Piano Rolls and Player Piano Redux in the New Year

I  wrote a number of posts about piano rolls in which my primary interest was using scanned piano rolls in computer MIDI devices for learning purposes.  I haven’t really kept current with acoustic piano manufacturing.  I also wasn’t aware that there were huge qualitative differences in the mechanical player piano equipment.   So, lets start off 2014 with more piano rolls. And what better song to start off the New Year with than Cole Porter’s It’s Delovely.  

My friend, Jim Hollowaty, sent me some links to You Tube videos of Ampico reproducing pianos manufactured by the American Piano Company.  The American Piano Company was founded in 1908 and went under in 1941.  It was purchased by Aeolian Company, which itself struggled throughout the depression as did many piano builders. A brief history of Ampico is at this link.

This video demonstrates a restored Mason & Hamlin with the Ampico reproducing equipment, using classic player piano pieces Kitten on the Keys and Dizzy Fingers, by the master himself, Zez Confrey.

The Mason & Hamlin was evidently an underrated piano.  But, in my copy of Larry Fine’s Piano Book from several years back, the manufacturer has survived economic troubles, skilled labor shortages, and foreign buy outs.  They  continue to produce first rate pianos, according to Larry Fine.

Jim sent several links on how the Ampico system works, by John A. Tuttle.   I’ll just provide the link rather than post the video.  The clip is lengthy and the topic is fairly technical and geared toward piano repair technicians.

Thanks again to Jim Hollowaty.

About Richard Rollo

I am a retired Community College Instructor. I taught Political Science 1 American Government for 22 years in Southern California. I am originally from Northern Minnesota. My earliest years were spent in the living quarters of a rural Duluth Winnipeg & Pacific Railway Depot. Then my family joined the great 1950's migration to Southern California where I joined up with fellow baby boomers in overcrowded schools.
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