One of the most popular kinds of pianos we sell are baby grands.
In recent years, they’ve become increasingly popular, and it’s not hard to see why. Grand pianos are the “gold standard” for getting the best playing experience possible, and baby grands make it possible to get that experience at home.
But what exactly is a baby grand piano? How do they compare to regular grand pianos? And which one is better for your home?
Let’s lay out the differences between baby grand and grand pianos as simply as possible. Whether you’re hoping to buy one soon or just interested in learning more about this popular piano type, we hope this article answers all your questions.
What is a Baby Grand Piano?
Baby grand pianos are simply a smaller version of a grand piano, with lengths typically ranging from 4’6 to 5’5.
Now, we aren’t huge fans of the term “baby grand” since 1) no one agrees how big they are really, and 2) there aren’t any “daddy grands” either!
They’re called “baby” grand pianos simply because they’re smaller than their full-sized counterpart. Given that a concert grand can be as big as 9’2, it does look like a baby in comparison!
Of course, one of the main reasons why baby grands are so popular is because they’re grand pianos that can actually fit into homes. In addition, smaller grand pianos are generally more affordable. So for pianists who want to put the best piano they can put in their home, baby grands become the best and most feasible option.
There are advantages to larger grand pianos that we’ll cover later. However, regardless of the size of a grand piano, the instrument always has the same design fundamentally. Moreover, there’s no denying that any grand piano is a beautiful and elegant instrument many people dream of owning. Not only do they look stunning in a room, but they also produce a beautiful sound that’s sure to wow and have a feel that players will love.
Brief History of Baby Grand Pianos
While the grand piano was invented in the late 1700s, the first baby grand piano was probably built in the late 1800s.
“Meanwhile, in 1884 Sohmer invented the first five foot “baby” grand piano which was applauded for its musical brilliance and depth of tone. In the early 1900’s Sohmer produced grand pianos in four sizes: Concert, Parlor, Baby & Cupid.” —Sohmer & Co. Archives, Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives
Interestingly enough, other sources credit Steinway & Sons for the first use of the term “baby grand piano” too. In 1905, the Steinway Model A was one of the smallest grand pianos, measuring 6’0. A decade later, they’d call their then new 5’10 Model O the baby grand, and refer to the Model A as a parlor grand. Then the 5’7 Model M briefly took the title in 1927 before the current 5’1 Model S finally claimed the throne in 1935.
It’s also worth noting that the smallest grand piano ever built and mass-manufactured is the Kimball LaPetite. These used to be made up until recently in the late 1900s, as small as 4’4!
Today, there are many manufacturers that still produce baby grand pianos. Most are now made to be around 5’0 since that length is a good compromise between size and sound quality.
How Big is a Baby Grand vs Grand Piano?
Typically when you’re talking about a baby grand piano, you’re thinking of pianos between 4’6 to 5’5.
However, as you may have guessed from Steinway’s history of baby grand pianos, there is no standard size for what constitutes a baby grand piano.
The Steinway Model S is 5’1 while the Kawai GL-10 and Yamaha GB1K are 5’0. Other manufacturers may go a little bigger or smaller. Then you have to consider that piano dealers may group them differently. And then there are the piano shoppers who may refer to their perfect size as a baby grand.
Here at Family Piano, a baby grand piano is any grand piano under 5’1 (and a petite grand is under 4’10). Since most customers we work with have that size in mind, that’s simply where our line in the sand is.
Likewise, we categorize bigger grands differently too. Previously we mentioned “parlor grands” and “concert grands,” but these names aren’t standardized either. Different people will use different names for different sizes.
As a dealer, it makes sense for us to tailor things to the customers we have. Personally, we focus on helping families and beginners, and we find most wouldn’t be able to accommodate anything much bigger than about 6’2 without additional rearranging. Therefore, we simply group our 5’2-5’8 pianos as “classic grands” and 5’9-6’11 pianos as “full grands.” All grands bigger than 7’0 are then grouped together as “semi- + concert grands” — which is fine since it’s not a popular size for most homes!
In any case, it’s best practice to state specific piano sizes so there isn’t any confusion. While we group things together for inventory management, we always mention proper dimensions when working with customers, and we recommend you do the same when shopping.
There’s no real answer to how big a baby grand or grand piano is since they range from 4’4 to over 9’6. So while a pianist will understand roughly what you mean when you say “baby grand” or “living room grand” or anything else, exact sizes are always up to interpretation.
How Much Does a Baby Grand Piano Cost vs Grand Pianos?
If you are considering purchasing any grand piano, you’re probably wondering how much it’s going to cost. Just like their sizes though, exact prices for grand pianos can vary widely depending on a number of factors.
For example, a brand new Kawai GL-10 5’0 baby grand piano is $15,495 (MSRP), and a new Kawai GL-50 6’2 grand piano is $37,995 (MSRP). These prices are pretty competitive among manufactures as far as brand new shiny black grand pianos go!
Among dealers might be a different story though. Here at Family Piano, we also like to offer expertly refurbished pianos at around the $2,499 to $20,000 range. These are previously owned instruments that we’ve restored, and that we always back up with a warranty. Some are even in that popular shiny black finish, and they still have many decades of life left, making them a great option worth considering.
Size, condition, finish and age are some of the main factors that’ll influence a piano’s price. But you also have to consider your local market. If there’s only one piano store within 100 miles, the cost of a piano there is probably going to be more expensive than it would be in areas with more options.
One word of caution I’ll mention is to beware of free pianos online. Sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace have dozens of pianos available for $0 as long as you cover the move. We’re not saying there aren’t any good pianos available, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.
Read our blog post on why free pianos are sometimes the most expensive!
Moving a grand piano can cost around $400. You don’t want to spend that much money to find out you bought a lemon. So in any case, it’s always best to get a technician involved when buying a piano. No private seller or dealer should be offended that you brought in an outside consultant!
It is possible to get a great deal on a grand piano, and they may not even be as expensive as you think. Just remember to do your research, shop around, and consider all of your options before making a purchase.
While we and other dealers have trade-in policies, most people do only buy a piano once. So make sure your grand piano lasts a lifetime by working with professionals as possible, and remember to factor in maintenance costs too!
Advantages of Grand Pianos vs Baby Grand Pianos
So if baby grand pianos are just smaller grand pianos, and they still look as good, and they’re more affordable — what’s the catch? What’s the benefit of a larger grand piano?
This explanation quickly gets technical and complicated. For the sake of simplicity, these are the main advantages that big grand pianos have over baby grand pianos:
- Louder Sound from Bigger Soundboard – The soundboard is the large wooden plate underneath a grand piano’s strings. You can think of it as an amplifier, and just how bigger speakers means bigger volume and better bass, so does a bigger piano with a bigger soundboard. Of course, bigger and louder doesn’t always mean better so we do encourage you to think about how much piano is needed to fill up a room.
- Clearer Sound from Longer Strings – Longer bass strings don’t give off as strong overtones as they do in shorter bass strings. This is one of the things that helps create that clarity and fullness you can usually only find in larger grand pianos.
- Richer Sound from Improved Scaling Design – With larger pianos, engineers are given more room to decide how exactly to design and place strings so they vibrate off the piano’s soundboard the best. Through this improved scaling design, larger pianos thus tend to give a more even sound from top to bottom and a richer sound with more depth and complexity.
- Better Control from Longer Keysticks – Each key on a piano is really a keystick, and you can think of each one as a seesaw. A short seesaw will dip down as soon as you put any weight on the end. It’s not going to go very high up into the air, and it’s not very fun to play on. The longer it gets though, the more control you have and the less shallow the travel from top to bottom becomes. Larger grand pianos have more space for these longer keysticks, and they thus give you much better control when playing, particularly with any soft pianissimo playing.
Baby Grand vs Grand Piano: Which is Best?
Ultimately, the choice between a grand piano and a baby grand piano will depend on your specific needs. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help decide:
- Is the piano primarily for a beginner to learn on, or will professional playing/recording be done on it?
- If it is for a beginner, are they committed enough to justify a nicer piano? What will their practice schedule look like?
- Is the room big enough to accomodate a big piano? Will the piano’s sound bounce off the walls weird?
- How much can you afford to put down and pay monthly towards a piano right now?
If you want the richest tone possible, and you’re playing very dynamically or even at a professional level, get the largest grand piano you can afford and fit. It may be an investment of time and money up front, but it’s a purchase that you’ll enjoy and benefit from for the rest of your life.
If you don’t have a ton of space, a baby grand piano comes in a size that more people can afford in terms of price and space. It’s a popular piano type among many beginners, hobbyists and even professionals; and it has its own set of benefits and advantages over upright and digital pianos too.
I always like to say that the best piano is the one you love to play. We think there is a perfect piano for every home. That said, there is no one piano that’ll work for every situation.
So when buying any piano, consider what you can commit to in terms of time, space and budget. Most pianos have their own unique advantages and can provide a great playing experience in their own right.
If you’re looking to buy a baby grand or grand piano, we strongly recommend visiting a couple local dealers with many options available. That way you can become informed on what you like, try out a different options, become informed on local prices, and confidently pick which is really the best for you.
Everyone loves a grand piano. But you can unlock the benefits of piano playing from any piano! Click to read our blog post on what they are.