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I find acoustic upright pianos quite loud and unbearable. This is also because my recently developed hyperacusis but I think I always found it so when I was even much younger; I would use the silent pedal because the loudness frightened me a bit. Whenever I have time to have my jazz piano lesson, I have to put my earplugs(still loud compared to my digital piano.)

So my question is, isn't the accoustic piano too loud that it risks player's hearing? And is the grand piano so much more loud than the upright piano?

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    Compared with a brass instrument like the trumpet (where professional players often wear earplugs) I don't think a piano is any danger to hearing at all. (It hasn't affected me yet after playing keyboards for 40+ years, anyway). Playing a grand piano in a sensible sized room (or concert hall) can actually seem quieter than an upright for the performer, because the sound is directed away by the piano lid if it's open. It depends on the make of piano though - Yamahas as voiced at the factory are often very "in your face" and bright toned, which might aggravate your medical condition. – user19146 Aug 1 '17 at 3:29
  • Your mention of 'bright tone of Yamaha' is a very striking point. I recently made up my mind to buy an yamaha upright despite my medical condition. Firstly because after years of easy-playing on the digital piano has completely ruined my touch on the upright. I couldn't even produced sounds because it has a clicking mechanism which I wasn't familiar with. And secondly because upright has resonance and vibration that makes 7th chords sounds so much better. But... is yamaha that bright compared to the others? I can stand any piano that's less brighter than Young Chang or anything. – Victoria Aug 1 '17 at 4:00
  • @alephzero, that sounds like the start of a great answer. – jdjazz Aug 1 '17 at 4:05
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    You are explicitly diagnosed as hypersensitive to sounds, and you wonder whether the most common instrument in the world is maybe miscalibrated for human ears? I'm afraid it is much more likely that you were simply diagnosed too late than that the entire world is wrong about the best compromise for piano acoustics. – Kilian Foth Aug 1 '17 at 11:35
  • You're right. I guess that I worried too much about it. I'll try to adjust to the sound as much as possible. I can't miss the fun. – Victoria Aug 1 '17 at 12:31
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A grand piano played fortissimo could produce intensity of around 100 dB SPL, which would cause hearing damage in most ears after about fifteen minutes, but only if the intensity remained that high for the whole time.

It is intensity over time that causes damage, with greater intensities causing damage in shorter amounts of time. It is theoretically possibly but extremely unlikely that a piece, piano, and player would all come together to produce enough intensity for long enough time to cause damage. It's not normally worth worrying about.

That said, all measurements of hearing are averages across a sample of people, so there can be and are unusual ears that are more or less sensitive to different parameters of sound. If you've been diagnosed with a condition, best to check with your doctor whether you are at a greater risk for damage because of that condition. As Bruno wrote, 60-70 dB is a good typical intensity for a piano, with 100 dB being a rare but possible sound level.

  • Presumably those figures are measured at the player's position. With a grand, top open, the sound will be directed out to the player's ears far more than an upright, where a lot of sound will go out of the back. If it's against a wall, as is usual, the player's ears won't receive as much sound pressure, do you think? – Tim Aug 1 '17 at 8:12
  • @Tim It's a bit complicated and of course depends on what frequencies we want to focus on and/or what weighting we use for our intensity measurement. Below a certain frequency, pushing an upright against a hard enough wall will actually double the intensity at the bench because the wall will tend to reflect and low frequencies go right through the body of the piano. – Todd Wilcox Aug 1 '17 at 10:09
  • That's what I guessed. However, players ears are far closer to one set of cheeks rather than the other... – Tim Aug 1 '17 at 10:43
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Acoustic pianos generally produce 60-70 Decibels (dB) at normal practise. The Action Level where hearing protection is required is at 85 Decibels.

Upright pianos generally have shorter strings and smaller soundboard, which would contribute to lesser volume compared to a Grand piano.

Personally I would invest in a good digital piano with volume and EQ control.

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    Or an acoustic with a practice pedal? – Tim Aug 1 '17 at 5:52
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"I find acoustic upright pianos quite loud and unbearable. This is also because my recently developed hyperacusis but I think I always found it so when I was even much younger..."

Recently developed or recently diagnosed? No, I don't think pianos are too loud. If they're too loud FOR YOU, earplugs are available. Or electric instruments, with volume controls. So everyone wins!

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Grand pianos carry better in a concert hall but are usually set up in a manner where the bulk of the sound is directed sideways rather than at the player. So there shouldn't be that much of a difference. Unless the grand piano is in a room too small to do it justice.

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