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MMD > Archives > January 2001 > 2001.01.07 > 05Prev  Next

Pianocorder Music & Media
By Mark A. Fontana

In Digest 01.01.06, George Bogatko suggested preserving the
Pianocorder music library:

> Has the information from these tapes been converted to something more
> stable?  I would hate to think that we are faced with yet another
> mechanical control media that is failing and not being preserved.

In 1997, as part of my thesis work at the Ohio State University,
I designed a hardware-software system to archive the Pianocorder
library in its native binary format, which is 80 playing notes updated
at about 35 Hz, with 5-bit treble and bass expression intensities,
soft/sustain pedal data, and a variable split point to accommodate music
derived from Ampico, Duo-Art, and Welte piano rolls.

I have also developed software to convert Pianocorder recordings to
MIDI files (and also to produce new Pianocorder material from MIDI

Over the past three years, I have located and archived every known
Pianocorder cassette produced for the U.S. market by Superscope/Marantz.
(Several MMD subscribers provided invaluable assistance in this effort,
including Roger Stern, Jim Heyworth, Grant Leonard, and the late Tom

Occupying approximately 485 Mb uncompressed, the data fits conveniently
on a single CDROM.  Along with the music data (one file per song or
medley, about 4000 files in all), I have also included detailed song
listings, information about the source piano rolls, etc.  An
interactive, platform-independent HTML-based interface permits easy
browsing and maintenance of the entire catalog.

Unfortunately, Yamaha's ownership of the Pianocorder library prevents
distribution of this archive, but the data is indeed safely preserved.

My understanding is that the 1/4" master tapes for the Pianocorder are
in the possession of QRS Music, who is still producing cassettes in
limited numbers, though the masters are quite worn.  The 8" floppy
disks containing the data from which the 1/4" tapes were recorded,
if still in existence, are believed to be at Yamaha headquarters in
Hamamatsu, Japan.

In addition to the music library, I have been collecting a variety of
technical and historical materials documenting the Pianocorder system.
One of my goals is to get all of this information up on the web,
hopefully sometime this year.

Mark A. Fontana
Minneapolis, MN

(Message sent Mon 8 Jan 2001, 00:41:20 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Media, Music, Pianocorder

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