Regarding roll speeds and fast music, Art Tatum was probably the
world's fastest pianist, and while I do not know this to be the case,
have been "told" that, and as Douglas Henderson also confirmed some
years ago, you would need a top speed of around 150 to play his rolls
with any degree of success, and that the speed on most players with air
motors varies widely, since they are regulated around 80, so the
extremes are unreliable.
Rick Inzero could not account for any roll having to play at a tempo
of 120. As he said,
> So in order to actually *require* a 120 tempo, she would have
> to be trilling the same note manually at 12 times per second,
> presumably while continuing to play the other notes of the song.
> Holy Marimba Roll, Batman! Her fingers are smoking!
What roll makers have to know isn't whether or not they will have to
put notes on paper this close together, but things like, "Can we fake
a triplet, or do we have to play the triplet? Can we arrange ourselves
out of these sections that require a lot of close notes, can we leave
them out altogether, or are we obligated to play them as played by the
There were hundreds, if not thousands, of player roll arrangements done
at a tempo of 120. And I used to own several rolls at 125, and one
roll whose tempo was 130. I'm sure we can find many collectors who
have rolls like that. It doesn't mean that the entire roll looks like
it was blasted with 12-gauge bird-shot, Rick. It just means that for
the sake of certain passages which required the faster tempo, the
entire roll must be played at that tempo.
There's more to it than "smoking fingers." Most player rolls are
"arranged," in that they were modified to simulate what would otherwise
require very high tempos on many more of them.
[ The boss of the Music Editing Department might think: "How many
[ man-hours of editing will this piece require? Is it really worth
[ our investment? Maybe the artist has an alternate piece to record,
[ and won't mind if I decline this tough tune." -- Robbie