Robert Estrin - piano expert

Upright VS Grand - Can You Hear the Difference?

An interesting comparison

In this video, Robert plays the same piece on an upright piano and a grand piano. Can you tell which one is which?

Released on June 9, 2021

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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

Welcome to Robert Estrin here for another listening test for you. Can you hear the difference between an upright and a grand piano? Now, I had a video that came out recently, Can you hear the difference between a Steinway and a Chinese piano? and I got a big reaction to it. People really enjoyed that little test of the hearing. Can you really tell the difference? What is the difference and preconceived notions about these pianos? I thought I would do another one.

I dug through the archives of Living Pianos recordings and found an upright piano and a grand piano playing the same movement of Schumann's Carnaval, the Chiarina movement. I did take the second repeat in one of them but not the other but other than that, it's the same... Not only the same piece, but it was recorded in the same place, the same microphones, exactly the same recording, which is really a great test. I'm going to reveal what those instruments are after you get a chance to listen.

And as I said before on the Steinway versus China piano, Chinese piano, that I want you to write down your answer so that you don't fool yourself. Because of course, we all want to be right and think we can tell the difference, but if you write it down then you'll commit which one you think is the upright and which one you think is the grand. Here we go. Happy listening.

So those are the performances. 11 years ago, I made a video about uprights versus grands and you can check out on and YouTube. I discussed the differences. There are some substantial differences, primarily in the actions. But what about these two pianos? What are they? Well, I chose a large grand. As a matter of fact, the grand piano is a seven-foot 1998 Baldwin SF-10. It's a semi-concert grand. The upright is also a Baldwin, kind of make it fair, and that's a 1987 Baldwin Hamilton, which is just a 45-inch. 45 inches compared to seven feet, you would think there'd be an astounding difference in sound. Yet they both sound quite beautiful, don't they?

So which one was which? Well, the first one indeed was the seven-foot Baldwin SF-10. The second one was the studio Baldwin Hamilton upright. How many of you got that right? I'm really interested.

Now, I know my perspective playing these instruments and making the allowances to get the best sound out of each piano, which is the job of a pianist. Because after all, unlike almost all instrumentalists who take their instruments with them, as pianists, we have to play whatever is there and instantly adjust. I've had the good fortune of being around so many pianos. I've learned how to make those adjustments. So the question is, how did you feel about the sound of these two pianos? And more than that, did you get the choice right? In the comments below and on, love to hear from all of you. Thanks again for joining me. I'm Robert Estrin here at, your online piano resource. Ring the bell, subscribe and spread the word if you love piano. Bye-bye. See you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Douglas Johnson * VSM MEMBER * on June 10, 2021 @6:39 am PST
I really couldn't tell the difference. My hearing is going. When I play I have to remove my hearing aids.
Sometimes at a concert or rev=cital I also have to remove them. Not with listening on a computer however. Thanks for the test.
Robert - host, on June 10, 2021 @10:27 am PST
Even with perfect hearing, listening to these instruments live, both sound beautiful in their own way!
Sandy Sanderson Sedivy * VSM MEMBER * on June 9, 2021 @6:00 pm PST
I felt right away that the first one was the grand, but I wasn’t convinced until I heard the 2nd piano. I didn’t know I’d have a possible advantage because at church I play on a Baldwin 7ft from the 70’s.
Robert - host, on June 10, 2021 @7:43 am PST
Your experience playing a Baldwin 7-foot grand is certainly valuable in this test!
Andreas Schlößer on June 9, 2021 @4:22 pm PST
Hi, I was wrong but it made me pleasure.
The first example sounded to me as a closed case and the second like an opened case.
Dear Robert, was the Grand really opened?
Audrey Guild * VSM MEMBER * on June 9, 2021 @2:28 pm PST
Got it right!!!
Robert - host, on June 10, 2021 @7:40 am PST
There are some telltale signs that provide clues as to which instrument is which. But it's amazing how good they both sound!
sheila * VSM MEMBER * on June 9, 2021 @12:29 pm PST
Got it right this time, even before I heard the second piano. Bass much deeper and richer in tone on the grand.
Mae Piggott on June 9, 2021 @11:28 am PST
I got it right !!!
Carol D-w on June 9, 2021 @9:34 am PST
Thank you! Got it!
F. Jane O'Brien on June 9, 2021 @9:24 am PST
I got it right. Thanks - this was fun.
baritonetom * VSM MEMBER * on June 9, 2021 @9:21 am PST
I guessed right, but it was hard to make a choice. Excellent job of bringing out the best in each instrument.
Trafford reeder on June 9, 2021 @8:00 am PST
One can hear the fullness of the 1st grand and the 2nd one was that bit thinner.I could tell the difference easily.
Thanks for that very interesting
Trafford Reeder
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