Are you thinking about investing in a baby grand piano? When it comes to the piano, there are many more types than people realize.
First, you need to look at the differences between a traditional (acoustic) piano, and the modern electronic versions.
Then you need to consider the differences between upright and horizontal models of piano, to see what the differences are aside from the size and shape.
Most importantly, which types are good for newbie piano players to learn on? Are baby grand pianos a good style to choose? Are they suitable for young learners?
Read on to find out.[toc]
What is a Baby Grand Piano?
To understand a baby grand piano, first you need to appreciate the different types of piano on the market. Pianos can be sorted into two different categories – horizontal and vertical.
A vertical piano, also known as an upright, has a box shaped body and is a typical choice for people with limited space. The upright is a piano that is easy to fit into your home, and so makes it a good type to learn on.
You can get different types of vertical pianos that are various sizes and come in different styles. The four types are spinet (height 40″ and shorter), console (41″ – 44″ tall), studio (45″ and taller) and standard upright.
Horizontal pianos are also known as grand pianos, but there are varying styles for this size of piano, too. While a concert grand, measuring about 9 feet, is what usually springs to mind, few people can enjoy having such a large instrument in their home.
As such, grand pianos of different sizes have been developed so that more people can enjoy learning on a horizonal style. From biggest to smallest, horizontal pianos are ranked as such: concert grand, ballroom grand, living room/parlor grand, professional grand, medium grand, baby grand and petite grand.
The petite grand is typically made to a size of 4 feet 5 inches to 4 feet 10 inches, whereas the baby grand measures more like 4 feet 11 inches to 5 feet 6 inches. While only marginally larger, the baby grand is considered superior in sound quality, and is an affordable option for the quality you get.
Horizontal pianos are superior to the vertical because they produce finer tones and have a responsive key action, making them much better quality for aspiring professional pianists.
Most models will have 88 keys, although you sometimes find older models that have only 85. While European pianos usually have just two petals, American pianos are equipped with three: una corda, sostenuto, and damper.
Grand Piano vs Baby Grand Piano
At 9-foot, grand pianos are the Big Daddy of the piano world. A baby grand is about half the size, making it much easier to fit into your practice room. But the size doesn’t just relate to where you’ll fit it in your house – the size of a grand piano will also impact the overall sound it produces.
Although top of the range baby grand pianos will sound comparable to a standard grand piano, the smaller baby grand piano will produce less volume and have sharper overtones. The longer the piano, the fuller and richer the sound, with more balanced overtones.
For a large ballroom, concert hall or other large space, you’ll certainly notice the difference if you choose a baby grand piano over a full sized grand.
Think about the room you want to use the piano in, how many people you’ll be playing for, and how far away the back of the audience will be. For larger rooms, you’ll need a forceful instrument to ensure good quality.
As well as producing a bolder sound, a grand piano will be able to produce a greater range of sounds. As well as putting out clear, loud noises, a grand piano will have the resonance to produce sounds much quieter than a baby grand is capable of.
However, bear in mind that while a grand piano can fit well into the acoustics of a large room, it can easily overwhelm and overpower a smaller room, for which a baby grand would be more appropriate.
The budget is a huge consideration for those in the market for a grand piano of any size, and of course the bigger the piano, the bigger the price tag.
For a grand piano, you’re looking at $10,000 to $50,000. A baby grand piano is much more affordable at $4,000 to $8,000, making it a top choice for those who are just learning and not yet masters of their craft.
Beginners – Starting to Learn the Piano
Learning any instrument takes time and practice, and whether you’re starting out on a practical upright piano or a baby grand, learning to play well will require patience and hard work. While the best time to learn a new skill is when you’re young, you can learn the piano at any age, though of course there are more beneficial times to start if you plan on going pro.
Can you start lessons too young?
The question of when to sign up a child for piano lessons is an important one for parents who want to foster a love of music in their child from an early age. However, getting a child to sit down to formal piano lessons when they’re too young could have a detrimental effect.
Think about the differences between the routines of a five/six-year-old child starting school, and a three/four-year-old child in kindergarten.
The kindergarten child will have a much shorter attention span and be flitting from one activity to another fairly quickly. Trying to make them sit down and practice something like playing the piano would be difficult to achieve, even if the child shows an interest.
However, at five or six-years-old, a child will have experience of sitting nicely with their classmates, listening to a teacher and concentrating for more extended periods of time. While their motivation and enthusiasm for the piano mightn’t be any stronger than it was a few years previously, their capability to practice purposefully will be far greater.
Of course, every so often you will hear of a child genius, like this four-year-old boy (watch the video below) who can play the piano more masterfully than most piano students several times his age. This level of virtuoso can’t be taught and shouldn’t be expected, even of very talented children.
Child prodigies are under a huge amount of pressure to excel, and children who are average piano players, or even excellent for their age, will feel distressed at the comparison.
From the age of six to eight is a good time for a child to start learning the piano. A child with small hands or poor fine motor skills will benefit from waiting until they’re a little older, and sometimes a child will be more motivated at eight than they were at six, making them a much better student.
Children’s brains start to process things differently from about the age of ten, so it’s good to aim for starting piano classes before this age.
When is it too late to learn?
Short answer – never! It’s never too late to learn a new skill, and while it gets harder to become a master at something the later you start, even those who don’t start the piano until their adult years can become an expert if they dedicate the time to it.
If you’re thinking about learning the piano, the best time to start is right now. If you’ve never learnt it before, it’ll be hard when you start, but the more you practice, the better you’ll get.
Does the size of your hand matter?
It’s often mentioned that people with small hands might struggle to play the piano. While there are advantages to having larger hands, it’s certainly not the case that a pianist with small hands will be particularly limited.
What you might find to be the case is that, if you have smaller hands, there will be some pieces of music that are harder to play than others because of the range you need.
That doesn’t mean you can’t be a brilliant pianist, just that you might not be able to play everything you want to.
Also bear in mind that hand size and hand span aren’t the same thing. Someone with small hands might be able to stretch their fingers so that they can reach the same notes as someone with bigger hands.
Also, keep in mind that, with practice, many pianists are able to stretch their fingers further over time and can often add an extra note to their range.
Whatever size your hands are, you’ll need to practice regularly to become good at playing the piano. Frequent practice helps build muscle and dexterity in your digits, making it easier for you to reach all the notes you need for a piece of music.
Baby Grand Piano or Digital Piano (Acoustic or Digital)?
We’ve looked at the difference between upright and horizontal pianos, but what about the differences between acoustic pianos and digital keyboards?
Even a small, upright piano will be an unaffordable luxury for some people, particularly those not wanting to invest in something top of the range which their budding pianist child may grow out of the hobby in a matter of years.
Digital keyboards have the obvious bonus of being much more affordable than a ‘proper’ piano, but what’s the whole story?
As we’ve seen, a vertical piano or baby grand piano will probably set you back around $4,000 to $8,000. Digital pianos are therefore a much more affordable option as you can get a brand new one for around $1,000 to $2,000.
There are also smaller keyboards which are vastly inferior to a piano sized keyboard which retail much cheaper, but they’re a poor imitation of what playing on a real piano is like.
Electronic keyboards like this are often sold for under $250, and might make a good starting option for a child.
Bear in mind that the cost you pay up front mightn’t be all that your instrument costs you. Once you have an electronic piano, you’re good to go.
However, with an acoustic piano, the instrument will need to be serviced to continue producing good quality sound. Getting an acoustic of any size serviced can cost around $100 – $200 per year.
Size, Storage and Portability
Upright and horizontal pianos vary greatly in size. A baby grand piano is much larger than a standard upright, and a concert grand is obviously bigger yet.
These instruments take up a large amount of space and basically have to stay where they are. The bigger the piano, the heavier and more difficult it will be to move it.
A plus point for digital pianos is that they’re smaller and lighter, and some are easily portable, unlike acoustic pianos which often just stay in one place and generally cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars to move.
There’s no competition – acoustic pianos produce a much better sound than electric keyboards or digital pianos.
The technology for these instruments has improved over the years but the sound produced on an electronic machine won’t ever live up to the real deal, not in the opinion of professionals, anyway.
Acoustic pianos are capable of producing different tones depending on how hard or soft the pianist plays, whereas an electric model will only ever produce one sound for one key.
Think about the materials than an acoustic piano is made of, the space for the strings, the resonance… it’s a clear winner.
When someone is playing the piano, the whole house knows about it. One advantage of a digital piano or electric keyboard is that headphones can be plugged in, enabling the pianist to practice without disturbing everyone around them.
Think about how long you want to use your piano for. Are you buying for a child who, in five or six years, might have grown out of their hobby, or perhaps be moving out and unable to take it with them?
Perhaps you’re a keen pianist looking to splash out and get an instrument that will last you decades, or perhaps even continue to be a viable instrument long after you cease playing!
For digital pianos and electronic keyboards, if you look after them well, they can last anything from three to ten years. The bigger and better-quality ones will last longer, whereas cheaper, flimsy models will only last a few years.
On the other hand, acoustic pianos are built to go the distance. A well-maintained upright piano could last two or three decades, whereas a grand piano in good working condition could run for over fifty years!
Which Brands are Best
Across the board, Yamaha make excellent quality pianos and electric pianos, too. The same goes for Kawai. If you’re looking for an acoustic piano, also check out the brands Schimmel and Boston. If budget is not an issue for you as a savvy pianist, just go for the top-notch Steinway.
For an electric piano or digital keyboard, think of Casio or Roland. While an upright or baby grand piano should really be purchased in person, electronic pianos can be purchased online from trustworthy sources.
Tips on Picking a Baby Grand Piano
If you’ve decided to plump for quality and are looking into buying a baby grand piano, you want to make sure you choose an excellent model.
As we’ve seen above, a good baby grand piano could be a companion for life, and with a large price tag, you want to make sure that you’re completely happy with your purchase. Here are some top tips to help you make a good decision.
New or Old
Don’t rule out second-hand pianos, especially if you have a lower budget. It might be that case that you could get a good quality and well-known branded piano second-hand, for the same price that you’d pay for a lesser quality but brand-new piano.
There’s so much to take into consideration with a second-hand piano – read on for further tips.
Pushing the Budget
Should you ever purchase a baby grand piano that’s right at the top of your budget? Most people would advise you not to. For starters, while an electronic keyboard requires no maintenance work on it, an acoustic piano will have annual costs for tuning, repairs and maintenance.
If the piano is brand new, there will likely be fewer additional costs involved than in a second-hand piano, which will be more likely to need repairs. Also, think about related costs.
Have you bought a piano stool yet? Once you have the piano, will you want to splash out on loads of sheet music? Have you considered the delivery cost?
Try to be modest when deciding on your budget as things are rarely as straightforward as you hope.
Second-Hand Top Tip
Whatever type of second-hand piano you’re hoping to buy, our top tip is to always have the piano checked out by a professional.
A piano technician will be able to do an appraisal of the piano for a modest fee, a cost which will absolutely be worth it in the long run if the technician can point out a major flaw that you never would have noticed yourself.
Getting a piano appraisal is a safety net for what could be one of the most expensive mistakes of your life! It’s important to take their advice seriously – don’t be disheartened if they recommend stepping away from what you think is a good deal.
The piano technician wants for you to get the piano of your dreams – that’s why they might give you advice that, at first, you feel like you don’t want to hear.
To entertain the thought of a baby grand piano in your room, you’ll have to have a sizeable space to put it in. Think about the sort of size that you’re interested in, and lay down newspaper in a piano shape to fit that size. This will help you to get a feel for how the piano will look in the room.
Bear in mind that you’ll also need a bit of space around the piano to make it easy to get around it, and space to put your piano stool!
Most pianists agree that a baby grand piano under 5 feet is too small, so if that’s all you can fit in the room, consider if a grand acoustic is right for you.
If you’ve got limited space, err on the side of caution – a slightly-too-small piano is something you can live with but a slightly-too-large piano will be a nightmare.
Getting something with a fashionable label isn’t a must in the same way that people stick to clothing fashion brands, but there are reasons to make sure your piano is coming from a trusted manufacturer.
Some makes are good across the board whereas others specialize, so do your homework and don’t just trust that a well-known name will make the kind of machine you want.
Good brands resell better, and so this is something to consider if you think you might upgrade in a few years’ time and sell on the one that you’re buying now.
Don’t buy an acoustic piano that you haven’t heard being played before, in person. If you can’t play the piano yourself yet, take along a piano savvy friend to the viewing or ask the current owner to demonstrate it for you.
Even if you’re not particularly clued up on what a well-maintained piano should look like, if it’s truly the piano for you then you can expect to fall in love with the sound it produces.
For whatever reason, you might need to purchase a piano quickly. If this is the case, you might be better looking at brand new pianos.
The thing about second-hand pianos is that they’re all different, and even two pianos of the same age and model will be vastly different depending on how they’ve been maintained and how often they’ve been used.
It’s important to dedicate the time to choosing the right second-hand piano, but with something that’s brand new, there’s more guarantee of what you’re getting.
Best Digital Pianos Picked
Not ready for an acoustic yet? Can’t afford one/don’t have the space/aren’t sure piano is for you? No problem.
Plenty of people start out on digital pianos and learn the vital basic skills before moving on to something more professional.
If you want a digital piano that’s perfect for beginners, here are some of the best models on the market.
The ONE Smart Piano
Rating: (4 / 5)
- Price: Just under $1,000 (without stool)
- Size: 54 x 34 x 18 in
- Weight: 117 pounds
- Keys: 88, and the keys are weighted to feel more like those on an acoustic piano
- App: iOS and Android compatible app
- Sheet Music: Thousands of choices of free sheet music
- Learning: The crash course will help you to master simple tunes in minutes
- Good for kids? Yes, this piano is perfect for kids.
The ONE Smart Piano is an all-inclusive model that is a perfect piece of kit for the newbie pianist. Kids will enjoy playing on the light-up keys that make it easier to identify different notes, and the piano games and video lessons will make practicing fun rather than a chore.
Many reviewers say that this digital piano is just like a ‘real’ piano and, at the price, is a great find. Choose from stylish matte black or classic white to let the piano fit in with your color scheme.
Fairly pricey, but a top choice for those who like interactive learning and a winner with younger piano players, too.
Yamaha DGX-660 Grand Digital Piano
Rating: (4.5 / 5)
- Price: At the $800 level (including stool and dust cover)
- Size: 9.1 x 9.1 x 9.1 in
- Weight: 87.8 pounds
- Keys: 88, weighted keys
- App: None
- Sheet Music: None
- Learning: Learn to play by listening to the CD and watching the DVD
- Good for kids? Not bad
While this digital piano doesn’t have all the flashing lights and gizmos that the ONE Smart Piano does, it’s a quality brand and an unbeatable price.
With a high rating from previous purchasers, this would be a great choice for adult beginners to the piano.
Known for the sound quality, which is a faithful reproduction of the Yamaha Concert Grand, it has numerous options for creating your own best playing experience.
Casio Privia PX-770 Digital Piano
Rating: (4.8 / 5)
- Price: At the $700 level (with an adjustable bench) or just under $800 (with a furniture bench)
- Size: Package size is 59.5 x 16.3 x 15 inches
- Keys: 88 weighted hammer-action keys with simulated ebony and ivory textures
- Weight: 101 pounds
- App: Yes, app included
- Sheet Music: None
- Learning: Learn from the Austin Bazzar DVD which comes with your purchase.
- Good for kids? Yes, good.
Austin Bazaar isn’t such a well-known brand – that’s why the price is a cut below other models we’ve listed here.
Available in black, walnut or white, this electric piano has a slim design that will enable it to fit nicely into smaller spaces.
It sounds and feels like a real grand piano, and the bundle (including headphones and bench) is a great deal. For a small additional fee, consider getting the higher quality stool to complete the set.
LAGRIMA Digital Piano LG8830
Rating: (4 / 5)
- Price: At $300 level (without bench) or $400 level (with bench)
- Size: 52.7 x 17.8 x 32.9 in
- Weight: 96.3 pounds
- Keys: 88, weighted keys
- App: None
- Fun Features: None
- Sheet Music: None
- Learning: No special features
- Good for kids? Yes
If you’re looking for a true beginner’s piano and it doesn’t matter if it’s the top quality, this is a cheap digital piano that will cover all the basics.
It has a reasonable rating on Amazon with some reviewers mentioning lack of assembly instructions and misaligned screw holes, but once you’ve got it up and running, the LAGRIMA seems to be a fairly decent piano for a starter.
The more afforable price makes it a good choice if you’re buying for a child.
This model doesn’t appear to come with any extra features like a CD, DVD or integrated app, and the mark-up on the price for including the bench seems quite high, considering the low price of the piano.
However, if you’re on a tight budget or don’t want to splash out until you know the piano is right for you, it’s a good place to start.
There’s so much to consider if you’re thinking of buying a baby grand piano – for musical newbies, this article will have opened a whole can of worms!
But the information is out there for you to make an informed choice. Your decision will be based on so much more than just budget, and it’s important to consider the purchase on different levels.
- Who is the piano for?
- Which room will it go in?
- How long do you hope to have it?
- Is this a fun hobby or a serious pursuit?
Once you’ve figured out the details of what you want the piano for, it will be much easier to decide which one to get. For the best recommendations, speak to modern piano players you know and see which models they swear by – they might even be able to recommend a trusted seller!