Console Pianos vs. Upright Pianos: Which is Better for You?
Choosing a piano is an important decision that requires careful consideration, research, and hopefully playing a few pianos!
Whether you're a professional musician, a student, piano teacher or a hobby player, choosing the right type of piano is essential because different pianos have vast gradients of variability when playing between particular instruments.
In this blog post, we will discuss the differences between console pianos and upright pianos, and I will further explain the important differences and similarities so that it may help you figure out which one is the best choice for you.
What’s the difference between Consoles vs. Upright Pianos?
Two extremely common types of pianos are console pianos and upright pianos.
Technically, a console piano is an upright piano. However, "Consoles" are classified between 38” and 43” and any piano taller than that is an “Upright Piano” for the sake of this article.
Anything shorter than 43" is a spinet piano which I discuss in my post named Why A Spinet is Different than Upright Pianos.
The main difference between console pianos and upright pianos besides the action is the size of the soundboard and the length of the strings.
The action between a console and an upright have a different feel. You will notice that the action of a taller upright is more sensitive to the touch and may also be slightly heavier, but not to heavy as to slow down playing speed.
Anyhow, Both Consoles and Uprights have their own unique qualities that make them ideal for different situations, however, I would say that while this may be true, it’s better to opt for a taller piano in many cases.
What are Console Piano features and limitations?
Console pianos are compact pianos with a small soundboard and piano action that are designed for home use and practice purposes to meet the budget and space requirements of most consumers.
Keep in mind that while consoles may be appealing for these very qualities, it is paramount to understand that money spent on a taller instrument will be worth the time investment for the beginner who actually spends the time to play the instrument, and understanding how we are told that consoles “save space” as opposed to taller “uprights” is more misleading than true when you think about how much space a variety of vertical pianos really takes up in a home.
Shorter strings and a smaller soundboard on a console piano create a lighter, brighter tone that is suitable for basic home use.
These instruments have a smaller soundboard and shorter strings which make them unappealing and uninspiring in comparison with Studio Uprights.
This type of piano takes up less space in height only and ordinarily sounds like a good option for those living in smaller living spaces or apartments.
At the end of the day, having a new piano in your home is going to make noise, and even if you get the smallest piano it will make loud enough sound to bother your neighbors. (Unless you have a piano with silent systems etc.)
What’s the size and dimensions of a Console Piano?
While a Console may be shorter than an Upright, the footprint of the piano by square footage between a console and an upright is the same as any vertical piano, so although while reading about these instruments it may sound like the piano takes up less space, it’s really only because the piano is shorter, not because it takes up less square footage.
Console pianos are a good choice for smaller spaces that have height limitations or hobby players who aren’t beginners, while larger upright pianos are better suited for professional musicians, studios, serious piano students, and beginners.
When purchasing a piano, it's important to consider the size of the piano and the space it will be placed in while remembering that size differences for uprights only vary by height, not square footage.
The action of a console piano is similar to that of a larger upright, as it has the same mechanisms, but smaller, that don’t quite perform as well, especially for intermediate/advanced piano players.
Many professional pianists find that the small size action of a console piano is less responsive than a full-size action.
It is generally true that the action of a console requires the least finger strength to produce sound. The largest difference between the way the piano actions feel is found when playing between an Upright and a Grand Piano, so while there are subtle differences between Consoles and taller Uprights, the feel of the action between the two is within the same realm.
What are the characteristics of an Upright Piano? (Tall Uprights)
The action of a taller Upright piano may be a little heavier where you can better feel the inertia of the key, but it’s not heavy enough to poorly effect the outcome of piano playing even for beginners.
Upright pianos are taller and have a larger soundboard than console pianos, which allows for the sound of the piano to fully develop within the cabinet.
The larger size of an upright piano allows for longer strings and a larger soundboard, which results in a better sound quality.
Upright pianos as opposed to console pianos are ideal for larger spaces, like large music studios or band and orchestra rooms.
Taller upright pianos have longer strings and a larger soundboard, creating a richer, fuller tone that is ideal for professional musicians and concert halls.
What’s the differences between Verticals & Grands?
Since I don’t believe that the tonal quality of tall upright pianos are comparable to that of a grand piano, I think that they way in which the strings are situated gives a different sound for the player, which is not necessarily bad or good, but an observable difference to be appreciated.
The action parts of an upright piano largely have the same components found on a grand piano, however, they are in an entirely different assembly comparatively speaking.
The grand piano with a normal action allows for the quickest key repetition which provides the greatest amount of control and a wider range of dynamic expression.
While this may be true that even the tallest Upright pianos don't have as good of control as Grands, I don’t let it stop me from playing Upright pianos or allowing it to stop me from playing challenging pieces on an Upright.
When it comes to choosing between Console Pianos and Upright Pianos, it all comes down to the purpose of the piano. For instance, in most cases, Consoles should be avoided if you're able to get a taller Upright piano.
Console pianos are great for home use and general enjoyment among those who aren't first learning, while Upright Pianos are preferred by professional musicians and those who want a high-quality sound and responsiveness which is best for inspiring beginners to stick with piano lessons.
By understanding the types of pianos available (Console vs. Upright), the type of action, the size of the soundboard, and the length of the strings, you'll be able to make an informed decision about which type of piano is right for you.
Whatever your choice, make sure to consult with piano stores, your piano teacher, and a qualified piano tuner to get the best piano for your needs.
As your virtual piano tuner, I encourage those interested in vertical pianos to go with larger uprights because of the full-sized action which increases control, and a high quality sound to keep beginners inspired to continue with piano practice.