5 Type of Pianos

The Acoustic Piano

Always play before buying.  No two are alike!

Related Post:  Purchasing a Piano or Keyboard

  • Upright pianos, strings are vertical instead of horizontal, the name of the piano, “Console”, “Studio”, “Upright Grand” refers more to the size than anything else. Avoid Spinets which used to be made 10 – 20 years ago, because they just don’t hold being tuned in the bass. The taller the piano, usually the better the sound. But that’s not the only factor when you are choosing an instrument. How it sounds, and how it feels are very important.
  • Grand Pianos – more expensive, take more floor space, but more expressive and sound quality is better (usually) than an upright piano, they have some features, like how the soft pedal moves the keyboard to the side (changing the QUALITY of the sound), and sostenuto pedal that are not available on most upright pianos. Grand Pianos have horizontal strings, and the top opens up – it’s the one you see performers use on stage. Sound quality is usually better than an upright, unless you get a baby grand. Some baby grands don’t sound as good as a tall upright! Buyer beware.

For more information on buying an acoustic piano, visit the Piano Technicians Guild website.

Hybrid Pianos

There is a new piano on the market. A Hybrid, such as the Yamaha NU-1. This is where the action of an upright meets the electronics of a digital piano. Plus it has other sounds as well.

The Digital Piano

Also, play before buying. These range VERY widely in features, speaker, touch, and sound quality. The speakers that are put in them are a large part of what makes or breaks their sound quality. MAKE SURE YOU LOVE THE SOUND OF THE PIANO. Some portable digitals require external speakers, which can be an extra expense, but can give you more control over the sound. Everything from the Yamaha YPG-650 (digital piano) to the Yamaha P-155 (portable) to the Roland keyboards and great quality digital pianos, to the Yamaha Clavinova line as well as some of the Casio Digital pianos, Kawaii also has good quality instruments, now the Williams. You can get digital pianos with rhythms going in the background, and all kinds of features, including sequencers for recording songs you play. If you go to MusiciansFriend.com you can actually look up the differences in digital pianos, with the specs, but again you can’t really listen to them online very well. Guitar Center in Lynnwood and Seattle has some of these as well, as does Classic Pianos in Bellevue and Prosser Piano in Shoreline and Pedigo Piano in Everett. These are much more popular among people who maybe don’t want to start out with a piano. However, a Digital Piano doesn’t quite operate the same as an upright piano. It’s like comparing an electric guitar to an acoustic guitar. They behave differently.

Keyboards (3 different types)

  1. The 5-octave Portable. (one octave is a set of 2 and 3 black keys) – Not really something fit for a student to practice on.
  2. Workstation keyboards – these are more professional keyboards, usually run around $1,200 to $5,000 and have anywhere from 6-16 track sequencers, and often also have many built-in sounds, and if a synthesizer is attached, you can also create your own sounds. The keyboard size ranges from 61-key to 88, weighted or unweighted keyboards. Quite complex and can be distracting to a child who wants to practice. These can also be used to create songs that you hear every day on the radio, for hip-hop, new age sounds, orchestral sounds, - it’s almost limitless what you can hear on these.
  3. Synthesizers – are keyboards where you can tweak the sound, often in real time, as you are playing. In this category is the “Moog” which is an instrument that can be used to create all kinds of sounds, everything from wind noises, to anything you can imagine and make up your own sounds.


Usually 2 manuals and pedals, but can also have more than two manuals (keyboards) and can have everything from 1 octave of pedals up to 3 or 4 octaves. Not something I teach any more. By the way, churches are clamoring for good church organists.