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#254795 - 09/02/03 05:34 PM Grand vs. Upright
AkKr Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/29/03
Posts: 34
Loc: Alaska
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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#254796 - 09/02/03 05:58 PM Re: Grand vs. Upright
kenny Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 7051
Actually there is much written here.
Do a search.

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#254797 - 09/02/03 05:59 PM Re: Grand vs. Upright
Penny Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2943
Loc: San Juan Capistrano, CA
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

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#254798 - 09/04/03 10:48 PM Re: Grand vs. Upright
John Ruggero Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/04/02
Posts: 161
Loc: Raleigh
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

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#254799 - 09/05/03 01:07 AM Re: Grand vs. Upright
88Key_PianoPlayer Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/02
Posts: 1906
Loc: El Cajon, CA
 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. [/b]
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. \:\)
_________________________
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1950 (#144211) Baldwin Hamilton
1956 (#167714) Baldwin Hamilton
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#254800 - 09/05/03 01:47 AM Re: Grand vs. Upright
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 14138
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
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? \:D

norbert
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
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#254801 - 09/05/03 02:11 PM Re: Grand vs. Upright
kluurs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/24/02
Posts: 3739
Loc: Chicago
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

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#254802 - 09/05/03 11:28 PM Re: Grand vs. Upright
88Key_PianoPlayer Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/02
Posts: 1906
Loc: El Cajon, CA
 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 [/b]
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. \:\( ) *sigh...*
_________________________
Associate Member - Piano Technicians Guild
1950 (#144211) Baldwin Hamilton
1956 (#167714) Baldwin Hamilton
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#254803 - 09/06/03 12:06 AM Re: Grand vs. Upright
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 14138
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
Yeah, but the beautiful grand [you keep posting here,for seemingly ever!] in your living room......

...ain't looking too damn shaby to me! \:D

norbert
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#254804 - 09/06/03 12:10 AM Re: Grand vs. Upright
88Key_PianoPlayer Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/02
Posts: 1906
Loc: El Cajon, CA
 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! \:D

norbert [/b]
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.
_________________________
Associate Member - Piano Technicians Guild
1950 (#144211) Baldwin Hamilton
1956 (#167714) Baldwin Hamilton
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#254805 - 09/07/03 08:18 PM Re: Grand vs. Upright
starmender Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/06/03
Posts: 461
Loc: Australia
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.

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#254806 - 09/07/03 09:01 PM Re: Grand vs. Upright
Ansonflex Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/25/03
Posts: 171
Loc: San Antonio
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 \:\)
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#254807 - 09/07/03 10:09 PM Re: Grand vs. Upright
Manitou Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/08/02
Posts: 1044
Loc: Colorado
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
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#254808 - 09/07/03 10:33 PM Re: Grand vs. Upright
Jim Volk Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/03
Posts: 916
Loc: Jacksonville, Florida
 Quote:
I am curious as to why you believe injury is more likely with an upright piano.[/b]
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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PIANOVATION

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#254809 - 09/08/03 12:21 AM Re: Grand vs. Upright
88Key_PianoPlayer Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/02
Posts: 1906
Loc: El Cajon, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jimbo:
 Quote:
I am curious as to why you believe injury is more likely with an upright piano.[/b]
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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1950 (#144211) Baldwin Hamilton
1956 (#167714) Baldwin Hamilton
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#254810 - 09/08/03 12:54 AM Re: Grand vs. Upright
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 14138
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
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'.. \:D ]

norbert
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#254811 - 09/08/03 01:59 AM Re: Grand vs. Upright
katie_dup1 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/27/03
Posts: 1838
Loc: Canada
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.

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#254812 - 09/08/03 02:37 AM Re: Grand vs. Upright
Rick Clark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 1810
Loc: North County San Diego CA
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

Piano tuner-technician

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#254813 - 09/08/03 04:35 AM Re: Grand vs. Upright
88Key_PianoPlayer Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/02
Posts: 1906
Loc: El Cajon, CA
 Quote:
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 [/b]
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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1950 (#144211) Baldwin Hamilton
1956 (#167714) Baldwin Hamilton
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#254814 - 09/08/03 03:39 PM Re: Grand vs. Upright
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5306
Loc: Olympia, Washington
 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 [/b]
----------


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
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#254815 - 09/08/03 05:02 PM Re: Grand vs. Upright
David Burton Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 1759
Loc: Coxsackie, New York
Del,

I also want to welcome you to this forum. It is indeed a pleasure to read your posts.

Your brother Darrell, whom I have met twice on my visits to see my parents in Washington, is a real gentleman whose piano technology experiments have produced some fabulous results. In particular I was very enthusiastic about his vertical action, the best I've ever played. Close my eyes and it is not hard to imagine I'm playing a grand, and yes, I did find the ability to control dynamics on his upright quite astounding. He seems to have picked a couple very good designs and adapted them to his requirements. I also wish more people would open their minds and imaginations to the possibility that a good upright would more than meet their needs in a piano rather than buying the short grands that are widely available, but apparently many just wont.

Also, I have found that providing a few inches between a wall and the upright piano greatly enhances its projection. Most place their uprights right up against the wall and then wonder why they don't get as much sound.

Again, thank-you so much for participating in this forum.

Best,

David Burton
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#254816 - 09/08/03 09:46 PM Re: Grand vs. Upright
starmender Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/06/03
Posts: 461
Loc: Australia
This thread is so huge that I am getting lost in it, but for the person who asked:

Why do I say that uprights are more likely to induce injury in advanced students?

My background is that I am a pianist and teacher and Feldenkrais practitioner, and much of my work is in enhancing technique and rehabilitating playing ability in pianists who are injured or who have technical frustrations.

I have observed, over many years, the tendency towards injury with uprights, (which is different from the postural change injury that sometimes comes from the change to a grand, and is due to the change in music rest height)

I think the reason is that on an upright piano, because the action is sprung, most of the resistance is at the top of the keystroke, so the pianist has to "brake" after overcoming the initial resistance in the key, in order to have the key going slowly enough to play really softly, and this causes tightness in the scm and trapezius muscles. On a grand, on the other hand, the action tends to offer more resistance as you go down the key, so the piano, and not the pianist, provides the resistance. I have seen this demonstrated with a weight placed on the key of a grand, and then an upright.

As I understand from talking to engineers about injury and keystrokes in general, there is a general principle that a mechanical system must have inhibition somewhere, and if it is not in the instrument, it will be in the player. I probably don't explain any of this very well, and use all the wrong words.

I am of course talking about the standard upright action. I know nothing about new inventions, except that there is an Australian upright piano maker who has developed a repetition lever for an upright. When I heard about it some years ago he was building pianos in Darwin, in Australia's tropical far north, for export into South East Asia.

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#254817 - 09/09/03 10:38 AM Re: Grand vs. Upright
Rick Clark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 1810
Loc: North County San Diego CA
Starmender, I am a technician, and while I'm uninformed as to injury potential, I do agree with you in principal. I have stated here many times that working against gravity (in a grand) and working against spring resistance (in an upright) are very different things and that grands win by a longshot to my way of thinking. This is why I will sometimes also state here that I would prefer even the smallest grand to most uprights, even though sometimes the upright may have a better tonal balance.

That said, I will still admit though that there are individual upright pianos I encounter now and again which somehow seem to transcend the objectionable feel even with all those springs, and I would not be resistant to owning one. I don't know what their formula is, but sometimes they are just very good despite it all.

Regards,

Rick Clark
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Rick Clark

Piano tuner-technician

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#254818 - 09/09/03 12:05 PM Re: Grand vs. Upright
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14051
Loc: Louisiana
Give me a Chinese grand of decent basic design, give me tech who knows what he is doing, and pay him to go completely through the piano, with instructions to make it "the best it can be".

This then becomes a real interesting question, because price points start to become similar between the entry level grand (that doesn't perform like one), and a pretty decent vertical.
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#254819 - 09/09/03 10:32 PM Re: Grand vs. Upright
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5306
Loc: Olympia, Washington
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jolly:
Give me a Chinese grand of decent basic design, give me tech who knows what he is doing, and pay him to go completely through the piano, with instructions to make it "the best it can be".

This then becomes a real interesting question, because price points start to become similar between the entry level grand (that doesn't perform like one), and a pretty decent vertical. [/b]
-------------

I agree that most any grand piano can be made to sound quite nice under the hands of a really skilled technician. However, I have been in three piano factories in China and I would have serious questions about the longevity of anything coming out of any of them. The problems range from the quality of the various glue joints to the quality of the wood used to the way the wood used structurally is handled. Mostly how it is dried and conditioned. It's still a matter of getting what you pay for. There is a reason (aside from the cost of labor) why more expensive pianos are more expensive, be they verticals or grands.

Del
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
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Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#254820 - 09/09/03 11:41 PM Re: Grand vs. Upright
Nina Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 6467
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
In my shopping experience I found nothing satisfactory in the small, inexpensive grands I tried.

The difference between an $8K little grand and my $8K Pleyel upright (as well as the similarly sized Baldwins, Schimmels and Shulze-Pollmans I played) was remarkable. The grands played like cheap toys, whereas the large uprights felt like instruments with expression and dynamic range. No, they weren't grands, but at that price range I felt there was no comparison. The action was different, of course, but didn't make up for the playability. (is that a word?)

In the meantime, I'm saving my $$ for a mid-level grand piano--which, in my mind, is somewhere in the $20-$25K range.

Nina

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#254821 - 09/10/03 01:01 AM Re: Grand vs. Upright
Bernard Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/06/01
Posts: 3857
Loc: North Groton, NH
Jimbo wrote:
 Quote:
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.
As a regular of the pianist's corner who has strayed afar into the deep woods of the piano forum, please indulge me. I realize the above was humor, nonetheless I feel compelled to address it lest someone really does get hurt. \:\(

I do not think the wrist and forearm require strength in the sense of brute force or mass (i.e. like body builders). Suppleness and flexibility is needed which will allow a greater amount of force to flow through them. I suppose this is a form of strength, but I just wanted to elaborate.

Thanks for obliging.
_________________________
"Hunger for growth will come to you in the form of a problem." -- unknown

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#254822 - 09/10/03 12:16 PM Re: Grand vs. Upright
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5306
Loc: Olympia, Washington
 Quote:
Originally posted by Nina:
In my shopping experience I found nothing satisfactory in the small, inexpensive grands I tried.
....

In the meantime, I'm saving my $$ for a mid-level grand piano--which, in my mind, is somewhere in the $20-$25K range.

Nina [/b]
I’ve given quite a bit of thought and effort to the idea of the very small grand (VSG) piano, considering both their problems and their potential. By my definition the VSG market includes pianos in the 150 to 160 cm (4’ 11” to 5’ 3”) range. These pianos have been roundly condemned by piano tuners and technicians ever since Brambach made them affordable and popular back around 1920 or so. Highest on the list of dislikes has been their sound. Still people keep on buying them, their size and portability offering its own strong attraction regardless of what “industry experts” say about them. And regardless of how badly they are most often made to sound.

With this ongoing demand in mind it would seem that some enlightened manufacturer would once again make these things a specialty. There is no acoustical reason why — at least through most of its range — the VSG cannot sound just as musical as its larger siblings. True, the low bass will never equal that of a larger instrument, but there seems to be a good lot of folks out there for whom this is not a major consideration. A solid, well-defined musical tone can be maintained down to the first octave, give or take, and this is enough for many pianists.

To make the VSG sound its best a small amount of power will be sacrificed. The loss will be slight and it will be less a musical problem than a sales problem. In most piano showrooms the VSG is displayed out in the middle of the same gargantuan space that also swallows up the concert grand. Couple this with the all-to-frequent piano salesfolks who know of no other way to present a piano beyond banging really hard on the keys and loudly proclaiming the wonders of great clangorous power. It may also be a problem to the musician who has been taught to ignore his or her ears and attack the keys with a ferocity that would have destroyed any piano of Chopin’s day. As all may be, we’ll show them all and make up for the slight power loss by giving the piano a wonderful dynamic range.

The only limitation to the VSG action is the short key. The touchweight of the action is set up at the front of the key. With the shorter key there is a greater variation in touchweight (and finger travel) between the front of the key and the middle of back of the key. Unless the hammers are grossly oversize and overweight — as most are these days — this characteristic is one most pianists become accustomed to fairly quickly. With this exception there is no inherent reason why the VSG action cannot function just as well as it does in a larger piano.

Sadly, I know of no VSG on the market today coming anywhere close to this imagined level of performance. There are several that are reasonably well made, but they still lack a certain musicality. One reason for this, I think, is our perception of the market niche. Since the performance of the VSG has traditionally been, shall we say, less the exemplary, the manufacturer sees the potential customer for them only as a price shopper. And price shoppers, by definition, care nothing for performance. Only price. With looks being a distant second. They will buy the cheapest PSO (piano-shaped object) they can find at Costco. Obviously, there is no need to expend any effort to make these things perform as long as they are cute and shiny. And cheap. “Oh, does it make noise too? Hey, that’s great! The kids will love it!”

Building a high-performance VSG will raise the cost of the instrument somewhat above the Costco level. Over the years I’ve been working on the design for a pair of high-performance VSGs —150 cm and 160 cm in length. I’ve not priced them out — it’s unlikely they will ever be built, it’s been more an intellectual exercise than anything else. — but the Suggested Retail Price would probably fall in the $15K to $25K range. Depending on quantities. By contrast, there are any number of VSG PSOs available for less than $10K. I recently saw a splashy piano store advertisement offering fine, hand-crafted, heirloom-quality grand pianos for $4,998. Including delivery and tuning.

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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#254823 - 09/10/03 01:15 PM Re: Grand vs. Upright
Mike Parke Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 154
Loc: Columbus, OH
Del,
Excuse my total ignorance of the field, but have you tried some of the emerging (re-emerging?) companies from central Europe such as Estonia? Or maybe from Poland or the Czech Republic? At best they have a desire for quality combined with low (relative to other countries) labor costs. If Estonia (just for example) can produce a quality 6' 3" piano for $20-25K and a 5' 8" for $15-20K, then shouldn't they be able to produce a VSG for somewhat less (I'm not too sure of their prices)? Maybe low enough to compete in the VSG market?

Even here, there could be some premium for sounding better - especially if supply is somewhat limited. There is a niche of VSG buyers who do care about sound (although I don't have a clue how big this niche might be). I personally know one VSG buyer who's a casual player - but did make their final purchase decision on sound rather than best price.

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#254824 - 09/10/03 01:55 PM Re: Grand vs. Upright
Manitou Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/08/02
Posts: 1044
Loc: Colorado
Del,

Thanks for your insights, nice to have more knowledge around here. I believe we have met, at least once, in the midst of Mr. Sauter, Mr. Finger & Mr. Able (couple years ago) in any case,

I am aware of you and your bothers' achievments and vision but I do have one question.

Now that you have spent so much time, science and energy working the upright into a grand equivalent, how much closer do the respective prices fall now?

Manitou - Pianist - Technician
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Manitou - Pianist - Technician

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