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I know that upright pianos are usually positioned against the wall for aesthetic reasons, but I was wondering whether there are any sound quality considerations.

Searching the web it seemed like some people think that the positioning of the piano could affect the sound (e.g., reflecting from the wall, changing frequencies) but I could not find any decisive answers.

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4 Answers

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Having the piano with the back against the wall will slightly boost the treble frequencies, but not much. Loudness is the main factor. The piano will be quieter with the back directly against the wall because you're closing off the sound board which is on the back. Leaving a few inches of space between the piano and wall will significantly increase the volume and overall richness in the sound.

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Why does having it right next to the wall boost the treble frequencies? –  American Luke May 6 '13 at 0:15
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The frequency lengths that divide evenly into the distance between the soundboard and the wall will be reinforced by the reflected sound. Since the distance is relatively short, the higher frequencies get the boost. –  ecline6 May 6 '13 at 3:23
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Because upright pianos are usually placed against a wall with a few inches of space behind them, they are designed to sound best that way. You can hear the difference if you visit a piano shop that has some pianos against the wall and some in the middle of the floor.

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You should place the upright almost agaist the wall but depending on your room size you could move the piano somewhere between de middle of the wall to one of the corners. Moving the piano to a corner will enhance the lower sounds. It is for the same reason that you should not place speakers in corners when you want to create a natural sound.

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The back of the piano is effectively the sounding board.So, the listener will get the most benefit by being behind it. This is not practical in many (house) rooms, as space is insufficient. Also, it's hard to see the player. However, in a hall or large stage, the audience will get a better sound when the back of the piano is facing them. If the top is open it's even better.So away from a wall is best.

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