The vertical piano became popular towards the later part of the 19th century. The name comes from the fact that the strings are mounted vertically when compared to a grand whose strings are mounted horizontally (requiring a large flat space). Vertical pianos have been popular pianos for home use as they take up much less space and produce sufficient volume and tone for the family and living rooms. Vertical pianos come in four sizes: Spinet, Console, Studio, and Upright. The size is measured from the floor to the top of the lid. The spinet piano measures less than 36″ tall. The console measures 40 to 44″ tall. The studio or “professional upright” measures 45 to 50″ tall. The largest of the vertical pianos is the upright, which measures over 50″ tall.
The spinet piano is the smallest of the vertical pianos. The spinet piano has what is called a dropped action. The piano action is the part of the piano that transfers the force of striking the key to the hammer striking the string. In appearance the spinet and console pianos are very similar. Some technicians charge more to work on spinet pianos because they feel they are more difficult to repair. There are more working parts in a spinet piano than a console but a qualified piano technician should be able to service the spinet piano at no additional charge.
The console piano is the most popular of the vertical pianos. The action of a console piano sits directly on top of the keys and as with all vertical pianos the hammers sit in an upright position. Once the hammer strikes the string and the key is released a spring pulls the hammer back to its original position, ready to strike the string again. The action of a vertical piano is usually not as “quick” as the action of a grand piano.
The additional height of the studio piano gives it a richness and tonal quality comparable to those of many grand pianos. The location and feel of the action is also different in a studio piano. Many of the newer studio pianos mimic the feel of a grand piano.
Full Size Upright
The tallest of the vertical pianos is the upright. Today this term is usually used to refer to the older, tall pianos – Grandma’s piano. There were many wonderful upright pianos made in America in the 1920 – 1940’s. If properly preserved these old pianos are some of the most esthetically beautiful and durable instruments ever made. The key is “properly preserved”. If not properly maintained an old upright’s only value is as a large piece of furniture, beautiful to look at but nerve racking to listen to.