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MMD > Archives > August 2001 > 2001.08.28 > 11Prev  Next

Baby Ampico & Unusual Player Pianos
By Craig Brougher

The discourse on the Baby Ampico brought out one thing -- these players
still reside primarily in the areas they were marketed.  I have been a
professional restorer for 37 years, and have never worked on one of
these until just now.  But I have received a half-dozen personal
responses from people, most of whom criticized me for my lack of
experience.  I had to laugh.

What happened to my question? I wrote to see if anyone had a trick for
tuning it more easily.  I wrote on behalf of the piano tuners who don't
normally see player pianos.  Not one has a solution for me.

About 80% of my business is reproducing pianos, and of those, about
99.99% of them are grand pianos.  I rarely work on upright reproducing
pianos.  So when I get in an upright reproducer to rebuild, it is an
event around here.  I suspect that owners often feel that their local
rebuilder can probably restore their uprights, but it takes a
specialist to restore their grand.  But by keeping in mind that many
areas of the country have few, if any, player pianos at all, I think
I have done pretty well with those players that have been entrusted to
me.  I have an ironclad guarantee of both workmanship and performance
of the instrument, and I put that on the front page of my website at

I do not fancy myself the chronicler of all the different models and
variations in instrumentation over the years.  That is the venue of
authors like Art Reblitz.  I appreciate knowing about it, though.
It's very educational.  But, what happened to my question?

I have much to learn, and I appreciate all those who took the time to
point that out.  However, the question was, "Does anyone know a better
way to tune one of these beasts?"  So thanks to all who took the time to
write anything they knew about the Baby Ampico studio upright, and how
many of them were made, etc.  I even learned who designed it!  But
unfortunately, nobody could tell me a better way to tune it.  (I ask
again: What happened to my question?)

 [ I notice this tendency when I edit MMD.  Much interesting information
 [ is offered by MMD authors but the original question goes unanswered.
 [ If the owners have their tiny Baby Ampico and Top Loader Ampico pianos
 [ tuned regularly, surely they know the procedure that the poor piano
 [ tuner uses!  -- Robbie

Bruce Clark confirmed it about as well as anybody.  I read his
explanation of how he tunes his own and suspected as much the minute
I saw it.  So when somebody tells me now, "It's like falling off a log.
It tunes just like any other piano," I know differently, thanks to Bruce

I didn't figure anybody would have a solution to the problem.  That's
why I went ahead and took care of it.  My modification changes nothing
at all that's basic to the player.  No "modifications."  It's just
that I don't need clamps and a retubing instruction schematic and
tuning instructions, a warning, et. al. for the poor tuner who has to
maintain it.  The design adds 12 small #6 screw holes to the original
design, 8 of which are in the ends of the stack anyway, and completely
invisible and not connected to the air path.  Remove the radius rods
they support, and there has been no change at all to the player.

So for what it's worth, rebuilder and owners alike, you now have a good
solution to the problem of how to service these players easily and
without any large C clamps.  No longer will a tuner have to go diving
after tubing that fell off, or wonder how he's going to get his damping
felt behind the tray.

I am surprised that the rebuilders who see dozens of them ever year
have never thought of it.  Common as peanuts.  Funny that it takes
somebody from Missouri who has only seen one for the first time in his
life to come to the rescue.  As soon as I have time then, I will sketch
out a little drawing so anybody now can do it.  Even you Bostonians!

If Robbie wishes to put it up on the MMD web site then, he's welcome.

Craig Brougher

(Message sent Tue 28 Aug 2001, 15:46:48 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Ampico, Baby, Pianos, Player, Unusual

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