Differences between Grand and Upright Piano




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The difference between grand and upright piano is a puzzle that has brought about a variation of these two types of instruments for a long time. It has also managed to leave a lot of pianists asking themselves, which of the two stands out.

Research shows that both the grand and upright piano have their own advantages and disadvantages.

In this post, we will compare these two types of instruments and their different aspects of performance. We have based this comparison on the action, sound, size and Pedal functionality of the two.  


Action is the hammer mechanism present in any type of piano. So, let’s have a look at what each type is made of.

Upright Piano

Differences between grand and upright piano
Image Credit: Yamaha

The upright piano action mechanism sits vertically. The same goes for its strings. Therefore, the keys rest horizontally and are very long. When you press a key, it lifts on the other end, which is quite similar to how a seesaw works.

The pressed key then activates some other parts, which then moves the hammer forward to strike the strings horizontally. Once you release the key, the hammer resets to default with the help of springs.

Grand Piano

Differences between grand and upright piano
Image Credit: Yamaha

The grand piano action mechanism rests horizontally, as well as its strings. Similar to an upright piano, when you press down the keys, it lifts on the other end which then moves some parts. But, the difference here is that the hammer moves vertically to strike the string.

This action present in a grand piano gives you more control of the speed, dynamics, and the overall force. This time, once the key is released, the hammer resets to default, but with the help of gravity.


There is one misconception that has been held on for a long time about the grand piano sounding better than the upright piano. What most people miss is that the sound quality and volume produced by any piano is a result of several factors.

The length of the strings, quality of the material, the design, the shape and size of the soundboard are some of the main factors to consider. Care is another thing that affects the sound of both a grand and an upright piano.

If you play the upright piano with the top lid open, or just leave the lid open, dust will accumulate which then negatively affects the sound quality. But if you keep an upright piano closed, then you help to minimize accumulation of dust on the strings.

Although you should note that, a grand piano accumulates dust on the strings quite often. Therefore, you have to clean the dust from the piano at least once or twice a month, for better sound quality.

Concert grand pianos have longer strings. Therefore, the strings have lower mass and tension, which brings the harmonics closer and gives the grand piano an even tone when playing.

Some of the upright pianos strike the string closer to the center, unlike grand pianos which strike near the end. When you strike the strings near the end, it changes the tone color since this enhances the upper harmonics.

A grand piano has a much warmer and deeper tone compared to an upright piano. Some grand pianos also feature a brighter tone, while others give you a mellow tone. Upright pianos, on the other hand, cannot change the character and color of the pitches, on the other hand, cannot change the character and color of the pitches.

The difference in the size of the soundboard also heavily contributes to the sound produced by either of these two instruments. Unlike the upright piano, the soundboard size of a grand piano offers you a much wider expression of the tones played.

Therefore, the base range of a grand piano is much more refined, compared to that of an upright piano.


Space is a major factor when it comes to owning a piano.

For an upright, you don’t need that much space. If you live in a small apartment, an upright piano is the best option to consider having. It is vertically-built, which means that all of its action parts stand straight up unlike those of the grand piano.

You get more sound from the piano since the lid is just located at the top. The standard width of an upright piano is 5 feet, which includes the keys and sides of the console. For a standard upright piano, the height can reach up to 50 inches or even exceed that mark.

The average depth of an upright piano is around 2 feet, which makes it possible to place the piano along walls or windows. Grand pianos, on the other hand, take up a lot of space. The size and shape of a grand piano are not ideal for small apartments.

Sound needs space to travel far, and the nature of a grand piano certainly needs a lot of it. Since they are horizontally built, grand pianos take up 5 inches worth of space outward.  If you plan to play with the lid open, the piano demands ample space on both sides. Grand pianos also weigh more than the upright ones.


The pedal functionality is different in both of these two types of pianos.

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Grand Piano Pedal Functionality

The left pedal – Also known as the shift pedal, helps to move the entire action assembly to the right. It not only changes the volume of the sound, but the una corda pedal also makes minute changes to the tone.

Sustoneto pedal – This is commonly known as the middle pedal. It keeps the dampers in a raised position and away from the strings of the keys played just before releasing the pedal. This action makes it possible to sustain the chosen notes.

Sustain pedal – The Sustain pedal keeps the dampers lifted even after you have released the keys pressed. Therefore, it sustains all the played notes.

Upright Piano Pedal Functionality

Left pedal (soft pedal) – When you press the left pedal, the sound volume is reduced, mainly because all of the hammers are moved closer to the strings.

Middle pedal – The middle pedal acts by muting the sound. It only holds one played a note and allows you to play and release other notes on your piano.

The Sustain pedal – The Sustain pedal in an Upright piano functions the same way as in a grand piano.

Pros and Cons of a Grand Piano


  • Longer strings, which make for full and balanced tones.
  • Has a common polymer finish which helps to protect the piano.
  • They add ambiance and beauty to your home


  • Highly expensive
  • Take up a lot of space
  • Difficult to move around.
  • Quite expensive.

Pros and Cons of an Upright Piano


  • Affordable.
  • Good-quality upright pianos possess rich voices, which age well over-time.


  • Depreciate rapidly.
  • The soundboard position makes an upright piano very sensitive to temperature fluctuations.
  • The sostenuto pedal is usually omitted.


The comparison between these two pianos shows you that each has its benefits and disadvantages. Both Grand and Upright pianos have the same motive, which is to make music in an excellent and unique manner.

The differences between grand and upright pianos are that they facilitate this through their design and features. The Grand piano aces the Upright piano in several ways, although this doesn’t exclude the potential of the Upright piano.

When looking to buy either one of them, it is highly recommended that you conduct in-depth research to ensure you purchase an instrument that fully caters to your needs.

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