I enjoyed John W. Miller's recent question about suggested playback
tempos and Robbie's detailed response. The exchange reminded me of
something I've been curious about for a long time.
Many times I'll select a tempo and leave it steady, supplying
my "artistic touches" in the way I pump and pedal my old Pianola.
Other times I supply some touches (maybe pauses before new phrases
and ravishing sostenutos) with tricky little adjustments to the tempo
lever. (Depends on my mood.)
I learned some of these tricks from playing old rolls with "Metrostyle"
markings. (That little line we follow with the "style" sometimes takes
some daunting jumps.) I think these rolls are instructive and great
fun to play.
I've often wondered, though, how Metrostyle rolls differ, in the way
they were cut, from standard rolls. With standard ["Hand Played"]
rolls, I assume that the original artist (or editor) builds subtle
musical elements (maybe a slight pause before a new phrase) into a roll
that continues to move at a constant speed. I figure there's just an
extra fraction of an inch or so goes by on the paper before the new
Okay, so what happens on one of these old Metrostyle rolls when the
style marking takes a big jump to the left (tempo gets markedly slower)
and then jumps back to the right (resumes speed)? How did they cut
I'm guessing that everything moves along at "plain old vanilla" speed
without extra space between notes to extend tempo or constricting paper
space to speed things up. But how did they overlay the performer's
(or composer's) intentions?
For example, my "Stars and Stripes Forever" is signed by Mr. Sousa
himself, who says he's very happy with the Metrostyle markings.
Really? How'd they get put on there? Might it have been an
after-the-fact thing with Mr. Sousa in the "playback booth"?
I know this question rambles, but I find this a hard thing to explain.
Thanks for any thoughts.