The piano is a stringed instrument producing sound through the impact of a series of hammers striking the strings with various intensities. The piano was the first keyboard instrument to adjust sound volume by the amount of force used to strike the key. Pianos originally were large horizontal instruments taking up many square feet of floor space as are today's modern grand pianos. As the need arose for pianos with smaller footprints, the obvious alternative was to "turn" the piano vertically. Today, two types of vertical piano are on the market: console and spinet models.
Console piano advantages
Console pianos retain much of the volume and dynamic range of the grand piano. Larger sound boards, longer strings and greater hammer leverage gives the console a deep resonant tone able to fill even the largest concert hall. Concert quality console pianos retain their value and can even appreciate with age.
Console piano disadvantages
The same features giving the console piano its advantage also works against it: size, weight and cost. Console pianos can weigh as much as many grand pianos and also have an equal cost. The same amount of labor needed to move and install a grand piano is also required for the console.
Spinet piano advantages
Spinet pianos are smaller and more lightweight than consoles. They are ideal for small apartments and homes, small performance venues and consumers wanting a piano but not wanting to make the major investment needed to acquire a large concert quality instrument.
Spinet piano disadvantages
Spinet pianos have adequate volume for smaller venues (a home, a small club stage) but cannot fill a large hall. Spinet pianos also require tuning more frequently than larger more stable console cabinets. As an investment, spinets rarely retain value through the years.
Console and spinet piano manufacturers
Steinway, Yamaha and Boston manufacture high-quality vertical console pianos. Baldwin, Kawai and Yamaha are leading makers of spinet piano instruments.