Player Piano History - Makes

Split stack control These instruments (the vast majority of all player pianos) have the pneumatic player mechanism divided into two approximately equal halves. The operator can lower the volume of either half of the keyboard independently of the other in order to create musical effects.

Theme control These instruments have peripheral pneumatic hardware systems fitted which, when used in conjunction with special music rolls, are able to highlight those notes in the score which are intended to be accented away from those whose volume it is desired to subdue. Basic theme pianos subdue all notes and release full power to only those notes which are align with special music roll "theme" perforations. More subtle systems (such as Hupfeld's "Solodant" and Aeolian's "Themodist") have a graduated theme control where the background subdued level and the foreground melody level are both controllable. The nature of the mechanism is such that where a chord occurs notes to be they have to be advanced slightly away from their neighbors in order for the mechanism to identify them.

Isolated theme The hardware of these pianos is able to pick out the melody notes away from their background accompaniment within the entire range of the keyboard without the necessity for breaking up chords i.e. a software workaround. Manufacturers of these systems were the UK "Dalian" and "Kastonome" and the US "Solo Carola".
Steinway Welte-Mignon reproducing piano (1919)

Reproducing Pianos These are fully automated versions of the player piano requiring no human manual control in order to produce the illusion of a live musical performance. This is achieved by the utilization of music rolls where tempo mapping is fully incorporated into the music rolls i.e. the note lengths of a live performance have been captured. This obviates any need for manual tempo lever manipulation. The volume dynamics are created by peripheral pneumatic expression accessories under control from system-specific music roll coding. This obviates the need for human manipulation of the manual dynamic control levers. Typically an electric motor provides power to remove the human operator from the necessity to provide motive power by treadling. Most reproducing pianos are capable of manual over-ride operation and many are constructed for dual functionality both as regular player pianos and also as reproducing pianos. Numerous companies made these utilizing different technology. The first successful instrument was called the "Mignon" launched by Welte in 1904.
A coin-operated Link piano Orchestrion.

Orchestrions and Nickelodeons These are automated instruments typically intended from use in a coin-operated commercial setting rather than any domestic one. Various manufacturers made numerous ranges of instruments featuring different combinations of pianos, organ pipework, percussion and other fittings. They were eventually superseded by the juke box following the introduction of effective electrical sound amplification.

from wikipedia


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