When a music aficionado puts Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody on their record player, the harmonious power and grace of the piano seem to transcend language and time to give us something we can’t imagine living without.
However, why does the magical sound of a piano need to come in such a large and heavy package?
An acoustic piano weighs an average of roughly 400 to 500 pounds, depending on the type of instrument.
However, anyone who helps move a piano knows that the estimate is low with the real weight coming in at around a trillion pounds at least.
We cover the top 10 reasons pianos are so heavy (and worth every pound).
Top 10 Reasons Pianos Are So Heavy
We can all agree pianos are massive both in sound quality and weight.
While some people have tried to condense the piano into a lighter, portable keyboard, most musicians admit that a keyboard simply can’t produce the same sound.
What is it that makes a piano so heavy, and how does it affect the quality of the music?
1. Cast Iron Frame
A cast-iron piano frame in a grand piano can weigh as much as 450 pounds, making it the heaviest part of the piano.
Not entirely cast iron, the molding contains additional materials with the cast iron for acoustic purposes.
Manufacturers made frames out of wood before they made the switch to cast iron to ensure the instrument can withstand the demand of heavy play.
Wood tended to warp, affecting the ability of the pianists to play.
However, cast iron weighs significantly more than wood (not that wood doesn’t add to the weight of the piano, too!).
What Are The Benefits Of Cast Iron?
Piano frames are always made from cast iron.
Why wouldn’t another strong material, such as steel, be used?
As we discussed, cast iron is much heavier than steel, making it great in terms of durability and longevity.
Cast iron maintains the structure of the piano since it will not warp when it experiences trauma.
Furthermore, you can recycle cast iron if it does become fractured, making it eco-friendly.
What Other Piano Components Contribute To TheWeight?
The frame is the heaviest part of the piano, but other components contribute to the heaviness of the piano.
The largest and most recognizable part of the piano is the case and lid.
The case covers the strings, and it is the main part of the piano people see.
The lid covers the keys when not in use.
The case and lid are usually made of wood.
Redwood and cedar are some of the lightest woods available while oak and mahogany are the heaviest options.
The pedals, while small, can also tack on some extra weight thanks to their metal material.
2. Massive Size
One of the main reasons for the heaviness of pianos also involves their enormous size.
No one can reasonably see an instrument that huge and expect it to be light.
Pianos come in various styles and sizes.
See the following average weights and heights for the following different types of pianos:
- Spinet piano = up to 40“ tall and 400 lbs.
- Console piano = up to 43“ tall and 450 lbs.
- Studio piano = up to 48“ tall and 500 lbs.
- Upright piano = up to 60“ tall and 1,000 lbs.
Grand pianos have horizontal strings, making them longer but also able to create more sounds.
- Baby grand piano = up to 168 cm wide and 600 lbs.
- Medium grand piano = up to 175 cm wide and 600 lbs.
- Professional grand piano = up to 183 cm and 700 lbs.
- Drawing room grand piano = up to 211 cm and 750 lbs.
- Concert grand piano = 274 cm+ and up to 1,200 lbs.
Electric keyboards come in a much more convenient and portable size, only weighing 20 to 50 lbs.
Digital keyboards provide another lightweight option with some models only weighing 100 lbs.
However, these options won’t have the same sound capabilities as an acoustic piano.
Keybird Instruments recently released a small, minimalist acoustic piano that only weighs 110 lbs.
This product attempts to provide the great sound of acoustic pianos without the unnecessary weight.
However, many people may find the compact design difficult to play.
For comparison, the average male intermediate lifter can lift 215 lbs.
3. Weighted Keys
A weighted key uses a hammer to make contact with the piano string once you press down on the key.
A literal weight helps force the hammer down onto the string, giving the keys their name.
As the name suggests, these keys and the system behind them weigh more.
Unweighted keys don’t weigh as much and press directly down onto the string.
They can feel cheap compared to weighted keys, but they allow for less strenuous playing.
All full-size pianos contain weighted keys, and most keyboards contain weighted keys now to mimic the sound of a full-sized piano.
Pianists claim that weighted keys increase finger strength and contribute to muscle memory, which can help beginners familiarize themselves with the piano.
However, the most important part of weighted keys is the sound they produce.
The vibrations created by weighted keys produce a fuller sound.
Some people may choose keyboards with unweighted keys in order to encourage precise, rhythmic music.
Pianos not only allow pianists to create art in the form of music, but the pianos can become pieces of art themselves.
Some pianos, such as the famous C. Bechstein Sphinx piano, include highly elaborate embellishments that add to the weight, especially if the decorations are made from heavy material, such as pure gold or a heavy wood.
The woodworking not only adds to the weight of the piano but also the value.
People who spend the time to create intricate woodworking into a piano can charge more than they would for a simple design.
Ornate pianos will have more weight compared to a minimalist design.
However, many people associate the elaborate decorations with the sound created by the instrument, making these decorations an essential part of the music.
At a certain point, what does it matter if you add 20 pounds to a 500lb piano if you really enjoy the additional flare?
Non-attached decorations will also add to the weight of the piano.
If possible, avoid putting knickknacks on a piano as they may damage the wood.
Allow the piano to act as its own decoration as is.
If possible, you want the piano in a location where visitors will see it.
5. 88 Keys And 230 Strings
Pianos have 88 keys (52 white and 36 black) and roughly 230 strings, meaning each key connects to multiple strings.
The keys run horizontally, elongating the piano the more sound you give to it.
The keys cover seven octaves with three leftover low notes.
An octave refers to a full range of the main eight notes: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A.
The first pianos only covered five octaves, but pianists soon requested more range, resulting in the 88 keys we have today.
Some rare pianos contain 97 keys, but most musicians don’t consider the extra nine keys to be worth the additional space.
This varies greatly compared to other string instruments.
For example, violins have four strings and guitars have four strings or six strings.
To create new sounds, players use the same strings but strike them in different locations vertically.
The piano does not allow the pianist to hit the string in different locations since the strings exist inside of the instrument without easy access.
That means that to get different notes, the player must use the 88 keys that manipulate the strings to create the desired sound.
Each key only makes one noise.
If you hit a key higher up, it will create the same sound as if you hit the bottom of the key.
This causes the need for more keys and more strings.
In general, higher notes require the key to utilize more strings since they need to create the note and also keep the volume consistent with the rest of the notes.
Piano manufacturers need to keep the musician in mind during the construction of a piano.
Pianos get large and heavy to allow for optimal comfort.
If someone doesn’t feel comfortable while playing the piano, they will not play as long, and they will not play with as much focus.
The design of the piano not only considers heavy use but also how someone plays it.
It needs to comfortably accommodate a large person in front of it.
Raising a piano to a comfortable height for piano players adds to the weight of the instrument.
Making the keys wide enough for pianists to play them properly will also increase the weight of the piano.
White keys on a piano come in the standard width of 23.5 mm, and black keys come in the standard width of 13.7 mm.
The entire octave (eight keys) spans 165 mm.
Finally, a piano may contain additional weight with extra features added to the design to ensure the piano generates a great aesthetic in numerous ways, including look, sound, and touch.
While light, velvet padding and other materials add up in weight.
How To Play Piano Comfortably
Playing piano for long periods of time can lead to back pain or neck pain.
It’s important to develop good habits at the beginning of your training, but you can change bad habits with enough mindfulness.
Follow these tips for comfortable piano playing:
- Practice good posture (sit up straight!)
- Keep body properly aligned
- Place feet flat on the floor
If you regularly develop pain after a short time at the piano, talk to a chiropractor about how to play without pain for professional advice.
7. Heavy Use
Some people use the piano as decoration.
However, other people use the piano every day to practice and entertain.
Manufacturers need to make pianos so that they can withstand heavy use.
How Can I Prolong The Life Of My Piano?
You can see the oldest piano, the Cristofori made in 1720, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
If you want your piano to last this long, you will need to take additional steps to protect it.
Follow these tips for piano maintenance:
- Tune the strings once a year
- Store piano in a temperature-controlled room
- Play gently
- Play regularly
- Dust and polish exterior
- Buy and use a piano cover
If playing with an orchestra, the piano needs to generate enough sound for people to recognize the subtleties to each note and how they contribute to a particular piece.
See the following loudness of different band instruments (in decibels):
- Cello = up to 92 dB
- Clarinet = up to 103 dB
- Flute = up to 111 dB
- Oboe = up to 94 dB
- Trombone = up to 114 dB
- Piano = up to 70 dB during normal practice and 103 dB in fortissimo (loudly)
When not playing in fortissimo, the piano tends to generate less noise than the majority of instruments.
Musical pieces will clearly state whether the pianist should play in fortissimo or play normally.
Pianos emit noise by causing the strings to vibrate.
The more vibration, the louder the sound.
For this reason, many larger pianos with longer strings produce louder music than smaller pianos.
To increase the noise of a piano, you need to study how you hit the keys.
In general, hitting the key at an angle will produce louder music than pressing down on a key flatly.
You also need to ensure that you don’t cover up the sound with your body, paying special attention to your arms.
If you want to play loudly, you need to hold your arms up, even if it can cause sore muscles the next day.
To reduce the noise of a piano, you can close the lid and cover the strings with a string cover.
9. Proper Placement
Piano makers know that a piano’s placement in a room determines how it will sound.
Proper placement will also ensure the piano holds up for as long as possible.
Considering pianos are a significant investment, when you put the piano in its perfect place, you want to keep it there.
Manufacturers may assume the weight ensures the instrument remains stationary as opposed to lighter instruments that can be transported easily from one location to another.
Where Should I Not Put My Piano?
Pianos contain a lot of wood.
Wood doesn’t always hold up so well when it comes into contact with the elements.
Wood is highly susceptible to water damage and fire damage, and it can experience damage due to exceptionally hot or cold temperatures, sunlight, and high winds.
Keep your piano away from vents, windows, fireplaces, heaters, and exterior doors if you want your piano to exceed the average life expectancy of 50 years (high use).
Obviously, you don’t want to keep a piano outside.
Where Should I put My Piano?
You want to ensure you put your piano in a place that doesn’t hinder its sound.
A piano requires space for the noise to travel, so pick a large enough room.
Since pianos excel in 50% humidity, you need to ensure the room isn’t too dry.
Carpet can reduce the instrument’s noise, so you probably want to put the piano in a room with wood or tile floors.
You will also need to consider where the sounds come from on your particular instrument.
For example, an upright piano generally generates sound from the back of the instrument.
It may fit against a wall and look great, but the wall can mute the music.
Try moving it away from the wall a couple of inches to see if that increases the sound.
If you have to place the piano against a wall, opt for an interior wall.
Ideally, you will put the piano in a corner at a 45-degree angle with the back facing out from the corner toward the audience.
10. Ensures Player Dedication
If you go through the effort to move your piano or pay someone to move it for you, it shows just how much you care about the instrument.
People can move a guitar easily and then leave it in the closet for months.
When you move a piano, you see it every day.
Plus, you’ll remember the strain it took to move it.
These reminders will motivate you to play the instrument since you went through the effort to move it.
Due to the massive size and weight, experts do not advise people to move pianos, even with the help of friends.
Instead, hire a professional to do the heavy lifting for you.
You will pay for the service, but your back will thank you.
The national average cost to move a piano locally comes to $405.
This does not include moving anything else, and it varies greatly from place to place.
The costs increase in large metropolitan areas, such as New York City.
Pianos weigh a lot, but pianists make use of every pound to create the amazing music we hear them play.
The top ten reasons pianos weigh so much are:
- Cast Iron Frame
- Massive Size
- Weighted Keys
- 88 Keys and 230 Strings
- Heavy Use
- Proper Placement
- Ensures Player Dedication
If you need to move a piano, it’s important to move it with care and place it in a safe location in its new home.
Instead of straining your hands that you need to play the piano, hire piano moving professionals for the safety of both you and your precious instrument.