The placement of a piano in a room is critical for optimal sound production and your instruments longevity. The same instrument can sound harsh in one room and mellow in another.
In this article we will explore:
- safety tips for moving your piano.
- safest place for your piano
- optimal placement for a grand and upright piano.
- tips for acoustically engineering your room.
Safety Tips for Moving Your Piano
Before figuring out the best piano placement for a room, there are several safety best practices that will keep you and your instrument safe:
- Be careful of jostling, dropping, or bumping the piano. These can damage or throw it out of tune.
- Get a group of at least three people to help.
- Only use the small piano wheels (casters) for minor adjustments.
- If it goes down, don’t stop it. You probably won’t succeed, and may loose some fingers in the process.
- You could use a dolly, piano skid board, or moving straps that secure over two peoples shoulders to help move an upright piano.
- Check out this article on moving pianos if you will move it long distances (more than 40 ft).
Safest Place for your Piano
The placement of a piano in a room is an important part of piano care. Due to its weight, a piano may stay in the same spot for years. You don’t want it to sustain damages throughout that period.
Can I Put a Piano In Direct Sunlight?
It is best to place a piano away from direct sunlight. The sunlight can:
- Fade, or even dry out the finish causing it to crack.
- Cause greater temperature fluctuations.
- Weaken glue joints.
Can I Put a Piano in Front of a Window, Door, Fireplace, or Vent?
No, don’t place your piano by a fireplace, window, door or vent. Temperature and humidity fluctuate the most around these areas. In general your piano should stay in a temperature controlled area of around 68° F with a humidity range of 45%-70%.
Can Pianos be Placed on an Outside Wall?
No, again, there are more temperature fluctuations on outside walls.
Where Should a Grand Piano be Placed in a Room?
Ideally place a grand piano at a 45 degree angle from the walls so that the lid opens out to the other corner of the room. When the lid into the room, the bass sound waves have space to move out to the opposite walls and reflect back while the smaller treble sound waves can easily travel to the center of the room. Opening the lid to a very close wall detrimentally affects both the treble and bass sound waves.
Once the piano is positioned so the lid opens into the room, start adjusting the pianos location. Imagine a line between the two corners of the room. Incrementally move the piano along that line; each move, play the same scale all the way up and down the keyboard.
Ask a friend to help you listen several yards away from the piano. Listen for evenness of tone, resonance, and overall sound quality. When you found the best spot start rotating the piano lid and listen again for where it sounds best. Make small adjustments of just a few inches on each move (source: pianobuyer.com).
Where Should an Upright be Placed in a Room?
Place the upright on one of the shorter inner walls, this will give more space for the bass notes to resonate as they travel the length (instead of width) of the room. If the piano is not placed by an inner wall it may be affected by outside temperature fluctuations.
You can play around with how much space is behind the piano. By moving it a couple inches away from the wall, the sound will resonate a bit more into the room.
Some prefer facing the back of the piano to the center of the room, so they can look into the room as they perform. That said, when I play an upright piano with its back facing the audience, often I’m told that I played too loud. I don’t think I get as accurate auditory feedback when the sound waves have to travel all the way to a back wall and back to me.
Acoustically Designing the Room
Once your piano is placed, there are still changes to the room that can improve sound production. First a bit of sound physics.
Sound waves are either reflected, absorbed or diffused. When a sound wave hits a flat hard surface, it will reflect off it. Too many flat surfaces creates a lot of reflections and an overall uneven sound in the room.
When the sound waves hit an oddly shaped object, like a half full book shelf, they are diffused and scatter somewhat randomly. This is actually good, and creates a warmer, more even tone throughout the room.
When a sound wave hits a soft surface, like a quilt or carpet, it may be absorbed resulting in a softer sound.
When placing items in the piano room, try diffusing the sound by using oddly shaped items, before absorbing the sound with sofas, carpets, etc. You risk absorbing frequencies at unequal rates in a room with many reflective surfaces.
If you have several rooms to choose from, avoid square rooms or rooms proportioned at a 1 to 2 ratio. The perimeter of the room should be around 10x the length of the grand piano (or height of the upright). Larger rooms are often better for the lower wavelengths.
Generally hardwood floors work best to start, with rugs added as necessary. A rule of thumb is to place a rug in the center of the room, while living the outer floors bare. This creates resonance along the edges, while reducing reflections in the center of the room.
How Far Should a Piano Be from the Wall?
Experiment a bit with this, but an upright piano will have more resonance if there are several inches between it and the wall. Use the process described in the grand piano placement section to find the best place for your grand.
Should I Put a Rug Under My Piano?
Placing a rug won’t damage the piano, however, it will deaden the sound. For grand pianos, where the sound is directed directly at the floor, or for an upright in a live room, this may actually be a good idea.
Where Should a Piano Be Placed in a Small Living Room?
Again place the piano away from outer walls, doors, windows, etc. With such a big instrument in a small room the sound can become overwhelming.
Make sure to diffuse the sound as much as you can (recall using oddly shaped objects to diffuse the sound) and use carpets, furniture, or other soft surfaces to absorb excess sound.
By following some safety best practices for moving your piano, you should be able to find the ideal place for your instrument. Be sure to keep it away from fire places, vents, outer walls, direct sunlight, windows, and doors.
Once you place your piano, be sure to put items in the room that will diffuse the sound, creating a warmer, more even tone. And in bright rooms, use carpets, furniture, or wall hangings to absorb the sound.