source: Piano World]

  • The climate of its location

Seasonal changes in humidity and temperature lessen the lifespan of a grand piano. To prevent this, grand pianos need to be stored properly or placed in a room with controlled temperature and humidity levels.

Do Grand Pianos Come With A Warranty?

Most manufacturers issue warranties for new pianos. These warranties usually run from five to fifteen (5-15) years depending on the manufacturer. 

The story is different when it comes to buying used pianos. When buying from a private seller, there may be no chance to get warranties, but commercial sellers will provide them but usually only for a few months. 

[Source: Piano Buyer]