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MMD > Archives > September 2003 > 2003.09.14 > 03Prev  Next

Electrone Keytop Piano Player
By Eric Shoemaker

Dear Group, I hope someone here might have some knowledge about the
latest roll playing (or maybe roll eating) machine I just acquired;
this is a very odd device indeed!

This so appearing "Vorsetzer" is a _78_-note pneumatic player unit,
built probably circa 1955 or so, merely judging by its initial
appearance.  The unit is housed in a brown colored fiberglass shell; it
looks sort of like some 1950's projector case.  The spoolbox is painted
gold but this is not an Aeolian product.  It almost looks "homemade",

There are 78 unit pneumatics that are quite similar in appearance to
the two tier Simplex actions of the mid or late 1920's.  They are
facing frontward and pull up on a rocker arm with (what looks like)
green backcheck felts that engage the keyboard.  There are a pair of
(tool kit like) brass buckle that fasten a matching cover to the bottom
of the unit to obviously protect the "key strikers" during transport.
Portability must have been some kind of sales point except it's still
kind of heavy.

The roll is driven by an electric motor mated to some kind of opposing
gear/transmission driven with a rubber belt connecting it to a very
thick (but primitive looking) aluminum spoolbox assembly.  The
trackerbar tubing is a very weird-looking teal blue color which is

This isn't a Dynavoice.  I don't know anything about one of these but
there is a manufacturer's plate on the bass side which reads as

  Santa Ana, California
  Volts 110-125  Amps 8.2 max
  Model 1000     Cycles 60
  Serial # 166

(The number 166 is stamped, the rest is in blue ink on a metal plate
with blue borders.)

I shall make the needed repairs to get 'er going in case I don't feel
like pumping my own.  What an unusual device, and most likely every bit
as awful as a Dynavoice, but how very clever!  I had to have it!

Anyone seen one of these?  A bit of history that shouldn't exist but
does; makes one wonder how many devices like this were made and don't
even "live" at all, but...  Man, this stuff is fun to find, ain't it?!

Eric J. Shoemaker
Tacoma, WA

PS: Strangely enough, a middle-aged woman, presumably window
shopping, saw me lugging this thing about and asked me about it.
When I explained to her what it was that this thing did, she asked,
"Does it fit on _any_ piano keyboard?  Do I have to remove the front

I'll bet she wondered what the heck the thing was supposed to do for
God only knows how long, but then she wanted to know where she could
buy one just like it, and would I fix it, and could I repair broken
guitars?!  Did I just lose the one buyer I could've had for this rare
and valuable roll playing orphan?  LOL :)

 [ I attended the bankruptcy auction circa 1960, in Santa Ana.
 [ Most buyers were bidding on the usual shop furnishings, but one
 [ rather unhappy gent was bidding on the remaining motors and
 [ transmissions.  I imagined that he was the inventor, hoping he
 [ could try again sometime, somewhere...  -- Robbie

(Message sent Sun 14 Sep 2003, 19:23:34 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Electrone, Keytop, Piano, Player

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