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Grand Piano VS Baby Grand: The Difference Is Surprisingly BIG!

Is it worth buying a baby grand piano? Which grand piano is best?

SPOILER: The ‘Grand Piano VS Baby Grand’ debate gets technical.

And it’s been that way ever since Hugo Sohmer gave the world the first ever Baby Grand piano in 1885. So as you can imagine, if over 100 years of debating the difference between a Grand piano and a Baby Grand, hasn’t sorted things out, then for a complete novice, it’s a minefield.

Reason being that, while these two pianos may (on the surface) just look like a scaled-up versions of the same thing, there’s a whole lot fo differences that lie beneath the outer case. So many in fact that if you were to go and flash your credit card tomorrow without reading this blog, you’d probably end up buying the wrong one. – or at least end up paying over the odds!

Remember, as with every large purchase you make (house, car, piano…), you need to know what you’re looking for, or the chances of you being misled by a savvy Salesmen are reasonably high. Therefore, to ensure that you’re not on the back foot when it comes to buying your piano, we’ve spelled out the difference between the Grand and Baby Grand in plain English.

Want to get to the heart of the ‘Grand Piano VS Baby Grand’ debate? Or just wondering is it worth buying a baby grand piano? Use the menu below to find all the answers you need, fast…

buy a grand piano

NOTE: Got a keen interest in pianos? Be sure to also check out our rundowns of the Types Of Pianos + the Types Of Musical Keyboards.

So before dissecting the ‘Grand Piano VS Baby Grand’ debate, it’d be wise to at least get an understanding of what makes Grand pianos different from Uprights. Otherwise you might finish up reading this blog only to realise that a Grand piano isn’t even for you. And Upright may be more what you’re after. So to distinguish the difference, here’s a couple of the main ways in which Upright pianos differ from Grands…

  • Size and profile – Now, probably one of the most noticeable differences between an Grand style of piano and an Upright would be their overall size. Whichever Grand you go for it will be considerably larger than an Upright, and that’s for very good reason. The size of a Grand piano is determined by something called the soundboard – in essence the part of the piano which magnifies the vibrations which are sent up the strings. With a Grand piano this is mounted horizontally, hence their length. Whereas with an Upright, this is mounted vertically, which tends to affect the richness of the sound. Also, with the case of Upright pianos being significantly smaller, the volume of the sound also tends to be much lower. Basically, if you’re after sound, Grands come out on top.
  • Overall Practicality – In relation to size, how a Grand piano fits into your house tends to be a lot different to that of an Upright. For a modern family, Uprights are probably the more practical way to go. They’re slim, can be shunted up against a wall and collect very little dust. Whereas a Grand is more a centrepiece. If you buy a Grand, you should really expect to sacrifice some floorspace, as even the Baby Grands aren’t small.
  • Its actual sound – When it comes to sound, there are a few reasons why choosing a Grand over an Upright would be a wise option. Firstly, Grand pianos have longer strings than the conventional Upright. Something that not only allows for bigger volume, but also a larger variation in tone. So for instance, if the strings in a Grand are double that of an Upright, the Grand’s sound is typically richer and has more bass and colour. Open the top on a Grand and you can increase the volume even further!
  • Key feel and playability – One key difference between these two types of piano is something called the action. This is the part of piano which is attached to the key that you press, and causes the hammer to hit the string. Now on a Grand these are actually quite simple, as with the strings being mounted horizontally the actions simply reset themselves using gravity. Whereas due to the orientation of the strings in a Upright piano (vertically), the actions require a spring to catapult them back into position. Springs that can often be the cause of broken keys.
a close up of a pianos black keys

Like most grand pianos, Baby Grands are a significant step-up in price from an Upright. A step that has a lot of piano shoppers slightly confused, asking “why are Baby Grand pianos so expensive?” But yet, it’s not like there isn’t a reason behind it – there is. And a very good one at that. So, think of it like this…

If you want a car, you have a choice: you can buy an everyday hatchback or something really exotic. For the hatch you’ll pay an everyday price, as there’s not really anything that special about it. It’s just a generic car. Whereas if you opt for something more exotic (perhaps coach-built), then you’ll end up paying an exotic-looking price. Why? Because what you’re getting is a whole lot more than a ‘just a car’. And it’s the same story with pianos…

You could go out tomorrow and buy an Electric piano for a couple of £100, which has been mass-produced in China and (let’s be honest) isn’t anything to shout about. It’s a piano that works, and sounds average – that’s pretty much it. Or you could also go out and buy a Baby Grand that’s been purpose-built to make a specific sound, and go about projecting it in a specific manner. Opt for this route and while you do pay more, you also get a whole lot more too!

Opposed to a plastic piano lookalike with a speaker, you’ll get a Baby Grand that not only looks like a work of art, but sounds like one too. The materials used (especially inside the piano), will be far higher quality and may have even been chosen for a specific reason; different types of wood diffuse sound in different ways! The piano itself, opposed to being mass-produced, is hand crafted using methods that’ve been refined year upon year and passed down generations, plus that pernickety attention to detail which you just don’t get for a couple of £100.

Point being that it’s not so much the price of a Baby Grand that matters, but more what you actually get in exchange. In fact, if you really consider all the effort that goes into making one of these Baby Grands, you’ll soon realise that it (and all other grand pianos) aren’t actually that expensive after all.

Now you understand why people buy Grand pianos as well as how they differ to the traditional Upright, you should be well prepped to understand the difference between the Grand Piano and the Baby Grand. Two pianos that from the outside don’t look that different, but trust us when we say that once you get inside you begin to see where the real differences lye. So here it is – the ‘Grand Piano VS Baby Grand’ debate unfolded…

grand piano in the middle of a living space

1. The size of the soundboard

As said earlier, the soundboard is that part of the piano which magnifies the sounds produced by the strings. Think of it as the piano’s version of an amplifier or loudspeaker. The board itself is made of wood, usually fine sheets of Spruce, which are glued together and extend from the tail to the pinblock. The main difference between that you find on a Grand piano and Baby Grand being its size. Just one of the reasons why a Grand piano typically has far more in the way of volume capabilities and gives off a richer, more colourful sound.

2. Length of the strings

Aside from size and quality, sound is really what you’re paying for when you buy a Grand piano. The difference between a Grand piano and Baby Grand being that these strings differ in length. Due to the smaller size of the Baby Grand, you do get shorter strings, which when you compare the two side by side, does leave the Baby sounding a tad bright. Not to the point at which it’s annoying, but you can tell the difference.

Reason being that with a Grand you get more of what’s called overtones, which is basically any sound frequencies that are slightly higher or lower than the main note. So you press a Middle C and with a Baby Grand you may just get that middle C and very little else, Whereas with a Grand you’ll get the middle C, but it’ll be cushioned by a range of other frequencies too. All of which makes full-size Grands sound less sharp and adds a bit of of colour to your composition.

3. Volume of the sound

One of the main differences between a Baby Grand and Grand piano is the volume itself, which can vary substantially due to the size of the soundboard, length of the strings and even the size of the outer casing. Therefore your typical Grand can achieve much more in the way of loudness, thanks to the fact it’s a couple of feet longer than a Baby Grand. What’s more, if you pop the top on both these models, the volume magnifies even further! But with that being said, due to the larger internals, the rate at which it magnifies is steeper with the Grand than on the Baby.

teacher sat at a grand piano

4. The shape of the tail

Arguably one of the most overlooked parts of the ‘Grand piano VS Baby Grand’ debate is the actual shape of the tail, which on both these models does a lot to sculpt the sound. Hence why the ends of virtually all Grand pianos are individual in shape. However this difference is felt the most on the Grand. And of course the reason why comes back to size. While both a Grand and Baby Grand are the same width, the increased length of the Grand allows it to build a bigger sound, which is therfore shaped to a bigger degree at the tail.

5. Extra noise, bass and colour

Aside from volume, the increased size of a Grand does wonders for the acoustics. All of which means that while with a Baby Grand you’ll get a sound that’s certainly a decent step up from a Upright, opting for a full Grand really does add extra layers of depth and colour.

Internals aside, part of the reason for this extra umph may also have to do with the type of wood, as all woods react to sound differently. Some do a good job at diffusing sound, while others work to magnify it. So when picking sides in the ‘Grand piano VS Baby Grand’ debate, that may also be something to take into consideration. In fact, wood type is part of the reason why the full-size Concert Grand is favoured by not just the average music fanatic, but also pro pianists too.

6. The type of scaling

Another rather subtle difference between the Grand piano and the Baby Grand piano comes back to how the strings are attached and in what pattern the pins sit. Opt for a Baby Grand and unless you do your research you may miss out on what’s known as Duplex scaling.

In short, it’s basically a tone enhancement system that works to not only play the note that you press, but also generate overtones for all 3 strings an octave and a fifth above. So really by playing one note you’re also softening it with overtones that all relate to that specific note. A clever system that as you’d expect enhances the tone of the piano by thickening the treble and adding character to the top end. Fail to opt for duplex scaling and the only sound you’ll hear is that of the note you’ve just hit.

An easy way to spot a piano with duplex scaling is to look at the harp inside. If the ends of the strings are arranged in a regular arc and are muted out with felt, then chances are it isn’t duplex. Saying that though, this is more and added extra to lookout for when buying a Baby Grand, especially if it’s second hand.

7. The style of bridge

Yet another low-key difference between the Grand piano and the Baby Grand, is a length of wood inside the piano known as the bridge. This is the piece of wood in-between the strings and the soundboard, which acts much like its name suggests. It’s the bridge that transfers the sound from the strings into the soundboard and also (we may add) is the most complex piece of carpentry on the entire piano.

However, not all bridges are made equal. On cheaper pianos (most likely a Baby Grand) this will just be a block of solid wood, whereas on something like a Steinway or Kawai, you should find what’s known as a vertically laminated capped bridge. Essentially, this means that the bridge is made up of various types of wood that are all laminated together. The perk of this being that different types of wood have different densities, and are therefore better at communicating different frequencies. So if you buy a Grand piano with one of these, the sound will not only be more pronounced, but also have a wider harmonic range too.

music shop to buy piano

1. Usability in the home

For the majority of us floorspace comes at a premium, especially in the UK. Therefore it’s no surprise that the difference is size between a Grand piano and a Baby Grand, is often a dealbreaker. While your average Baby Grand will be around 5ft long, your full size grand will usually touch on over 8! Vut then again, it’s not surprising as if your house isn’t on the large side, then a Grand could take up virtually the entire room – so much for a centrepiece.

2. Fit and finish

As you’ve probably realised by now, with all style of Grand piano – Baby or Concert – you get what you pay for. Hence why a picking point of the ‘Grand piano VS Baby Grand’ debate is often overall quality. Go all out and you’ll get attention to detail like you get on a Rolls Royce, be that in terms of materials used or how well the piano is put together and tested. Therefore, while most Baby Grands would be no slouch, a Concert Grand would likely have a better finish, be made of more a more premium wood and even use a different action mechanism. All worth noting if you’re after the best of the best.

3. That price tag

Now onto the elephant in the room. Yes, there’s no getting around the fact that there is a quite substantial difference between a Grand piano and a Baby Grand when it comes to price. But this isn’t just because one is smaller. It can have a lot to do with the piano’s internals too, and is much like we said before, a strong indication of the quality you’ll receive.

So for instance the hammers on a £10,000 Baby Grand may be single felted, whereas on a £50,000 Grand they may be double felted. On cheaper models you may also find that the keystick is laminated, when on more expensive models it’s solid wood. Another common difference is the part of the action called the shank, which on cheaper Baby Grands is often made up of a composite. Yet on a more expensive Concert Grand, it’ll be made of solid wood. All things that while costly, do affect dependability, as well as how easy both types of piano are to play.

Plus, it’s worth noting that your budget doesn’t just dictate what’s inside the piano. Have a lot to spend and you could buy spec your piano to be a bit ‘out of the ordinary’. This Edition of Steinway’s Model B, done in association with Lenny Kravitz, being a prime example…

limited edition steinway grand piano
Lenny Kravitz Edition Steinway Model B
baby grand piano in gloss black

Width & amount of keys

No matter which side of the ‘Grand piano VS Baby Grand’ debate that you sit, your piano will be roughly the same in terms of width. Granted, you may see a slight difference between manufacturers, but nothing too drastic. Reason being that all Grand pianos have 88-keys despite if they’re a Baby Grand or Concert Grand. The only slight difference in the keys that you might see is in regards to length – the larger you go, the keys do tend to grow, but not by all that much.

This is where the ‘Grand piano VS Baby Grand’ debate starts to heat up.

Because while a Baby Grand may be considered inferior when compared to a Concert Grand, we actually think it’s the best of the bunch. Reason being that while from a technical standpoint, a Concert Grand is superior in more or less every way, for 90% of piano shoppers a Baby Grand is enough.

If specced to a decent standard, it’s more than capable of producing a strong and warm sound that can come close to rivalling that of the full Grand. And yet, in terms of price, it’s significantly more affordable, although we would advise speccing yours with a high quality bridge and duplex scaling to really get the most out of its harp.

Do so and there’s a solid chance that your Baby Grand will hold its value better too, especially doing so makes it one of a kind. But let’s face it, even if you buy a Baby Grand and it goes down in value, it’s not like it’ll wear out next week. Buy quality and a Baby Grand should last you at least 40 years!

From a practical point of view, Baby Grands are also small enough to fit in most homes and quiet enough that you shouldn’t aggravate your neighbours. Plus, having such an extravagant piece of furniture around the house is not just a great talking point, but also (if you have kids) a great way to get them into music.

See a Baby Grand in the living room every day as a child, and no doubt you’ll develop an incandescent urge to play it. All of which makes a Baby Grand more than worth the price tag, especially if they go onto be Mozart’s protege.

Enjoy this lowdown on the ‘Grand Piano VS Baby Grand’ debate and eager for more? Don’t miss out on all our intel on Pianos and Keyboards, as well as all our latest Reviews Of Musical Instruments. Recently we’ve also written full guides to Acrosonic Pianos + Why Steinway Pianos Are SO Expensive – a good way to follow up this article, perhaps?

grand piano review

Or, if you’ve still got as burning question about the difference between a Grand piano and a Baby Grand, keep reading to discover even more about the difference between the two…

Transporting a Baby Grand piano is possible, although you have a choice about how you do so.

The first being to leave it intact and rent yourself a van to move it. Now obviously, if you choose to trasnport your Grand in this way, you’ll have to also get your hands on some ratchet straps as well as a lot of blankets and additional cushioning to protect the outer case. But really there’s no getting around that fact that to do so is very dicey. Hence why if the decision was ours, we’d dismantle it altogether.

Yes, it may be a lot more work and putting it together may require a team of specialists, but the actual chore of moving your Baby Grand will be a lot easier if it’s in pieces. Don’t believe us? Watch these guys below take this Grand piano from together in less than 3 minutes…

YouTube video

We’d say that despite their extravagancy, Grand pianos are actually a fair bit easier to play than an Upright, especially if you’re looking to play fast repetitions.

And that’s because not only are Grand pianos more responsive, but they also produce a sweeter sound that’s far more mellow and rich in overtones. And let’s face it, when you’re playing, the better you sound, the more confident you become. And really it’s this self confidence that make an instrument easy to play, so even if you’re a newbie, we’d say throw yourself in at the deep end and if you can make it work financially, buy a Grand.

As ‘mumsy’ as it sound – yes!

Besides protecting your floor, putting a rug under your Grand piano is actually a neat little trick to enhance the sound. Pianos with rugs underneath them will absorb any excess sound by stop it being reflected off the floor under the piano. Therefore, you should get less echo!

From a sound perspective – yes. Baby Grand pianos will run rings around the majority of Uprights when it comes to sound. Their tone is richer and the level of harmonics is far beyond that of an Upright. What’s more, they’re far more reliable too, thanks to their soundboard and strings being horizontal and not vertical. As a result their actions don’t require springs and simply reset themselves using gravity.

However, when it comes to practicality, you could say that Uprights have the edge. Despite Baby Grands being the smallest Grand pianos you can buy, they’re nowhere near on par with an Upright when it comes to how much floor space they take up. Neither can they be pushed against a wall.

In the end, it really all boils down to what’s important for you in a piano – sound or practicality.

You can buy Baby Grands on eBay for as little as £300, however we’d strongly advise against doing so.

Reason being that most of he pianos we could find didn’t look to be in the best of condition. Neither was their much in the way of evidence about how often they’d been tuned. Regular tuning is a big part of owning any sort of acoustic piano that should be carried out. Therefore, it’s also a cost you have to bear in mind if you decide to take this lucky dip approach.

What’s more if you were to buy a Baby Grand piano online and it turned out to need a handful of work doing, or just broke a couple of months after you bought it, neither would you be covered under warranty. A lifeline you’d have if you bought your Baby Grand from new.

While the cost of tuning a Baby Grand will of course depend on who you appoint to tune it, on average you can expect it to set you back about £60-£90. Something that casual players may be able to get away with just once a year, but one that we’d advise any regular players do twice.

A trick we’d recommend is finding a tuner and sticking with them. That way they get to know the piano and its quirks, which should make any tuning relatively quick and hassle free. Something that would benefit Baby Grands in particular as they’re not tuned to exact notes, but instead to create a pleasant sound overall. All of which means that some strings may actually need to be slightly sharp, while others may need to be slightly flat. Exactly why tuning is not a task we’d advise you do yourself!

The name Baby Grand is product of the piano’s inventor, Hugo Sohmer (mentioned at the beginning of this blog). In 1885 he built the very first Grand piano that measured just 5ft and decided to name it the Baby Grand. The reason for the name ‘Baby’ was because at the time, virtually all the Victorian sized Grands were over at least 6/7ft in length.

While it does depend on which brand/ model you choose, as well as the overall condition when you come to sell, in most cases with Baby Grand pianos you can actually come close to getting your money back. In some cases you can even get back kmore than what you paid, especially if it’s well specced or that specific model has gone out of production.

If you’re after a piano that holds its value, we’d suggest looking at Baby Grands from manufacturers who are well known for their expertise in making pianos. So the likes of Steinway or Bösendorfer would be good places to start.