Robert Estrin - piano expert

What is a Square Grand Piano?

Discover this special kind of piano called "Square Grand"

In this video, Robert gives you some interesting insights about Square Grand Pianos, and what makes them so special and unique.

Released on July 8, 2015

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, this is Robert Estrin at and, with a viewer question. What is a square grand piano? If you've ever seen one of these, it's really quite a sight.

Well, you know the piano had a long development, from the harpsichord to the early fortepianos in the Classical era. And in the 19th century, there was tremendous development of the piano . . . through Beethoven's life, and through the Romantic period . . . to finally end up in the late 19th century, with the piano we know and love today.

But there was an odd footnote in the mid to late 19th century, of the square grand pianos. Sometimes referred to as coffin pianos, because when they're closed up, they indeed do look like a coffin. What is so odd about these instruments is that the strings, instead of going in alignment with the keys, they go perpendicular to the keys. Thereby making the keys on the base very long to reach the bass strings that are very far away. And the keys get gradually, gradually shorter and shorter behind the fallboard . . . not the part you see, with the part you play on . . . but the part behind there.

So the actions really were very difficult to regulate, with any kind of continuity. They kind of fell out of favor. And some of them can be magnificent works of art, with beautiful scrollwork and such . . . but you know, they really are inferior instruments, overall. And are more relegated to museum pieces, than serious musical instruments.

So that's the long and short of it for square grand pianos. I welcome all your questions, Thanks so much for joining me here, at Living Pianos and Virtual Sheet Music, Robert Estrin.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

John Raftopoulos * VSM MEMBER * on July 8, 2015 @2:49 pm PST
hi! I just wanted to ask you if one can use an E-piano or a keyboard instead of a regular piano to exercise and possibly perform for his friends. I mean apart fro the quality of the sound, will it influence your skills to perform on a regular piano? (E-piano and keyboards are lighter, they occupy less space, more portable and lastly they are much cheaper!) thank you!
Robert - host, on July 8, 2015 @6:19 pm PST
A fine digital piano can provide some utility regarding piano practice. However, in a perfect world you would always have a beautifully tuned, regulated and voiced concert grand piano to play in a concert hall! While there is always an adjustment you must go through when playing different pianos, digital pianos have drastically different actions and a much narrower range of expression. So, getting at least some time in on a high quality acoustic piano is important for your development long term. Although a digital can be extremely useful. Here is an article on the subject:
david ceighton on July 8, 2015 @9:32 am PST
We wanted to hear how it sounds, why didn't he play it?
Robert - host, on July 8, 2015 @1:29 pm PST
We don't actually have any square grand pianos since they are inferior instrument and we don't deal in them.
Rebecca Silvey on July 8, 2015 @5:21 am PST
I have two amazingly beautiful square grand pianos. One is circa 1860 Steinway square grand with lots of scroll work. The other is 1867. They need some work but are in very good shape. Are they worth putting money into? I would love to have a good harpsichord and have thought about looking for a trade opportunity?
Robert - host, on July 8, 2015 @11:48 am PST
If the pianos look beautiful and wouldn't need a refinishing to look gorgeous, someone may be interested in them as curiosity furniture pieces as well as a little bit of music history. The Steinway name is so strong that you may get interested buyers for that alone. You can always list for sale online and see what response you get. You might mention the interest in trading for a harpsichord - you never know!
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