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MMD > Archives > July 2005 > 2005.07.18 > 10Prev  Next

Player Piano Keys Don't Move
By John A. Tuttle

Hi All,  A year ago this past week I posed a question in the MMDigest
(040711) about the purpose of the key lock device that's found in most
(American-made) upright player pianos.

Looking back at the responses to my query, it's seems everyone agreed
that the practical purpose of the device was to improve performance.
That being the case, one has to wonder why so many American-made player
pianos have 'moving keys'...  Is it possible that Nicholas Simons is
correct when he says, "The only reason I can see for having the keys go
up and down is to amuse little children who are more interested in this
than the music."

Considering that player pianos have never been 'cheap', and further
considering that virtually every player piano ever sold was purchased
by a hard-working adult, is it reasonable to conjecture that the keys
were designed to move to amuse the 'child' in these adults?

I'm trying to picture myself sitting in on the meeting at one of the
more than 900 companies that made player pianos when the decision was
made to weight the piano keys such that they would move when the player
mechanism was playing the piano.

And then listening to the complaints of the engineers who flatly told
management that weighting the keys so they would move would adversely
effect performance, and the counter argument that a key lock could be
installed to keep the keys from moving.

Meanwhile, I see the accountants frantically figuring out how much more
it will cost to change the geometry of a piano action that works just
fine and add a key lock device, and I ask myself, "Was all of this done
to titillate the small child in every adult?"

If that was in fact the case, how come it took us almost 100 years to
figure it out?   It begs the question, "Would the player piano have
been so popular if the keys didn't move?"

John A Tuttle
Brick, New Jersey, USA

(Message sent Mon 18 Jul 2005, 12:07:27 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Don't, Keys, Move, Piano, Player

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