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MMD > Archives > August 1999 > 1999.08.19 > 02Prev  Next

Mediocre Restoration and Regulation
By Art Reblitz

Re: Musical Arranging Standards, 990818 MMDigest

Dear Robbie,  I respectfully submit that in all cases where you
have noticed mediocre musical results coming forth from an automatic
instrument made during the "Golden Age" (circa late 1890s-1930), it is
the fault of mediocre restoration or regulation, NOT mediocre standards
of the original manufacturer.

I say this after restoring, regulating, and tuning hundreds of orches-
trions of nearly every brand for over 30 years, always paying special
attention to the musical finishing touches.  I've also arranged over
300 music rolls and books for orchestrions and organs, and I've always
been careful with note lengths, percussion timing, automatic registers,

Certain technicians have glossed over the minute finishing touches that
sometimes take 10%, 20%, or more of the total restoration time, because
they believe "the customer has a tin ear, can't hear the difference and
won't pay for it."

To the contrary, I've found that most collectors _can_ hear the musical
improvement even when they don't know the technical reasons for it.
I've been rewarded time and time again when the owner of an instrument
said "Wow - I never knew it could sound that good!" To me, that's what
restoration is all about.

I'll never understand the mind of the technician who thinks repairing
three instruments makes him or her more knowledgeable than the factory
which made thousands of instruments -- instruments that made good music
for years of heavy commercial use, given a little proper tuning and
maintenance.  If the instruments didn't sound good when they were new,
they would not have been a commercial success.

One example of a mechanism that very few people understand is the
Seeburg reiterating snare drum mechanism.  If you've heard one instru-
ment, or 10, or 20 that didn't sound good, that doesn't mean the
instrument didn't sound good when it was new.  Only when one under-
stands the relationship of bleed size, pouch dish, pouch porosity,
valve travel, loud and soft vacuum levels, pneumatic span, lost motion
between beater pneumatic and reiterating valve, original beater wire
length, original beater weight, beater to head travel, pneumatic stop
position, pneumatic open rest position, batter head material and
thickness, snare head material and thickness, head tension and tuning,
snare material, snare tension, and many other subtle factors, _only
then_ should that person pronounce judgment on a design.

_Very few_ original instruments are still playing with their original
materials and regulation.  Since most have already been through one or
more careless restorations, most of the original factory specs are long
gone.  Therefore, when an observer pronounces judgment on what he or
she assumes are original specifications, in most cases they are actually
criticizing sloppy rebuilding or incomplete regulation, perhaps going
back as far as the late 1940s.

I'm not saying that a technician must have vast experience in order to
understand how to make something sound good.  Some individuals have
been very successful with their first restoration, while others will
never benefit from their experience.

In my opinion, the furthering of mechanical music is always better
served by an attitude of careful respect for the original instruments
than the more prevalent "I heard ten instruments that didn't sound
good; therefore the manufacturer didn't know what it was doing."

Assume that in nearly all examples, if something doesn't work right,
it just isn't fixed right.  Then try to learn how to fix it right!

Art Reblitz

 [ Well said, as usual, Art; I agree whole-heartedly, and it sounds
 [ much better coming from you than from me!  I shall continue to search
 [ for the well-restored and well-regulated orchestrions, playing well-
 [ arranged music rolls.  Thanks once again for sharing your wisdom.
 [ -- Robbie

(Message sent Thu 19 Aug 1999, 16:08:39 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Mediocre, Regulation, Restoration

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