Hello MMD readers, As we prepare for Pianola concert #8, in our series
of nine here at Searsport Shores, Maine, it struck me that many player
action enthusiasts might think that the 78-note scale, for the
'reproducing' roll option on our instrument, was a bit unusual.
True, Ludwig Hupfeld made a vast quantity of rolls for their 73-Note
Phonola players, of which our two piano-player models have a "half
width" bottom pneumatic in the action (due to space limitations!).
However, there were no American-designed 'reproducing' rolls which
required a 78 key cutoff, to my knowledge, yet the 1929 Story & Clark
upright does just this, when "Reprotone ON" is selected, via a small
lever in the upper right of the spoolbox.
There was a short-lived trend, in the late 'Twenties, to have an
upright player that was compatible with ALL types of music rolls,
on retail store shelves; thus, the dealer could equip any new piano
with the titles already on hand, be they QRS or Atlas 88-Note rolls,
or Ampico, Artecho and Welte-Mignon Licensee. This simplified stocking
problems and cost, in the declining years of the player industry.
Gulbransen's 'Registering Piano' was an 80-key player, identical to
the scale of the later model Duo-Art grand pianos (for the domestic
market). There were no pneumatics for low C or low B-flat, two keys
which often were needed for some compositions, especially those by
George Gershwin. It handled the 80-note Duo-Art and Welte-Mignon
scales without any loss of performance material, only causing an
occasional annoyance when a "full-scale" standard player roll was
arranged for 88 playing keys.
The Artrio-Angelus (later, under Simplex, "Angelus" only) electric
expression player used more bass keys, including the low C and B-flat
(if I recall correctly), so these were eliminated by the 80-note
actions; it was typical of the Artrio-Angelus to introduce extremely
low notes on the final chords - even though some of the pianists did
not play them in real life, as in the case of William Berge. (That's
another story, but we have audio tapes of the pianist, which confirm
that he didn't end his performances with the bottom piano keys, which
were "outside" of the 80 note range!) [snip]
To my knowledge, Ferrand Cecilian was one of few player action builders
to furnish the customer with multiple tracker bars, back in the days of
standard 88-Note, 65-Note and the Cecilian 'graduated width' 65-Note
rolls by Connorized. (Sometimes these were in a special drawer under
the keyboard, but often there would be a felt-lined wooden storage case
which was separate from the upright piano, holding 1 or 2 of them.)
The idea of supplying multiple tracker bars, during the final days of
the player industry, was probably never considered, but it would have
allowed the Artrio-Angelus and Ampico rolls to "play everything", as
well as my Interpretive Arrangements of today. (Remember, there was no
plastic 3-M 'Magic Plus' removable tape for the tracker bar, in those
Sound projection is enhanced with top panel being slightly raised, with
the 2 interior lifters provided for this purpose. The Story & Clark's
"singing treble" is much more effective - when set against the rich
bass sonority - if the case lid is elevated. The audience experiences
these acoustic improvements, since the piano has more than enough tone
for the music roll interpreter.
So, I deal with 78 playing keys and add the top and/or bottom single
notes, when needed, much to the audience's approval, if a 'reproducing'
arrangement is being featured on this versatile player. Spoolbox lever
manipulations, in addition to the standard foot pedal and keyslip
lever work, merge with the occasional (manual) piano key striking to
make for a very active Pianolist! Few, who attend this concert series,
leave with the idea that the player does "everything", while the human
"just pedals". As with a pipe organist, my feet and fingers are in
operation all the time, while the music flows out of the instrument.
Best regards from Searsport Shores,
Artcraft Music Rolls
PS: Question: Why did some Welte-Mignon Original grands have 79 playing
keys for their 80 note scale? Decades ago, using the piano keyboard on
one of these instruments, I recall adding a low D-Flat on a few
Licensee popular rolls by Howard Lutter.