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Grand vs. Upright
#254795 09/02/03 05:34 PM
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One of the things I have not seen discussed here that I was hoping to get some feedback on, is the value of a good upright piano verses a small grand. Looking through the local paper for the Seattle area (moving there soon) you can find lots of good uprights at really decent prices. However, any grand piano regardless of size seems to command at least $3 to 5k more for no apparent reason. Now it seems to my amateur ear that a nice upright will be much more satisfying to play than most of the “baby grands” available and are significantly cheaper (I’m thinking about grands in the 5’ range and excluding spinets). It seems like you get more bang for the buck with uprights than you would with most of the smaller "entry level" grands.

Can anybody speak to this argument perhaps? I know at some point if I get really good at playing I would want to get a nice big grand, but at this it just seems like expensive overkill. I have played quite a bit on both grands and uprights and find both to be pretty satisfying (except for Kawai uprights, do they always sound so muddy?) and at my skill level I was not able to notice any problems or a lack of expression with the uprights. I would love to hear opinions on this issue.

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Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254796 09/02/03 05:58 PM
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Actually there is much written here.
Do a search.

Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254797 09/02/03 05:59 PM
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Akkr,

There have been MANY, MANY discussions about this very topic. Taller uprights indeed can produce a richer sound, especially in the bass, than very small grands. However, the trade off is that most uprights (except the VERY expensive) can't offer the kind of control and repitition value in the action that a grand can. For more info, see this thread: here.

penny

Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254798 09/04/03 10:48 PM
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I will start off by saying that a good quality grand will always outperform any upright. That being said, and I might be in the minority on this one, but I believe that a good quality vertical with a well thought out action design will out perform a cheap, small, low quality grand with all kinds of action design problems. Just having a grand action will not be a benefit if it doesn't work properly.


John Ruggero
Ruggero Piano
Raleigh, NC
A technician based, distributer of fine pianos including Boesendorfer,Fazioli, Mason and Hamlin, Schimmel, Charles R. Walter, Estonia, and Falcone
www.ruggeropiano.com
Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254799 09/05/03 01:07 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by John Ruggero:
I will start off by saying that a good quality grand will always outperform any upright. That being said, and I might be in the minority on this one, but I believe that a good quality vertical with a well thought out action design will out perform a cheap, small, low quality grand with all kinds of action design problems. Just having a grand action will not be a benefit if it doesn't work properly.
in my opinion with limited experience, a good quality grand ACTION will outperform a good quality UPRIGHT action. However, I have played lesser quality 52" and taller uprights that had a better sound (in the bass, too) than a Steinway model S (5'1") grand (and to a lesser extent a model M (5'7") Steinway. The Steinway L is in my opinion the break even point (a well-prepped one, that is. For un-prepped, I'd say a B would compare to a good upright, and a D that has serious problems might be a little better than a really good upright). (disclaimer: the preceding is my opinion combined with limited experience)


Now, of course, if you're comparing a Kimball Whitney spinet to a Bosendorfer 280 concert grand, the grand wins. end of discussion. smile


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Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254800 09/05/03 01:47 AM
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I just receive a shipment of new 48" and 50" German.....upright pianos and they happen to smoke our very own......

.... 6' rebuilt Steinway, new 6' Y.C.s
and several other larger "very popular" name brand trade in grands right...

...... OUT OF THE ROOM!!

Time to open a 'smoke house'....perhaps? laugh

norbert


www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
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Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254801 09/05/03 02:11 PM
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Tis a personal choice issue. There are some exceptional uprights with wonderful tone, but a decent grand action provides more opportunity for a pianist to develop his/her technique. Depends on what one is looking for. As a primary piano for a serious student, grands look great.

Ken

Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254802 09/05/03 11:28 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by kluurs:
Tis a personal choice issue. There are some exceptional uprights with wonderful tone, but a decent grand action provides more opportunity for a pianist to develop his/her technique. Depends on what one is looking for. As a primary piano for a serious student, grands look great.

Ken
and I happen to be at a dilemma right now.... my upright's action is limiting my playing, my mom's grand's bass tone (all 88 notes of it) is limiting my tonal production, and my flat wallet is preventing me from getting a better piano. frown ) *sigh...*


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Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254803 09/06/03 12:06 AM
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Yeah, but the beautiful grand [you keep posting here,for seemingly ever!] in your living room......

...ain't looking too damn shaby to me! laugh

norbert


www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
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Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254804 09/06/03 12:10 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by Norbert:
Yeah, but the beautiful grand [you keep posting here,for seemingly ever!] in your living room......

...ain't looking too damn shaby to me! laugh

norbert
i have some sad news to break to you. *sniff* That is not my Bosendorfer Imperial. *waaaahhhh* It was a pic used in an ad on the net. Price wasn't all that bad but was still out of my range.


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Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254805 09/07/03 08:18 PM
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When you can play (for example) a complete Beethoven Sonata properly, along with 2 or 3 Debussy preludes, A Chopin Study, and a Bach Partita, you need a grand piano.

Upright pianos are fine for beginners and for most piano players in the world, but unsuitable for serious study, where they limit technique, and cause injury.

Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254806 09/07/03 09:01 PM
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Starmender3: Greetings..I see you are a fellow Aussie. Go the Wallabies!! I am curious as to why you believe injury is more likely with an upright piano.

Ansonflex smile


"Vision is the ability to see the possibilities behind the impossible" CEO Palmolive Colgate
Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254807 09/07/03 10:09 PM
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This is an honourable topic, worthy of discussion.
One must consider those things that make a grand, a grand. And those things that make the upright, not a grand. Then using the familiar (Design-Materials-Crafstmanship) routine, we can safely establish which higher quality uprights, will outperform grands.

In general, thanks to design, the grand has a larger dynamic pallet, longer strings (better tone), heavier dampers (the better to dampen) and an action aided not by springs but gravity...

So, in general, the grand has the advantage. But, if the grand is in fact under let's say 5'5" or so, there are now uprights made, with longer strings and more SB area. Now, tonally, the grand is at the disadvantage.

If your small grand is cheaply made, makes use of poor design and even poorer labor; the high quality upright with a well designed and constructed Renner action (for example) will easily surpase the inherent problems in the grand action.

To end, a high quality upright can many times outperform a smaller, cheap grand, in the tonal and action realms.

Manitou


Manitou - Pianist - Technician
Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254808 09/07/03 10:33 PM
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Quote
I am curious as to why you believe injury is more likely with an upright piano.
Ansonflex, I'd like to hazard a guess on this.

As a pianist develops greater strength in the wrist and forearm, and becomes adept at appropriating upper arms, shoulders and torso when playing with force, they run the risk of tipping an upright piano over on top of themselves.

With a grand, this is of course impossible. :p

On a serious note, I agree with Manitou. A well built 52" upright would easily outshine most 4'7" to 5' grands on the market. AkKr initially asked about "the value of a good upright piano verses a small grand," so I think that in spite of serious (but non-threatening) issues like repetition speed and responsiveness, a good upright is usually a better choice than a small grand.

-Jimbo


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Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254809 09/08/03 12:21 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by Jimbo:
Quote
[b]I am curious as to why you believe injury is more likely with an upright piano.
Ansonflex, I'd like to hazard a guess on this.

As a pianist develops greater strength in the wrist and forearm, and becomes adept at appropriating upper arms, shoulders and torso when playing with force, they run the risk of tipping an upright piano over on top of themselves.

With a grand, this is of course impossible. :p

On a serious note, I agree with Manitou. A well built 52" upright would easily outshine most 4'7" to 5' grands on the market. AkKr initially asked about "the value of a good upright piano verses a small grand," so I think that in spite of serious (but non-threatening) issues like repetition speed and responsiveness, a good upright is usually a better choice than a small grand.

-Jimbo [/b]
curiosity here... if you took some early 20th century American or Canadian uprights (or others) that were larger than today's uprights, completely rebuilt them and put Fandrich actions in them, then at what size of a grand would you say (assuming it's a new grand and has been prepared well but not rebuilt or anything like that) would you say would be the break even or go ahead (for the grands) point? (assuming a medium quality grand (not Bechstein, Bosendorfer, Fazioli, Young Chang (non-pramberger), Pearl River)


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Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254810 09/08/03 12:54 AM
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Sorry, but this thing is getting boring.

It's like talking about Australia - but having never been there!

I repeat: Some of the world's TOP UPRIGHTS smoke grands right up to size 7'

Don't believe it?

Never been there - done that - played them??

Maybe a little trip to Canada would help.

[Guaranteed to make for great 'travel talk'.. laugh ]

norbert


www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642
Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254811 09/08/03 01:59 AM
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AkKr,

This is just my opinion, but, .... if deep down in the ventricles of your heart you desire a grand, no upright will ever satisy you.

That being said, I will add that Sauter makes an excellent upright. I recall playing a ? 52" Sauter a while back .... its' action was different .... & yes, I felt it could "project". Definitely a "grown up" type of upright, I recall thinking.

Again, my opinion, ......I think if I lived in a tiny apartment with no possibility of a move to larger quarters, I'd consider a high quality European upright, despite its' cost.

By the way (since I haven't dived into the archives), are you the same poster who is isolated in rural Alaska, no roads in & out in the winter, with only a few techs around, who posted something about frigid rivers, etc. awhile back? I'm curious.

Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254812 09/08/03 02:37 AM
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I find that most grands if they are not utterly worn out can be adjusted by an expert to play really well and feel nice.

With uprights I occasionally find one that feels about as good as a grand, but with most of them you can only get so much improvement, and many of them ought to be thrown into the icy, turbid waters of the Inside Passage.

As far as sound goes, I wouldn't worry about whether it' a grand or an upright. It either sounds good to you and expresses well, or it doesn't. But personally I don't care as much for the sound of an upright as it's reverberating around in a box (the piano cabinet) and sounds, well, *boxy* to me.

Regards,

Rick Clark


Rick Clark

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Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254813 09/08/03 04:35 AM
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Originally posted by Rick Clark:
I find that most grands if they are not utterly worn out can be adjusted by an expert to play really well and feel nice.

With uprights I occasionally find one that feels about as good as a grand, but with most of them you can only get so much improvement, and many of them ought to be thrown into the icy, turbid waters of the Inside Passage.

As far as sound goes, I wouldn't worry about whether it' a grand or an upright. It either sounds good to you and expresses well, or it doesn't. But personally I don't care as much for the sound of an upright as it's reverberating around in a box (the piano cabinet) and sounds, well, *boxy* to me.

Regards,

Rick Clark
ever try taking off the front panels of an upright and playing it? It sounds a lot different, although to me i prefer to have the panels ON my piano when I play it.


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Re: Grand vs. Upright
#254814 09/08/03 03:39 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by Manitou:

In general, thanks to design, the grand has a larger dynamic pallet, longer strings (better tone), heavier dampers (the better to dampen) and an action aided not by springs but gravity...

So, in general, the grand has the advantage. But, if the grand is in fact under let's say 5'5" or so, there are now uprights made, with longer strings and more SB area. Now, tonally, the grand is at the disadvantage.

If your small grand is cheaply made, makes use of poor design and even poorer labor; the high quality upright with a well designed and constructed Renner action (for example) will easily surpase the inherent problems in the grand action.

To end, a high quality upright can many times outperform a smaller, cheap grand, in the tonal and action realms.

Manitou
----------


Well, now ... design can be a funny thing. Good design works with both vertical and with grand pianos. So does bad design. As one who as built both may I ask, are we, perhaps, asking the wrong question? Is it a matter of which is “better?” Or should it be “which suits my needs better?”

There are inherent differences between grand pianos and vertical pianos, to be sure. The most obvious being the plane of the strings. And what a difference that difference makes!

The grand action as we know it today is an up-striking action wherein lies its strength and its weakness. It has been refined to the extent that it has a workable repetition lever that ensures reliable repetition even with a somewhat sloppy playing technique. The traditional upright action demands a bit more attention to fingering. The grand action has no discernable dynamic lost motion, the upright does. Hence, the traditional upright action can feel a bit sloppy. And, yes, the grand typically has a heavier damper system — often too heavy — that can provide better damping, especially with the higher string partials through the bass section.

I must note, however, that clever action design can overcome most, if not all, of the limitations of the vertical action. My brother’s (Darrell) action does so. And, being a forward striking action, it provides inherently better overall dynamic control than does the grand action. In practice, this means that a cleverly designed vertical action can be played with somewhat better control at the low end giving the vertical piano a broader dynamic range.

The damper problem mentioned above is easily overcome — as it was in our upright — by using brass damper barrels through the bass and about half of the tenor. This adds enough mass to greatly improve damping while simultaneously allowing the use of lighter damper springs.

While we did not have the time or resources to address it, the one remaining problem with the vertical action — the lack of a proper una-corda function — can also be overcome. Indeed, several vertical piano makers have already done so.

As for string length — this is purely a function of piano size. In general you’ll find the string lengths in a 150 cm (4’ 11”) grand to be about the same as a typical 36” spinet; a 160 cm (5’ 3”) grand will roughly equal a 42-45” console; a 170 cm (5’ 7”) grand will roughly equal a 48” studio; a 180 cm (5’ 11”) grand will roughly equal a 52” vertical. Historically, larger verticals have been made but action mass quickly becomes a problem once you go much beyond 132 cm, or 52”. Obviously, there are exceptions to these generalities. It is possible to use rather extreme string angles to achieve longer strings in any of these sizes but this comes at the cost of either spreading the piano out — making it rather wide — or squeezing the action components excessively.

The soundboard shape and size is inherently superior in the grand piano. At least it should be. There are some grands that do have larger soundboards than is desirable for best efficiency, but most are fairly reasonable with the exception of the excess area in the forward left hand corner. This is easily dealt with using a simple cutoff bar. The vertical, by contrast has considerably too much soundboard area around the upper portion of the long bridge. This can be controlled, but it is some trickier. We did it with a variable-compliance cutoff bar extending from just below the long bridge in the treble down to the tenor end of the bass bridge. It worked quite well, strictly limiting the size of the soundboard around the treble end of the bridge while allowing increasing mobility through the tenor and into the bass.

The casework of the vertical can also be a problem in that it typically fully encloses the instrument, blocking any direct path for the music to flow from the soundboard to the ears of the pianist. Again, this can be overcome through clever design. Case parts can be made of thinner, lighter stock. Certain gaps can be made just a bit wider. Openings can be provided much as was done in years gone past when substantial cutouts were included in the upper and lower frontboards, elegantly covered with decorative silk or linen fabrics.

But, in the end there was one problem we encountered that simply could not be overcome by any amount of clever design. While we demonstrated that a well designed (if I may be so immodest) vertical piano of reasonable size can equal or surpass both the action and acoustical performance of a traditional and comparably-sized grand piano — i.e., a 122 cm vertical compared to 170 and 180 cm (5’ 7” to 5’ 11”) grands — nothing we could do would make them look like a grand piano! Even with high-end grands selling for two to four times its price we found that most piano buyers were willing to accept a moderately lower level of performance and spend more money (often considerably more money!) just to have the grand piano shape and style. Or they were willing to spend the same amount of money and accept an even lower level of performance just to have the grand piano shape and style.

So, needs are funny things. For the pianist, acoustical needs can be strong motivations. But they are not the only needs. So are the aesthetic needs of both the artist and his or her family. As well, social needs enter into the mix. That is, the social need to have a grand piano to better fit into the crowd. Sadly for the vertical piano makers and lovers social and aesthetic needs right now dictate that the grand piano shape and style reign supreme.

Del


Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon
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