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MMD > Archives > July 1997 > 1997.07.25 > 07Prev  Next

Building an Orchestrion
By Craig Brougher

With all this discussion about the merits of different orchestrion rolls,
some folks may get the impression that only certain format rolls are
suitable to build an orchestrion around.

When I wrote the book, The Orchestrion Builder's Manual and Pneumatics
Handbook, it was necessary to limit the scope of direct comparison to two
basic rolls, the O and the G.  However, it is written with _any roll
format_ in mind, simply by teaching you the principles and the tricks to
getting it right.  It also shows what doesn't work, and why.  So there is
no reason to fear that you will be led by the hand down a technical blind
alley, worrying that unbeknownst you will eventually encounter something
that the book didn't foresee.

That means, to anyone who wants to try building one, that it isn't your
usual How-To book which, without telling you WHY, adapts the primrose
path approach of simply WHAT to do.

Utilizing the M roll in your own orchestrion is a very fine idea, by the
way.  I've never done it yet because they weren't available.  But if we
are going to start seeing dozens of new roll titles in the M series or
any of the others, then I don't see anything at all wrong with utilizing
them to the full extent.  As John Rutowsky spearheads the idea with his
own verson of an orchestrion using the M format, I can promise you, they
are real music-makers!  You will love them.  (Live music is as superior to
music from speakers as an afternoon with Sharon Stone versus one of her
videotapes.  You'll settle for the second only if you can't have the

The advantage of using the book is that all the designs mentioned are the
best of the most successful ones I've built (plus lots of creations from
other builders), and are described in sufficient detail (sometimes with
plans) so that you will be able to build your own much more successfully,
without wondering and experimenting.  And details of how to regulate
and/or build certain things were written as I was actually doing it,
rather than trying to recall what it was I ran into when I did it.  That
is one reason the book required almost 4 years to write.  But I use it
for my own manual and to remind myself, now.

This letter may look to some like crass commercialism, but I'm willing to
risk that in order to let some people in on a good thing that they may
not otherwise know about.  It was a book that was long overdue.  The
chapter on valves alone has been said to be worth the price of the book.
For builders or rebuilders who get cold feet just thinking about doing
valves, much less building them from scratch, this chapter explains all
the basics and how to test them.  Absorb the information in this one
chapter, Valves And Cutouts, and you will understand a _lot_ about player
pianos, why some are better than others, and what designs not to copy.
The sizing principle between the pouch and the lifter and the valve
diameter, the bleed size and its effects and how to optimize it, valve
repetition, efficiency, power, and the limitation factors to watch for--
it's all there, and succinct.

The idea for the book was to have a quick reference manual in every sense
of the word, for the entire art and science of pneumatics if possible.
The principles and methods are all there in one book, and I think it is
the basic book on pneumatics to build your knowledge and library around.
Then, if you decide to build an orchestrion, or to have one built, from
ANY roll format, this book will tell you what you should be able to
expect from really good components, and about how to build them.  Then,
if you wish to add instruments the original format didn't include, you
can, without much trouble, and remember, multiplexing can be 100%
automatic, just by using the original roll formatting sequences, itself.

Craig Brougher

 [ The list of "M" rolls submitted by Hal Davis sure resembles the
 [ "O"-roll tune lists.  Were the rolls arranged and perforated by the
 [ same company?  -- Robbie

(Message sent Fri 25 Jul 1997, 14:04:48 GMT, from time zone GMT.)

Key Words in Subject:  an, Building, Orchestrion

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