Player Piano Roll Reproductions

By Kim Bunker

In the late 1800's, early devices called "push-ups" or Vorsettzer were invented which, when rolled into place in front of most any piano, would "play" the piano by means of a row of felt-covered fingers hanging out its back side. The device was vacuum operated and depended upon rolls of paper punched with holes to provide the music.

In the early 1900's, the vacuum operated mechanism was sufficiently miniaturized to be shoehorned into the case of upright pianos with deepened cases. These early version for the most part, with full 88 note scale for human playing, "played" only 65 of the 88 notes. About 1912, the full scale 88 note player mechanism emerged as a general industry standard.

In the mid 1910, a few player pianos emerged, most in grand form, capable of reproducing the expression and intent of the original recording artist. Many of the legend masters of the piano recorded for this instrument. At the time, it was simply a normal business transaction. However, these early recording have had the effect of preserving for all time the artistry of these unique people.

In all cases, these pianos depended upon the presence of paper music rolls punched with holes. These rolls were the records of the day, later replaced by disks, later replaced by wire recordings, later replaced by disks in variety of evolutionary formats, later replaced by tape recordings in a variety of evolutionary formats, and eventually replaced by CD's and DVD's in today's market.

Only the paper music rolls make it possible today to hear a real piano played by the legendary masters. All other subsequent recordings were fundamentally simulations of the real performance. Unfortunately, the real player piano is still dependent upon the original paper music rolls. While the piano itself can be repeatedly restored into perpetuity, the original rolls cannot be restored. Time is their fatal enemy. All of the original paper music rolls will eventually become un-useable as they deteriorate over time as the picture examples (see the example in the picture).

One format that is at least going to survive for as long as we can predict is the midi-format. Musical Instrument Digital Interface, or MIDI, is an industry-standard electronic communications protocol that defines each musical note or event in an electronic musical instrument or show device such as a synthesizer, precisely and concisely, allowing electronic musical instruments, computers and other show equipment to exchange data in real time. MIDI does not transmit audio—it simply transmits real time digital data providing information such as the type and intensity of the musical notes and technical cues played during a performance.

Not only makes this technique it possible to reproduce the piano roll recordings by the old masters, it also makes it possible to listen the old masters with perfect sound quality!


Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home