I read through the ideas posted for this conversion and missed seeing
two possibilities for the owners of Orchestrelles who would like to
convert them to play music from other roll formats. To me, anything
is possible and likely in this arena. I do not subscribe to the belief
that unless you have rolls cut for the format you intend to use, and
without sustain pedal, your music will sound dreadful.
Remember, the question is, can it be done. It doesn't ask for concert
perfection. We want to get some use out of this thing, and there's a
lot of work that has already gone into it to make it play. So let's
talk about all the positive applications and options we now have.
Since most 88 note rolls are cut with extended note perforations
anyway, I would suspect that most of those should work pretty well.
At least, well enough to enjoy the music. And since we have a group
presently developing player roll scanners and are getting along nicely
with this project, we should then have conversion software as well that
will take the music formats to the next level and transform them for
use on other instruments. Sounds logical to me, anyway. Why own
thousands of MIDI scans, useful for only one kind of player, while
tens of thousands of collectors sit around without music to play on
one-of-a-kind instruments? Since you would have to either build a
perforator for each one of those unusual scales or connect them to a
MIDI converter, it seems to me that the second option makes the most
sense, since no modification (except teeing into the conductors) would
even be needed to the original instrument to do it.
As far as converting 88 notes to 58 notes, do like Aeolian did on their
short stacks and octave couple the lowest and highest octaves together
at the trackerbar. That adds action on 24 more notes of your player.
So if, for instance, a low note not included in the Aeolian compass
is required for rhythm or chording, you will have it play an octave
higher, but it will occur, since each Aeolian trackerbar hole is
reading two note holes on the 88 note roll at the ends of the compass.
The next thing is how to arrange for this. For instance, you could
make a silicone rubber mold of the trackerbar (cast it in reverse) so
it will fit the wooden bar you now have. Drill it, nipple it, put a
gasket on it if necessary, and build a "stack" using possibly organ
chest magnets to open the trackerbar holes with. From this interface
you will be able to operate the Orchestrelle using a MIDI converter.
Or, you can "T" into the conductors and then connect the electrical
interface to that. None of this affects the original design of the
instrument, but will allow you to play all kinds of rolls through it.
Then, if the note perforations are not to your liking, you can edit
them through a program called Cakewalk.
Hopefully, someone will be soon marketing a reliable electronic
interface for you (and many other oddball instruments for which rolls
are no longer available). This invention will cause these silent and
forlorn instruments to spring to life once more. It is very badly
The second possibility: You could also try teeing in a regular
mechanical 88 note spoolbox of the Player piano variety and simply
covering that trackerbar when using Aeolian Orchestrelle rolls. The
conversion then would be made with metal tubing Ts for octave coupling
considerations. You will want to make this conversion modifiable, too,
so have it where you can get to it and experiment with it.
What you might be able to do easily with MIDI will take longer by doing
it in hardware, but once done, that becomes your format. I wouldn't
even mess with the Orchestrelle at this early point in time, but there
should also be a way to automatically extend all perforations
electronically each time the sustain pedal goes on.
Somebody needs to write a program to shadow the sustain pedal
perforation. That would be a great interface program for many users
who wish to play pipes or accordions from player piano rolls using
a lot of sustain pedal, like from the Duo-Art rolls.
It's true that these will not play as well as music coded specifically
for the Orchestrelle, and will still sound "choppy" because of the
ornamentation in the arrangements, but certain rolls won't -- like Home
Sweet Home, and Little Brown Church. All the stuff that player piano
roll collectors don't play much, your Orchestrelle will shine on.