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MMD > Archives > July 2001 > 2001.07.23 > 05Prev  Next

Piano Tuners' Opinions of Player Pianos
By Douglas Henderson

Hello MMD readers,  Have seen a string of postings about this subject,
that is, the piano tuners' pro or con attitudes toward pneumatic player

My experiences (which date to the Bay Area of San Francisco, California,
in the 1950s, a short period of time in the Washington, DC, area of the
early 1960s and Maine from that period on to the present) indicates to
me that most technicians have a positive attitude toward player actions.

A few years ago I was invited to give a lecture-demonstration at
Shawn's Piano Co. in West Hartford, CT, under the auspices of Herb
Lindahl and other Piano Technicians Guild members.  Their magazine,
"The Keybed", reviewed my presentation featuring an early Steinway OR
which Herb had rebuilt.  In fact, he traveled with the instrument,
since I heard it performing Artcraft Rolls at a Portland, ME piano
technicians' event, and later it was in Florida, where pianist Frank
French was amazed to hear his composition, "Merengue", playing through
the medium of my Duo-Art rolls!

At is the URL which
covers that PTG seminar and at the bottom are links to my own detailed
review of the music presented, in a back issue of The Pianola News.

If you read the PTG article, you'll see that the music rolls being
played, all our Interpretive Arrangements, are what interested the
piano technicians, since they are a complete departure from the
droning, repetitive, organ-like arrangements of the past.

Piano technicians in San Francisco and Washington DC were also
delighted when hearing my rolls play, after the tunings took place,
and the usual comment was "I never heard anything like that before.
It's really good!"

I do have sympathy for the technicians who have to struggle with the
Steinway-Aeolian grand piano models, however.  There, the piano expert
is dealing with a slightly mis-aligned piano action (when installed by
Aeolian), keys which aren't "to regulation" and a key dip or touch
which isn't exactly the same as a non-player version of the S&S grand

I've had Paul Rice, RPT, of Phippsburg, Maine, service the pianos at
Musical Wonder House and at my Artcraft studio around the corner since
he began in the 1970s.  If the player is removed or "out of the way"
prior to his visit, the work goes along smoothly.

Recently, as I began a 9-concert series in Searsport Shores, Maine,
every Saturday, in the recreation hall, Paul was kind enough to
recommend another PTG member, Frank Fischer, in Northport, just down
the road a few miles.  Mr. Fischer not only readied my 1929 Story &
Clark 'Reprotone' for the weekly musicales, but he came on Sunday,
on short notice, which is something we really appreciated.

In short, bad commercial rolls (i.e. boring or lackluster) are what
probably caused some PTG members to say negative things about Pianolas,
or those Steinway Duo-Art grand installations.  However, after a
half-century in this field, I can state that the anti-player piano
technicians are definitely in the minority, except when it comes to
Steinway-Aeolian grand piano service, and there they've got a point,
in my opinion!

Regards from Searsport
Douglas Henderson - Artcraft Music Rolls

(Message sent Mon 23 Jul 2001, 17:51:35 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Opinions, Piano, Pianos, Player, Tuners

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