Is A Spinet Piano A “Real” Piano?

The spinet piano is most definitely a real piano. In fact, I have kind of a personal attachment to the spinet, since that’s the type of piano I learned to play on when I was five years old. It was an old Wurlitzer spinet that sat in our dining room and living room – it didn’t exactly have a concert hall sound, but it sounded pretty good and got the job done.

Spinets were designed to offer a cheaper, smaller alternative to more expensive pianos. They are actually a type of acoustic upright piano, but their action was designed such that the top of the piano was only a few inches above the keyboard. This made them easy to move and place in homes, and lowered their cost about 25% below other pianos on the market. During the Great Depression, when spinets were first introduced, this was the only type of piano most people could afford.

The Trouble With Spinets

Although they were very popular, and many of them are still around today, their unique action really reduced the sound quality and made it hard for technicians to work on them. The keys actually pulled up on rods – known as “stickers” – that pulled on other levers below the level of the keyboard, which then engaged the hammers. These stickers were often noisy, and the keys had to be shorter to make room for them, which made the touch on spinets somewhat “unique.” I can personally tell you that they don’t feel anything like larger uprights, and certainly not like grand pianos.

Apparently, piano technicians have to remove all the keys just to remove any part of the action for repair, and the rods are often connected, which makes repair even more troublesome.

The End Of The Spinet Era

The spinet piano began phasing out in the late 1990’s, since electronic pianos – which were smaller and sounded nearly as good as a real piano – began to get cheaper.

Every once in a while, I get to play the old Wurlitzer spinet, now at my Mom’s place, and although it doesn’t play like the Yamaha studio upright in my own house, it brings back all those memories of playing my Mom’s old sheet music in the house where I grew up. And I wouldn’t trade those memories for a Steinway concert grand.


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