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Glossary of Common Piano Terms

Just a few of the common terms people use in connection with pianos, and their intended meanings

baby grand: a grand piano no longer than 5ft

boudoir grand: not a precise term, but a grand of around 5-7ft

concert grand: not a precise term, but a grand of around 7-9ft

cottage piano: a small upright. Not a specific term, mostly used in early 20th century

cross-strung: same as overstrung. A term seldom used in the trade.

full grand: a ‘full-size’ grand – whatever that might mean! Presumably as ‘concert grand’ above.

grand: a piano with strings running horizontally, away from the keyboard. Any length, from ‘baby’ to ‘concert’.

highly-strung: (!) not a piano term. Maybe applies to a few concert pianists or piano tuners though!

iron framed: all modern pianos are iron (or steel) framed. The full, one-piece iron frame was developed from the mid 19th century and gradually became the norm. Some makers continued making wood-framed pianos into the first decade of the 20th century, but these are to be avoided as their tuning is very unstable.

loud pedal, soft pedal, practice pedal etc...: see our pedal page!

oblique strung:  as straight-strung, but with strings at a slight diagonal to the casework

overdamped: dampers are situated above the hammers

overstrung: bass strings crossing diagonally over middle/treble range of strings

parlour grand: not a precise term, but a grand of around 6-8ft

ship’s (yacht) piano: very small piano, sometimes with keyboard able to fold up, flat against front of piano

straight-strung: all strings run parallel (or nearly so)

underdamped: dampers are situated below the hammers

under-strung:  no such thing!

upright grand: a term used by some manufacturers in the early 20th century, presumably indicating a large upright. Has nothing to do with a grand piano!

vertical strung: upright piano, same as straight strung