Upright or Grand?

Uprights are more or less a similar size and weight, except for some more modern uprights which can be smaller.  Grands vary in size from under 5 foot in length to over 9 foot for a concert grand.  The best size for an average size home is a 5 foot baby grand.  The width of a grand is about the same as the width of a standard upright.  But for most homes these days, with limited space, an upright might be the way to go.

Ideally, buy a new or restored piano from a reputable piano shop and get advice from the owner of the shop.  They will usually give you a very good deal with a good warranty, a stool, moving and first tuning thrown in.

If you don’t want to buy new or reconditioned yet, keep your eye on forums online – your local  Friday Ad, Gumtree, Facebook Buy & Sell groups.  Ask friends and family if they know anybody who is selling one, and visit local piano dealers.  Take your time and look around a lot.  It bears repeating, the most important thing is do you love the sound of it?

When buying second hand, it’s a good idea to ask either a piano teacher or even better, a piano tuner, to give it a look over to see if there are any problems with it.  Be very careful when buying from an auction site and never ever buy a piano without seeing it and trying it first.  It can cost around £100 to move a piano, so if you get a bargain online, you have to factor this in, and moving a piano that is ready for the tip is a big waste of time, money and a disappointment.  Remember that a piano may look lovely on the outside but may not be able to be tuned if it’s too old or in really bad condition.  Having an expert look at it before you commit will bring this to light.

An acoustic piano is a far more satisfying playing experience, but comes with several disadvantages over the electronic keyboard:

  • They’re a lot more expensive (especially if new)
  • They have to be moved and pianos are very heavy.  It’s difficult to get them up and down stairs (this is taken into consideration when asking the price of moving a piano – you will be charged by the number of steps in a flight of stairs – inside or outside a house).  (By the way, a grand can be somewhat easier to move than an upright as it can be turned on its side and the legs removed).
  • They have to be tuned.  Usually twice a year although if you have a good piano it might hold its tuning for a year.  It can cost upwards of £35 for a tuning.
  • They can be loud and this can cause problems with neighbours and family members.

On the plus side:

  • An acoustic piano sounds superior and is much nicer to play.
  • A piano is a beautiful piece of furniture (especially a grand)
  • A piano, if well looked after, tends to hold its value over time and can become a beautiful family heirloom.


Older pianos usually have two pedals.  The one on the left is called the “soft” pedal or “una corda” (which means “one string”) and it makes the piano play quieter than usual.  The one on the right is the “sustain” or “damper” pedal and lets the sound ring out for as long as you keep the pedal down.  This is the one we use the most.

However, newer pianos and electronic pianos that come in a case, designed to look like a real piano DO have pedals.   Sometimes 2, sometimes 3.  The additional one is the middle one and there are two different types of middle pedal.  One is called the “sostenuto” pedal.  This sustains notes played as the pedal is depressed, while any notes played afterwards will not be sustained, even though the pedal is down.  It’s very similar to the sustain pedal, but only affects the immediate notes played.  The other type of middle pedal is a practice pedal, which is like the “soft” pedal, but can be locked so that everything you play on the piano sounds softer, enabling quieter practice.

Where to put your piano.

Acoustic pianos are very sensitive to the temperature and don’t like to be in a room that gets too hot or too cold.  Never put a piano next to a radiator as this dries the wood out and causes all kinds of problems.  I have on occasion been to look at an old piano for sale and found it in a garage!  No no no!  Never store a piano in a garage unless you know that it’s going to the dump.  Don’t put your piano in a lovely alcove window where it will be bathed in sunlight all the time as this will fade the wood.  It’s ok to put it in a window if you cover it, but that inclines to spoil the look of it.  It’s best to put the piano in a separate room – or the dining part of a lounge/diner and take into consideration what other activities happen in that room.  It’s best not to have the TV in the same room, for instance.

Financial help

There is a scheme in the UK called “Take It Away” which is supported by Arts Council England.  A person over the age of 18 buying an instrument for someone under 18, or someone between 18 and 25 buying for themselves, you can get an interest-free loan for up to £5,000.

But some piano dealers also offer 0% financing, so do shop around.

In the next blog post I’m going to talk about some amazing acoustic/electronic pianos and and some fantastic techno gizmos for the piano.



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