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Hi, interesting issue. To facilitate a comparison, suppose with your budget you can buy a vertical Kawai k 500 or a baby grand Kawai GL-30 (5 feet and 5 inches), which one would you buy?
Besides the better repetition time for the baby grand, I suppose se should add the longer keys, and the different sounds that come out from these two pianos.
I don’t think this is the right comparison, especially in the US. The SMP for the K500 is $13990. The SMP for the GL30 is almost twice that - $27590. The closer priced instrument is the GL10, at $15590, still higher than the upright. I suspect that if all things were equal and my decision was between these two instruments, I’d buy the K500.
I think that the short answer to the OP's question is: it depends.
It depends on the individual pianos and their action. One can even find considerable difference in action feel between two similarly-sized uprights or similarly-sized grands. Some will have a lighter, some heavier, touch than others which means that there is no straightforward answer to the question.
We each react and adapt differently to changes, so I think that the best solution to your question is to try as many pianos of each kind that you can get your hands on and then decide which best satisfies your needs. I would venture to suggest that it may not be "an upright" or "a grand" but an individual instrument of either type.
It's not the piano that matters. It's the pianist. Whether it's a grand/upright, the whole point of lessons and practice is to train muscle memory and fine motor control of fingers. Good feedback from an instrument helps quicken the process but I'd argue that a good teacher who can spot bad technique is more important than the piano. Having a better instrument whether it be a grand/upright simply allows a better pianist to shine more but Lang Lang on the crappiest of pianos as long as it's in tune is going to be able to provide a better musical experience than a grade 8 pianist on the finest of pianos.
Another thing that is pretty much assumed from a lot of the responses is that a grand action is better. That's only true if the action is maintained which arguably a lot of grand pianos, even those that piano teachers have, aren't. I'd take a piano that has been properly regulated regularly over a grand that hasn't. It just shows that the human body is able to adapt to a huge range of playing conditions once the requisite motor control is in place.
TLDR: It's great to have a grand piano, even better if it is well maintained but it's more important to have someone to oversee learning and technique and then practice is key.
Grand piano action do things that upright cannot. No doubt professionals can play and enjoy upright, but IMO they need one and I have never met a professional pianist (teacher or performer) who didnt have grand at their home. They studied to perform on a grand after all.
Shura Cherkassky practiced his whole life on an upright, and I know of one professional pianist PW member who home piano is an excellent upright. Many, many piano teachers give lessons on verticals. The pieces where a grand's action makes the performance easier are rarely played by amateurs who make up far more than 99% of pianists.
I think this video shows that even the hardest pieces, well beyond the level possible by most pianists, can be played on vertical, although perhaps with less ease than on a grand: