Have you ever noticed how reverberant the sound of a concert grand piano is in a concert hall? The gleaming tone colors from the stage envelops the entire space, with an echo that is rich and full. This is due to hard, reflective flooring beneath the piano and careful acoustic engineering that amplifies the natural sound of the instrument in the hall; emphasizing the fundamental pitches and thinning out the overtones that, when too strong, create a harsh tone that is unpleasant to our ears. When considering an instrument for your home, workplace, or institution, it is paramount that the affects of the acoustic space is thoroughly understood before embarking on your piano shopping journey.
The science of reflection and deflection.
Sound is either reflected or deflected by the material of a given surface. Take for instance a common living room, perhaps 20 by 30 feet, with a 12 foot vaulted ceiling. With hardwood or tile floors, the sound now has the ability to be reflected by 7 different surfaces. The walls and vaulted ceiling, which help deflect the upper partials, will now struggle to contain the sound of a bright piano because the floor now projects the sound upwards; thus, amplifying the space. A piano that is mellow is best suited for this space, because the high reverberation will help bring out the partials, also known as overtones, that are subdued by the mellow voice of the instrument. If the same room has carpet flooring, the sound will no longer be as limited. Now, a bright piano will be ideal for the space, as the vault gives just enough room from additional reflection to pleasantly reflect more sound from the instrument.
Hopefully, this brief example helps you as you consider the most appropriate instrument for your given area. Yet, there is more to consider. In a setting such as a retirement home with lots of people, furniture, and objects placed in the piano room, the sound will be greatly deflected and absorbed. This will make a mellow piano seem almost lifeless and dead, and a bright piano will sound somewhere in the middle of both extremes. Beyond the acoustic properties of the room, consider furniture, objects such as rugs, and the amount of people that will be in the space when the instrument is playing music. All of these things will impact the quality of music making.
Select the piano that is most appropriate for the space. For rooms that will accommodate less than 50 people, a piano over seven feet in length will be overbearing. Ideally, the best piano for medium spaces, such as large home living rooms or retirement multipurpose rooms would be no longer than six and a half feet, and no shorter than 6 feet. Larger pianos, typically, produce more volume than smaller ones, if voicing is the same across all sizes. Knowing the acoustics of a room, bright and mellow pianos, and the implication of size, you can now find the best piano for you!