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MMD > Archives > July 2002 > 2002.07.17 > 12Prev  Next

Ampico Sustain Pedal Compensating Pneumatics
By Craig Brougher

Both Harald Mueller and Paul Manganaro have taken an interest in this
subject, which I'm grateful to see.  Harald even mentions an effect
which I broached the first time on this newsletter several years ago.
That being the sympathetic activation of other strings, particularly
the bass, when any other treble string is played with the damper pedal
on.  It's gratifying to see that some of these words take effect.

Regarding sympathetic vibration increasing the overall power and tonal
quality of the piano, I have news of an interesting experiment done at
Ampico in the 20's.

If you happen to own Richard Howe's book, "The Ampico Reproducing
Piano," then look on pages 119-120.  Dr. Hickman had a little bet with
a number of people, including the resident pianists at Ampico, and
Chaloff, among others.  He had a roll cut that used extended note
perforations versus pedaling perforations instead of extended note
perforations, and the two different ways were played alternately.  By
closing the key cover, the artists were bet that they could not tell
the difference, and cartons of cigarettes were the prizes.  In every
case, Dr. Hickman won all the bets that they could not tell.

So much for all the good ears in the room, and the obvious differences
between either pedaling the note, or just leaving the key down, Harald.
These men made their living doing this, and it's why they were hired.
They were the best at it.

Paul Manganaro wrote:

> One reason Ampico might have been slow to respond to the need for as
> sustaining pedal compensator as opposed to the Duo-Art is that the
> Duo-Art relies heavily on the volume of vacuum which is passing through
> the expression mechanism where the Ampico relies on regulated vacuum.
> This is a factor in considering a need at all for a sustaining pedal
> compensator on an Ampico "A".

The logic of this passes me entirely.  In the first place, the
so-called Ampico sustain compensating mechanism didn't work.  It was
useless, and nobody can tell it's even there.  It also lasted for
exactly 2 years and died the death of all nonsense.  It was not then
picked up by the new model Ampico.  Second, Duo-Art was not interested
in a "sustain pedal compensator" nor did they even have one, so how
could Ampico, by contrast, be "slow to respond" to this technology?
Duo-Art did all their compensating on the roll, anyway.  So if they
compensated for the sustain pedal, they certainly weren't telling
anybody (that's easy enough to check out, by the way, and I find no
evidence of it).

Also, it was the Duo-Art that always used a regulated sustain pedal
through the modulator, while the Ampico A did not.  Just the opposite
from what Paul originally thought (it wasn't until the Ampico model B
that a pressure regulator was used).  So if the premise is wrong, the
conclusion cannot be correct for the reasons given.

Craig Brougher

(Message sent Wed 17 Jul 2002, 15:02:21 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Ampico, Compensating, Pedal, Pneumatics, Sustain

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