I have heard about the odd question, "Are reproducing pianos really
worth the money and time involved," quite a few times this week and
wanted to weigh in on the subject.
I will never forget the first time I heard a reproducing piano. It was
an art-case Duo- Art, a so-called "restored" instrument. Me being a
pianist, I expected something really special; to be honest, it wasn't
much better than a regular player.
On the same trip, I stopped in Maryland to pick up another Foster
Piano. There in the corner was a Geo. Steck Duo-Art grand. I asked
him if it worked. He told me he didn't really know, he had just gotten
Well, to make a long story short, the piano did play and totally blew
away the 'restored' example I had just seen earlier! This piano had
just been re-tubed; other than that, it was original.
What is the point, you ask? The point is that the rebuilder of the
first Duo-Art either did not understand or care about the finer points
of rebuilding these wonderful instruments. The rather leaky untouched
piano showed that point clearly.
It has been argued that there should be some type of manual controls
on some of these pianos to control the expression. This is rather a
ridiculous point; these pianos were not meant to do that -- it was
supposed to do it automatically and flawlessly, and not "expression
milked" like an regular player piano.
Ampico has really got a bad rap from some people. Too many people try
to rebuild them and then end up bad-mouthing the system because it did
not play up to expectations. Rest assured these worked properly when
they left the factory. Ditto for Welte, And Duo-Art.
My point of this article is: before you make any judgments about a
reproducing piano, take the time to find one that has been rebuilt
*properly*. You may get tired before you find one, though. I have
heard scarce few, notably Craig Brougher's Ampico "B", but what a treat
Andy Taylor, Tempola Music Rolls
[ On page 299 of Bowers' Encyclopedia is a 1914 Duo-Art ad which
[ states, "Not only can it be played by hand, or music roll, but it
[ will play itself, with perfect art." The manual controls for
[ expression were intentionally retained in the Duo-Art. -- Robbie