I am a beginner at Russian, interest triggered by the availability of masses of old Russian scores at IMSLP. (So the first words I learnt were для, хора, фортепиано, оркестра and others in the genitive!)

Anyway, I have learnt three words already for "piano":

  • фортепиано : as in Сюита для двух фортепиано -- what it says in scores
  • пианино : "upright piano"
  • рояль : "grand piano"

Today I found this dialog, which says that people at a music school learn пианино...


So the question is: in ordinary conversation, how do I refer to the instrument I play? (Which is an upright at home, but a grand when I have the chance...)

Thanks for any help

  • In ordinary conversation people (non-musicians) usually say "пианино", though sometimes it's just wrong. Otherwise see @Roman's answer.
    – Matt
    Oct 30, 2015 at 18:47

1 Answer 1


"Пианино" and "рояль" are two kinds of "фортепиано". The 1st one has vertical string set, the 2nd one - horizontal.

So the answer is: say "Фортепиано" in the general case, and "пианино" and "рояль" when you talk about these specific kinds of "фортепиано".

For example,

  • Я умею играть на фортепиано
  • У меня дома есть пианино
  • Я вернулся с концерта - за роялем был мой любимый исполнитель!
  • 1
    You can add that people who study music at music schools very often refer to the instrument as "фо-нó", a contraction of "фортепиано".
    – Yellow Sky
    Oct 31, 2015 at 10:04
  • Спасибо! You have confirmed the dictionary definitions, but I was rather interested in the apparent cases which don't quite follow this. Like the dialog I linked to which includes "Здесь можно научиться... на пианино, на скрипке, ..." I guess there might be different ways in which musical specialists and non-musicians talked about this, so @Yellow Sky's comment above is also helpful. Oct 31, 2015 at 18:09

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