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MMD > Archives > March 1999 > 1999.03.20 > 08Prev  Next

Steps Per Beat in Pop Music Rolls
By George Bogatko

Robbie Rhodes wrote in 990319 MMDigest:

> My tentative conclusion is that Clark arranged (or adapted) all
> their coin piano production masters at 12 perforator steps per beat,
> no matter what the metronome beats per minute.  The play beats per
> minute was set by the gears which drove the paper through the perfor-
> ator, as well as compensating for build-up at the take-up spool.
> The advantage of this system was that the songs of the 10-tune rolls
> could be assembled in almost any order.  The disadvantage was that
> the perforator operator had to be _very_ alert, else the playback
> tempo might be quite inappropriate !

According to what I've gleaned, Melville Clark's brother, Earnest
Clark, had first dibs on QRS master rolls.  So it makes sense that
Clark rolls sound like QRS rolls.  The note differences occur when
the 88-note original is placed on the Bed of Procrustes to produce
the other formats and coding schemes.

As far as the steps/beat,  I've seen and read that there were three:
12, 10 and 8 to achieve different tempos at the same roll speed.  For
my A-roll I used these divisions, and two others -- 6/beat -- for
"Chicago Rhythm", and 18/beat for "Rollin' in the Hay".

These seem to be the standard divisions for pop rolls for all the
companies, and it makes sense.  12/beat gives you all the primary
divisions -- quarter, 8th, 16th, and their triplets.  10 gives you
quarter and eighth, plus a nicely lilting swing -- 6/4 -- that is
somewhere between 12/beats 8/4 and 7/5 swing.  10/beat triplets are
either 3/3/4 or 4/3/3 and have a distinctive feel to them.  For the
other divisions, 8 and 6, the tempos they produce are suitable for
straight-8 arrangements such as two-steps ("Titina", for instance).

Late Capitol rolls also used 18/beat for waltzes to give them a stately

I concur that both Clark and Capitol used single-tune masters which
were assembled in any order, using gear changes to compensate for roll
buildup.  I've heard the same from other quarters, and it would seem
that one can find different (non-composite) rolls with a duplicate tune
(of the same arrangement) but in a different place in the sequence.

George Bogatko -

(Message sent Sat 20 Mar 1999, 14:17:36 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Beat, Music, Per, Pop, Rolls, Steps

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