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MMD > Archives > April 2012 > 2012.04.02 > 06Prev  Next

Nickelodeon Roll Tracking
By John A. Tuttle

[ Ref. 120401 MMDigest, Steinway Duo-Art Roll Tracking

Hi All,  When I think about good music roll tracking, the first thing
that comes to mind is the Style "O" roll and nickelodeons.  Of course,
these rolls and machines have no tracking mechanism whatsoever, and
yet the rolls are played and rewound continuously -- in many instances,
dozens of times -- without missing a note or damaging an edge.

When you consider all the problems that player pianos and reproducing
pianos have with automatic roll tracking systems, you wonder if the
manufacturers of those systems could have learned a thing or two if
they had just employed some of the simple principles found in the
nickelodeon (or other instruments that use long 10-15 tune rolls).

Anyone who has played with these roll frames (nickelodeons, etc.)
might first recall that the forward roll brake has very little drag.
Also, the rewind brake has very little drag.  Further, the roll flanges
are relatively large.  So, in a real sense, the flanges themselves
'guide' the paper by giving it 'nowhere else to go' but in a straight
line.  I think there might be something to be said for the old saying,
'a body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a body at rest tends to
stay at rest'.

Personally, I've always thought that tracking devices create more
problems than they solve.  No matter how good they are, they all react
'after the fact'.  This is especially problematic when it comes to
rolls with minor tears at the edge.  By the time the tracking device
reacts to the tear, it's long gone.  So the device has to compensate a
second time to a change it would have been better off not reacting to
in the first place.

Concerning long rolls with curled edges, the nickelodeon doesn't care
about the edge, but the players with automatic tracking finds them
nearly impossible to play without 'fiddling' with the system in some
way, shape, or form.  To my knowledge, the only reason they were
introduced in the first place was to automatically compensate for the
differing thicknesses of the roll flanges made by the various roll

All this makes me wonder if it would be better all the way around to
simply disable the automatic tracking mechanisms and 'knock' each roll
before it's played.

By the way, I do agree that, just as in the nickelodeon, having an
adjustable (or movable) trackerbar would be preferable to moving the
upper roll to compensate for small errors in hole position.

John A Tuttle
Brick, New Jersey, USA

 [ When the player piano industry met to agree upon the 'standard'
 [ 88-note format, the participants were urged to adopt the Aeolian
 [ system using a cardboard tube and separate flanges, which was
 [ considerably cheaper than the wooden spools with inserted steel
 [ pins used for 65-note rolls (and also Wurlitzer coin piano rolls).
 [ But the concave flanges didn't hold the spool in alignment as well
 [ as the pin-end system (and the paper swelled with increasing
 [ humidity), so an automatic tracking mechanism was needed.
 [ -- Robbie

(Message sent Mon 2 Apr 2012, 17:32:22 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Nickelodeon, Roll, Tracking

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