A Pleasant Good Day to All MMD'ers, I am genuinely thrilled by the
responses my article 'Re: Solenoid Piano Survey Results' provoked.
They did indeed surpass my own expectations.
[ This article appeared as "Scott Currier's Solenoid Piano Survey"
[ by John A. Tuttle, in MMDigest 971002. -- Robbie ]
But I have made mistakes, been knocked down, gotten right back up, dusted
off my alligator skin and broad shoulders and continued with even greater
resolve. So without further adieu, I'd like to address a few of the
comments made about my posting and my on-going opinion poll. (Note that
I have changed it from a survey to an opinion poll to eliminate any
notion that it is anything more than my visitors (the people I hope to
First, although Scott's survey is titled 'Solenoid Piano Survey Results',
he begins it by mentioning the "perceived weaknesses of solenoid AND
pneumatic technologies", goes on to list some of each and then continues
to report what he found out regarding solenoid players. I consider that
biased by any definition of the word. Had he restricted his report to
the subject, it could not have been labeled 'biased'. But bias is not
necessarily a bad thing. In fact, bias often brings forth selective
information that might otherwise fall between the cracks. Accumulating
biased information and presenting it in a methodical report can be very
enlightening and I, for one, thought that Scott's survey was quite good,
despite it's biased nature. His report was, in fact, the primary impetus
for my decision to try soliciting opinions from the visitors to my
web site and therefore had a positive and stirring impact on me. In
retrospect, I should have started my posting with a comment to the effect
that it was Scott's survey and Joyce Brite's question about creating
demand that made me realize that we, in the MMD, often limit the scope of
our information gathering to the members of this group. And while we
might collectively have tons of information, our viewpoints might not be
shared by the public that many of us serve and rely on for our
And to Scott, whose units I'll never get to service, and to everyone
else: if you've ever been to my site, you know that I provide a lot of
information about troubleshooting, basic principals of operation and
recommended reference materials. Ergo, I encourage people to work on
their own units. The simple fact is, that by stimulating people to get
personally involved with their instrument, I am (a) increasing their
level of interest, (b) promoting the sale of reference and repair
materials, (c) increasing the likelihood that player pianos will survive
and (d) that I (or some other technician, maybe one listed at my site)
will end up with more work when they (the average user) realize they're
in over their head. The point here is very simple: you have to give to
get and what I give is, in my mind, very small in comparison to what I
get in return.
Secondly, Ms. Joyce Brite brings out a few interesting points with
regards to my on-going opinion poll of the 'average' player piano owner
and his/her likes and dislikes. Let me state categorically and for the
record that (a) I never said I would "eliminate" ANY of the responses I
gather, in fact, I said quite the opposite, (b) I did not and do not
purport that it is scientific or (c) that the results of the poll will be
"statistically valid". What I do hope for is that the results of the
poll will help all those who work on and/or sell player pianos by
bringing forth more information about what it is about player pianos that
people like or dislike. As I inferred in my article "Selling MM
Instruments" in yesterdays Digest, you have to know your customers before
you can effectively create demand for any product. And unless I'm way
off base here, that's exactly what every successful business does before
introducing a product, they poll the public. There is no shortcutting
the fact that a broader base (broader than is available through the MMD)
of input will yield a clearer picture and therefore help us hone our
sales tactics. (You see, as I stated in my response to the article about
creating demand, it's not a 1-2-3 sort of thing.) It might come to pass
that in the final analysis of the results, I might not find out anything
really new (although I seriously doubt that) and in that case, the whole
process will have been a huge waste of time. But it is my time and I'm
willing to take that chance in the hope of broadening our database and
becoming better salespeople.
My use of the word 'average', was, of coarse, used by me to separate the
very involved enthusiasts (who belong to groups like the MMD, AMICA, MBSI
and other such groups) from the casual user. Furthermore, the poll will
obviously be related solely to Internet users since that's the only venue
I have at my fingertips. Also, I would hazard to say that even Yamaha
can't afford to do a National or International survey expressly for the
purpose of finding out what it is about player pianos that people like or
dislike. And I dare to say that if they had, they might have gone the
way of Story & Clark (who continue to make a roll activated player) and
funneled some of their vast resources into the creation of a roll
activated and/or MIDI activated, electric driven and/or treadle powered
pneumatic player piano instead of pouring money into a mediocre solenoid
system that still leaves much to be desired. And finally, I thought that
my use of the terms 'average' and 'general public' were clearly defined
when, in the next paragraph, I explained exactly what I intended to do.
For reasons which I fail to understand, some people seem to think that I
am looking for a unified consensus concerning solenoid and pneumatic
players, i.e., that one is better than the other. Nothing could be
further from the truth. My professional attitude is that MIDI activated
pianos should be called Midi Players (or something else) not player or
reproducing pianos and I think that denoting such units as player or
reproducing pianos is a misnomer and misleading. And while it is not my
desire to browbeat those who own and enjoy solenoid/MIDI activated
players, I do hope that my constant niggling will have a positive effect
on the research and development of the system.
Being fiercely independent, capitalistic and democratically minded, I
always welcome every viewpoint, especially opposing ones, no matter how
trite or minute. It's long been my contention that if you throw a small
pebble on a still pond, the ripples will be felt all the way to the other
side. Here are the first two responses to my opinion poll: (I will hold
all others until January '98)
Comments: An MMDer: I like listening to almost any reproducing piano
play that's in excellent condition. I like watching the note hole
patterns on any piano roll as it plays. I like interpreting a roll on a
pumper. I like listening to any really good pianolist go at it on a
pumper. I dislike the aspect of a solenoid player at an AMICA convention
that it drones on forever instead of "playing a roll" and quitting.
Comments: An MMDer: Like: All types of pneumatic players and orchestrions
the more complicated the better. These show the innovations of the time.
Dislike: Repairers who pull out expression systems, if they don't want it
connected why not just leave all the bits in the bottom of the piano? Not
really dislike, just indifferent to: MIDI players, ok but a computer can
do anything these days can't it. Not very impressive at all.
Dislike: Snobbery amongst D/A, Ampico, Welte owners.
Dislike: Modern plastic players, bits that can't be repaired.
Judging from these first two responses, I have my work cut out for me and
it will be challenging to collate the various comments into specific
categories so that the end results can be used as a tool to help
retailers create demand for the player piano and other mechanical musical
instruments. I hope it will prove to be insightful.
A Side Note:
I vividly remember the first time I looked at a player piano roll and
said to my wife, "Look it this! An 80 foot computer card that plays
music. I've got to find out how this thing works." Little did I realize
at the time that I would become so involved. And Scott, my Mother
thought I was crazy for starting my business 25 years ago and still
marvels at the fact that it continues to grow year after year. I often
wonder if it was her belief that I couldn't make a living working on
player pianos that spirited me then and continues to spirit me now.
By the way, during the writing of this letter, three more roll orders came
in via the Internet. Total value: approx. $400.00. Total profit: approx.
$75.00. That will pay for my domain for two months. Point: If you have
something to sell, use the Net, it works. And get this; one gentleman,
who lives in England and visited my site while there, called to place an
order this morning from New York City; while he is here visiting his son.
I think it's way cool that my site made enough of an impression that he
(a) wrote down my contact information and (b) waited until he got here to
save 15% and the overseas delivery charges. Smart man!
And two more little things. One, if you think that solenoid players are
quiet, turn the volume down to the point where the notes stop playing and
listen to the noise the solenoids make. And two, I was only slightly
offended that an author took issue with my use of the word 'survey' when
they said nothing about it's use in a previous posting. Fortunately for
me, alligator skin is very flexible and typically returns to it's natural
state: strong and resilient.
Looking very optimistically forward to the next century of player pianos,
John A. Tuttle