There has always been two basic heights for piano benches which vary
between the limits below. The upright requires a traditionally higher
bench than the grand, mainly due to the vertical shape of the piano
action itself -- its necessary string length being limited otherwise
by the floor.
Grand benches have always varied about an inch, overall, but to my
knowledge, there was never special grand bench that was shorter than
a standard bench, offered with Ampico pianos. All old Chickering
benches, for instance, measure about 19" high. The range for new grand
benches today is between 18" and 19." I have never run into a vintage
18" piano bench though. So 19" is the standard height for grand
benches, both reproducing and regular grands.
The range for upright benches has changed, however. The older, taller
uprights required a 22" bench. In catalogs, they call that a "school
bench, not because it's for small children, but because it has an
"H" brace. Depending, however, smaller verticals today require benches
that vary from 19" to 21," with a 20" bench a safe average for most old
uprights. It's pretty safe though to buy a 22" bench for most pumper
player pianos of the 20's, because it makes for easier pumping. A
20-22" bench under a grand however is too high, but I have seen this
situation too. A large person's knees may almost touch the drawer with
good posture having a bench that's too high.
Grands of the teens and 20's varied a little, but in general you can
say that the top of their key beds were 25" to 26" high. Uprights of
the same era varied too, but in general measured between 26"-27" off
the floor. That makes their keytops higher, of course.
I would like to correct the idea that perhaps Ampico "cheated" with
their drawer by cutting the height of their bench accordingly. I've
replaced many benches in my time, and the new ones are exactly the same
height as the ones I'm replacing. So while that's not to say that some
people own a short bench, that is to say it definitely didn't come with
the Ampico or was it provided by any of the piano makers in which the
Ampico was installed.
When we envision a piano sales floor with both reproducing grands and
standard grands for sale, it would be rather comical, not to mention
drawing undue attention to the drawer, if the Ampico's benches were
shorter than standard grand benches. And knowing a piano sales floor,
customers would quickly have them switched all over the place, trying
this one and that one with the piano they liked. Just show them a
different height bench and you will be sorry. They will be carrying
them all over the place. Its manufacturing standardization practices
that prevent this confusion.
[ The sloped "pumper bench" with my Aeolian Pianola is almost
[ 23 inches high, and I like it when I'm hand-playing the piano
[ with its key tops at 31 inches height. (Yes, the keyboard seems
[ quite high, but the piano castors are original.) -- Robbie