Grand Piano Lid: Open or Closed?

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Written By Sarah Barlow

Chief Music Officer

Sometimes grand pianos can be seen with their lids propped all the way up. At other times, the lids will be closed or only open partway. 

There are interesting reasons why the position of grand piano lids varies. This article will discuss the pros and cons of keeping grand piano lids open or closed. 

What is the purpose of the lids on Grand Pianos?

Grand piano lids have the following practical functions:

  • It prevents the dust from settling on the inner chamber of the piano

 A dusty piano is complicated to clean as the dust will settle beneath the strings. Damage is possible if DIY attempts are used to clean the piano. 

  • It prevents things from falling inside the piano

Small things like hairpins or paper clips can fall inside the piano and cause rattling or buzzing sounds. The grand piano lid prevents that from happening.

  • It improves sound acoustics

The soundboard vibrates and produces sound when the keys are pressed. The lid reflects sound outwards and reflects sound inward, resulting in the grand piano’s ability to create loud volume.

  • It muffles the sound of the piano

Most grand pianos come equipped with two lid props, a long lid prop, and a shorter lid prop. They allow the pianist to control how much sound comes out of the piano. 

Are you able to play a Grand Piano with the lid down?

Pianists can still play grand pianos even with the lid closed all the way. The closed lid will muffle the sound of the piano but does not affect the function or risk damage to the keys or the pedals. 

Are there any good reasons to play the Grand Piano with the lid down?

It is up to the pianist’s discretion how to position the grand piano lid. Many grand piano owners and pianists give great reasons to play with the lid down:

  • To protect sensitive ears

“I have sensitive hearing so my lid is always completely closed with the rack down, my piano has two blankets draped over it, books piled atop and a comforter tacked to the bottom with double carpeting on the floor. And, I often use the soft pedal.”

[Source: Quora]

  • To keep pet cats from climbing inside

“Closed to keep the dust and the cat off the strings ( yep she has some fetish about the overtone series or something … I got her from the Humane Society in Honolulu where they play Mozart all day long in the cat house to “calm them”. She arrived at my home fully addicted to classical music and particularly the F major chord).” 

[Source: Piano World Forum]

  • To preserve the interior parts of the piano 

“This really preserves the piano from dust/spills/fumes contaminating the strings/soundboard.”

[Source: Piano World Forum]

  • To accommodate preference when accompanying someone

“Vocalist often want the piano closed. Short stick is usually optimal for piano quartets or quintets. There are also differences in the sound. If you have a treble that screams in the home environment, keep the lid down or on the short stick. I think the intonation is better with the lid open.”

[Source: Piano World Forum]

  • To prevent warping the lids

“I keep both of my grand lids down. Mostly for dust but also I don’t want to warp the lids. Also, I have tile floor so they can be rather loud when lids are up.”

[Source: Piano World Forum]

  • To practice piano without banging the keys

“I keep my grand lid on full stick all the time because I like the way it sounds and looks that way. I don’t find it too loud and I think it’s taught me to produce tone without banging.”

[Source: Piano World Forum]

Can you leave your Grand Piano lid up all the time?

It is up to the owner’s preference. They can leave the lids open all the time or pick certain occasions when to open the lid. 

Leaving a grand piano lid open all the time has some downsides, like:

  • Collecting dust

“In the home setting it is never necessary to open the lid unless you prefer the more vibrant sound. It should be closed when not in use to protect it from dust.”

[Source: Quora]

  • Damaged lid

“The last time this was discussed, there was also the suggestion that, when the lid is left open all the time – being supported only by the hinges on one side and the prop stick on the other – it (the lid) could actually warp.”

[Source: Piano World Forum]

  • Things or animals can get inside

“This [sic] proctects it from … accidental spills from children or drunken guests, and various kinds of pets who want to play or mark their turf.”

[Source: Piano World Forum]

A piano owner suggests a dust cover for the strings for those who really want to keep the lid open all the time:

“… you could keep your lid open with a string cover such as the Edwards, and you would hardly have any accumulation of dust etc. I have seen grands that had a string cover in place from from when they were new, and 10 years later, they still looked almost new.” 

[Source: Piano World Forum]

Keeping the lid of a grand piano open all the time may damage the interior. A string cover may not completely ward off the damage humidity causes. 

Limiting or choosing when to open and when to close the lid of a grand piano will help in prolonging its life and quality. 

One piano owner chooses to open the lid when they need to: 

“I still keep the lid down most of the time … If I’ve been practicing and want to switch into performance mode, then I’ll treat myself and open the lid for a while, but promptly close it again immediately after the practice session is over.”

[Source: Piano World Forum]

Another likes to only open the lid when composing or with lots of people around:

“I rarely open the lid all the way up unless the place is crowded. When the room is empty he’s a little too loud. But when I’m in the mood to compose, I like to open the lid and remove the music stand to watch the mechanism working while I play.”

[Source: Piano World Forum]