11 January 2021

LEGO® Ideas review: 21323 Grand Piano

Posted by Admin
Today Tim Johnson reviews LEGO® Ideas 21323 Grand Piano, the 3662-piece set based on the Ideas submission by Donny Chen. Buying this set? Consider using our affiliate links: UK LEGO Shop | USA LEGO Shop | Australia LEGO Shop, for other countries 'Change Region'. New Elementary may get a commission. The products in this article were provided for free by LEGO; the author's opinions are not biased by this.

Released in August 2020, 21323 Grand Piano is an unusual and remarkable LEGO® product. For the few of you still unaware of it, let’s start with the quickest of rundowns. Measuring 58 x 38 x 16 cm (23 x 15 x 6 in) and weighing over 6kg (13 lb) in the box, this is a faithful LEGO representation of a working grand piano. Lids flip open, the stool rises, the keys strike strings – and it kinda plays music too; a Powered Up electric motor can be activated by a phone app to make the keys move while music plays on the phone.

Before we take a look at its construction, let’s review the elements included. No new moulds were required, and there are fewer exclusives than you may expect for a set of this size – but there is still plenty of interest to be found in this massive LEGO Ideas set. 

Exclusive printed LEGO pieces in 21323 

Two elements have been printed specially for the Grand Piano.

The Tile 6 x 6 in White with "PLAYDAY" Music Sheet print (6322624 | 77119) features a song written by the original fan designer Donny Chen which is also one of the songs included in the app. This is a beautiful, prominent recognition of his input (and he also receives 4 pages of coverage in the instruction booklet). Oddly there isn’t any natural home for this element once you close up the piano; I’ve taken to slipping it in with the motor as it somehow feels wrong to just drop it on top of the strings!

Tile Special 2 x 2 Inverted in Black with Gold LEGO print (6322630 | 72130) rates as one of my favourite printed LEGO parts of all time. It utilises the original LEGO logo from the 1930s, back when the company only made wooden toys. Its elegance and the smart gold-on-black printing is perfect for its usage here as the manufacturer name appearing on the underside of the dropboard (the lid for the keyboard). Being on the underside, it requires an inverted rather than regular 2x2 tile which makes it slightly trickier to include in your MOCs (as I am certain many LEGO history buffs will want to do) but I am sure it would be an effort worth making.

Recoloured parts in the LEGO Grand Piano

A few elements that were recoloured for this set have since appeared in later releases, so the list of parts that currently come exclusively in this set is now rather short; just 3 elements.

Brick Curved 1 x 4 x 3 (65734) was introduced into LEGO System as a transparent window for 10271 Fiat 500 (although 10272 Old Trafford got released first) and is now recoloured for the first time: there are 6 included in Black (6322135) for the Grand Piano. 

There are a lot of Warm Gold/ Pearl Gold hoses in this set! 25, to be precise. As you will no doubt have noticed, they form the piano strings. Consequently, different lengths are required; there are 4 different sizes provided of which the 2 pictured are new to Pearl Gold: 3 x Hose, Rigid 3mm D. 26L / 20.8cm (6322139 | 64461) and 12 x Hose, Rigid 3mm D. 32L / 25.6cm (6322138 | 57274).

Aside from those exclusives there are plenty of ‘rare’ recolours; here are the ones that I believe made their first appearance in the Piano:

  • 3x Plate 2 x 16 in Sand Yellow/ Dark Tan (6316277 | 4282) which already appears in 7 other sets 
  • 2x Technic Brick 1 x 2 with Axle Hole Type 1 [+ Opening] and Bottom Pin in Sand Yellow/ Dark Tan (6310833 | 31493) now also comes in 10275 Elf Club House
  • 4x Technic Plate 1 x 5 with Smooth Ends, 4 Studs and Centre Axle Hole in Brick Yellow/ Tan (6311104 | 50029) has since also appeared in 75978 Diagon Alley which has only 1, and 10276 Colosseum which has 11
  • 2x Plate 3 x 3 in Brick Yellow/ Tan (6115031 | 11212) which now appears in 4 other sets, most notably 10276 Colosseum which has 55!

Other rare parts (not pictured) include:

  • 21x Slope Curved 2 x 2 x 2/3 in Medium Nougat (6312473 | 15068) appears in 4 sets 
  • 3x Wheel 11 x 8 with Center Groove in Black (6291068 | 42610) and you can get 8 in 75275 A-Wing Starfighter and 2x in 75276 Stormtrooper 
  • 6x Plate Special 1 x 3 with 2 Studs with Groove and Inside Stud Holder in Medium Nougat (6292145 | 34103) which appears in 3 other 2020 sets
  • 15x Brick Special 1 x 2 with Studs on 1 Side in Sand Yellow/ Dark Tan (6310835 | 11211) now found in 5 other sets
  • 3x Money / Gold Bar [Ingot] in Gold Laquered/ Metallic Gold (6294492 | 99563) which only comes in 21322 Pirates of Barracuda Bay and 80012 Monkey King Warrior Mech – but note that mech contains 24 of these!
  • 5x Hose, Rigid 3mm D. 12L / 9.6cm in Warm Gold/ Pearl Gold (6267914 | 60676) in 2 other sets since 2019
  • 5x Hose, Rigid 3mm D. 16L / 12.8cm in Warm Gold/ Pearl Gold (6173281 | 85532) in 3 other sets since 2017
  • 3x Plate Special 4 x 4 with 2 x 2 Cutout in Brick Yellow/ Tan (6223291 | 64799) which previously appeared in 21041 Great Wall of China from 2018 and 75253 Droid Commander from 2019 
  • 19x Tile Special 1 x 3 Inverted with Center Hole in Black (6272184 | 35459); now in 4 other sets
  • 16x Technic Axle and Pin Connector Toggle Joint Smooth in White (6175556 | 32126) in 3 other sets since 2017
  • 4x Technic Axle Connector Smooth [with x Hole + Orientation] in Brick Yellow/ Tan (6262188 | 59443) in 3 other sets since 2019
  • 5x Brick Special 1 x 2 with 2 Pins in Black (6276875 | 30526) which comes in 3 other sets, having been introduced as late as 2019
  • 21x Plate 1 x 12 in Sand Yellow/ Dark Tan (6275088 | 60479) coming in 4 other sets since introduction in 2019
  • 2x Technic Axle and Pin Connector Perpendicular in Brick Yellow/ Tan (6167924 | 6536) has been around since 2000 but has only appeared in 5 other sets in all that time, most recently in 2017
  • 1x Wedge Plate 8 x 3 Right in Brick Yellow/ Tan (6056274 | 50304) in 3 other sets since its introduction in 2014. Note however there is no matching left wing in this set!

Quantities of pieces in LEGO Ideas Grand Piano

A noteworthy aspect to the parts in this set is of course their large quantities. Sometimes with big sets only a few of the parts come in massive amounts but the Piano has plenty. If you’re considering this set as a parts pack, here are the top 30 parts in terms of quantity (NB. in this list, the part names are in TLG nomenclature):

  • 88x Plate 1X1 W. Up Right Holder in Pearl Gold (6262138|44842)
  • 78x Plate 1X2 in Dark Tan (4528604|3023)
  • 77x Plate 1X2 in Black (302326|3023)
  • 73x Plate 1X2 in Medium Nougat (6218360|3023)
  • 71x Flat Tile 2X4 in Black (4560182|87079)
  • 59x Plate 1X4 in Tan (4113233|3710)
  • 58x Flat Tile 1X6 in Tan (4157277|6636)
  • 57x Brick 1X3 in Black (362226|3622)
  • 56x Brick 1X6 in Black (300926|3009)
  • 53x Flat Tile 2X2 Inv. in Black (6013867|11203)
  • 53x Connector Peg W. Friction in Black (4121715|2780)
  • 52x Plate 1X1 in Medium Nougat (6215606|3024)
  • 47x Plate W. Bow 1X2X2/3 in Black (6047276|11477)
  • 46x Plate 1X1 in Black (302426|3024)
  • 45x Technic Lever 2M in Bright Red/ Red(4186678|41677)
  • 43x Brick 1X1 in Black (300526|3005)
  • 42x Brick 1X1X3 1/3, W/ Arch in Black (6185955|30935)
  • 39x Plate 1X3 in Black (362326|3623)
  • 39x Brick 1X3 in Tan (4162465|3622)
  • 37x Conn.Bush W.Fric./Crossaxle in Bright Blue/ Blue(4206482|43093)
  • 36x Flat Tile 1X8 in Black (416226|4162)
  • 36x Brick 1X10 in Black (611126|6111)
  • 35x Brick 1X16 in Tan (4295313|2465)
  • 34x Plate 1X10 in Black (447726|4477)
  • 32x Flat Tile 1X1 in Black (307026|3070)
  • 32x Plate 1X8 in Black (346026|3460)
  • 31x Brick Corner 1X2X2 in Black (235726|2357)
  • 30x Brick 1X16 in Black (246526|2465)
  • 30x Plate 2X4 in Black (302026|3020)
  • 30x Plate 2X3 in Dark Tan (6035540|3021)

Conversely, another remarkable thing about the set is the tiny amount of spare pieces. 

These are the only extras I got; less than 1% of the total piece count! LEGO Production have certainly improved their packaging methods. 

The build

I won’t describe the build in intense detail, but if you are looking for a bag-by-bag description I recommend our friend Richard’s Rambling Brick review, which has some lovely knolling pictures of the parts too. (He also includes solutions to the issue of the resting keys being misaligned, if that is troubling you.)

I was surprised by how pedestrian most of the build process seemed, but with hindsight I should perhaps have seen this coming. This Ideas set is less like a typical LEGO product and more like the kind of MOC a talented AFOL might build for display at a public show; the one you excitedly tell your friends about later. Put simply it’s a brilliant concept comprising a technically detailed core enclosed in a box of brick. If you’ve made a large display model before you will relate to the challenges involved and enjoy the execution here. If you haven’t, it’s a learning experience – and perhaps a dull one if you’re not expecting or desiring to learn practical building skills, such as layering walls of brick strengthened with cores of Technic frames. And there are a lot of walls to be built. 

This means the scale of the structure quickly becomes apparent which is deeply pleasing. It is fascinating to see how the frame and various internal layers of the piano fit together. 

The issue of connecting the one wall of the rim that is diagonal is cleverly avoided by making it functional: a door that swings open to provide the required access to the motor switch.

There are times when you need quite a bit of strength in your fingers as the various sections join together and if you haven’t been pressing all your bricks firmly together as you go, you’re going to run into trouble. As I imagine many of you know: once you start building big, you hit some limits of the LEGO System. 

Plates are one well-known issue; joining a few together to make something long causes warping. This was particularly noticeable on my Piano when attempting to attach the music shelf. 

I ended up removing its central 2x16 plate to minimise the warping and then reattaching the plate, which was tricky to execute as there are no bricks underneath to support such a maneuver. That said, overall this product is an astonishing feat of LEGO engineering and it doesn’t explode in your hands as you build (like my MOCs always do). Not even at the thrilling stage when you flip the whole build upside-down to attach the legs and pedals:

An aspect to the build experience I truly appreciated was the filler brick. As you have surely all experienced, many LEGO products use multiple colours for the hidden interior sections because it makes the build process easier. The resultant lack of realism has always irritated me. Not so for the Grand Piano where the interior is almost entirely depicted in wooden hues like Tan and Dark Tan. 

The exceptions are parts that only come in limited colours like Mixel ball joints, and sections that have been colour coded for ease of building, such as this impressive Technic axle that moves the keys.

Speaking of which: the mechanism is one example of where this LEGO build experience is far from pedestrian. 

Another is the keyboard; a really fascinating construction for the realistic keys that uses unusual techniques such as resting on grey inverted ice-cream-cones to provide the loosest of ‘connections’. 

Naturally some repetition is again involved as there are 25 keys, with only slight variations in their appearance. Patience is certainly a valuable quality when building this set, and I have relevant experience here as my father built a harpsichord from a kit once. Not a model; an actual 88-key harpsichord. I begrudgingly spent what felt like a significant proportion of our summer beach holiday constructing jacks for it. Perhaps the necessary patience for certain LEGO sets has been drilled into me since childhood.

Another wow factor to the set is that the whole keyboard is easily removable so you can inspect the working mechanism, which feels quite educational.

The legs were another highlight for me due to the realism achieved in their proportions and function, especially those tiny wheels that spin at unexpected angles! Sadly the finished model is too heavy for these to move freely but nevertheless they still fulfil their function of making the piano easier to slide across a surface.

Here’s a delightful detail on the music shelf. You can adjust the angle of the stand by resting the connecting axles into the grooves of the grille slopes; great to see a function employed with this typically decorative element.

Another delightful upside-down build forms the cushion of the stool, a huge improvement on Danny’s uncomfortable original! The smooth inverted boat studs look inviting, and the exposed tubes on the underside of the plate represent the buttoned cushion top wonderfully. 

The completed LEGO piano set

The detail is just astonishing, and so pleasing in its accuracy. You can hit the 25 keys and they feel pretty much like the real thing because of course they are shaped and behave like the real thing. Another feature that really seems to impress the pianists I have shown the model to is the sustain pedal, which simultaneously raises all the dampers from the strings; this really conveys the dedication the designers have gone to. The overall proportions are slightly out - it is too deep, presumably to make space for the motor - but none of the aforementioned pianists noticed, nor cared when I pointed that out. 

It is regrettable that there are visible differences in materials between different kinds of LEGO elements; in this image you can see some bricks stand out as being a deeper black. This is because those are Technic bricks and hinge bricks which are made of a stronger plastic and, I would imagine, are impossible to match in terms of visual appearance to the same shade of regular ABS elements.

What I really love about this product is that it is different from the usual. As mentioned earlier, it felt more like creating a MOC for a public show, which is a great experience. That’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and neither are pianos, and that’s okay. I think we can all agree that the LEGO Group are now making enough products to cover all manner of tastes!

Where this product falls flat is in the expectation management of its “player piano” aspect. I almost hate to be critical here because, in context, it is delightful that the appearance of playing music has been replicated in some form. The important word there is context. If you think of it as the icing on the cake, then it’s a neat extra to have. However if you purchase the set assuming that the piano is properly playable, or that the correct keys will move in time to the music being played, or that the audio track is played from a speaker within the piano itself – you’ll be disappointed. The sound comes via the phone app and the keys move randomly while songs play. There is an alternate play mode which will play the tunes one note at a time when you press any key on the piano, which is a kinda neat way for a pianist to mimic the appearance of properly playing a song, but it understandably looks clunky.

To judge this, New Elementary’s Number One Fan (my mum) had one of her grandsons impress us with his skills. An update to the app provided some Christmas tunes for all to enjoy.

I don’t think that they could have delivered a truly playable piano; I appreciate that would be totally impractical if not impossible at this scale with the technology available. The problem for me is that this was not made at all clear in the press release, instead vague phrases like “a concert grand piano that you can actually play music with!” were used. Similarly, there’s no definitive indication on the box – perhaps some sort of equivalent to the “boat does not float” messaging that is used on LEGO ships with brick-built hulls could have been employed here. While this is a troublesome concept to convey succinctly, for £319.99/ US$349.99/ CA$449.99/ 341.17€/ 2699.0DKK, it should be crystal-clear what people are paying for – otherwise you risk delivering what some consider to be the world’s most expensive phone stand.

But oh, what a phone stand. This is such a “wow” object, it continues to deliver joy long after construction is complete. 

Minifigure for scale; not included in final product!

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  1. Ah, dads. My dad was an auto mechanic when I was growing up. One time, he was preparing to install a transmission in his Impala, and was using his floor jack to raise it into position. It wouldn't quite reach, so I was tasked with pushing it up the last inch or so. I'm pretty sure it weighed more than I did. But, hey, it prepared me for later in life, when I was working for a small boat builder and sign carver in high school. We were hanging a wooden sign at a nearby vintner, and once again I got tasked with hoisting it up the last inch or so. And once again, I think it weighed more than I did. But, hey, that prepared me for later in life, when my LUG did a show in a rainstorm in a train yard (yes, seriously), and someone parked the club trailer on the grass without putting anything under the jack. I called another member over to shove a board under while I lifted up on the tongue. I _know_ that one weighed more than I do. I try not to do stuff like that anymore...

    I don't know about organs, but piano benches usually have a seat cushion that flips up so you can store sheet music inside.

  2. I think they sailed very close to the wind by describing this product as "playable".

  3. I've only just read this review but its a great read thanks Tim! I was initially a little tempted to buy this set (as with many sets I see) but I realised there would be a fair amount of Technic plus the questionable playability doesn't really appeal. While I reluctantly endured piano lessons as a youngster, I realise the joy of now playing a little is from actually hearing the music and choosing to play songs I actually enjoy playing. It's an impressive build but I think reading the review and enjoying the video was sufficient for me! Kudos to the pianist in the family, it was a fun video to watch ;-)