Hi all, John Tuttle has put forth an interesting concept and article
with nods to other authors on the reason why the statement that "Ampico
B pianos don't play Ampico A rolls well" is false [171025 MMDigest].
Of course, I do agree on a couple of areas. But, there are certain
rolls that were manufactured to be played only on the Ampico A piano.
If played on a B piano, the results would be limited or not especially
A perfect example is Rubenstein's "Staccato Etude" (57826) as played
by Mischa Levitzki. The A copy of this roll, spits and spurts and
misses notes here and there, and provides a memorable experience, in
not a very pleasant way, on a B piano. But, however, the American
Piano Company, realizing that not every roll would play well on both
pianos, went through their library of active titles, and "nudged" the
expression coding on select titles, to make them play more naturally on
the B. The B version of the "Stacatto Etude" soars through the roll,
providing an exact reproduction of Levitzki playing, without missing
This "nudging" process started in about November of 1927 with the
introduction of equalized crescendos on bass and treble sides of the
rolls. American Piano was basically concerned with their classical
collection. Upgrades to all of the major pianist's works were made,
as well as the most prominent composer's works. New releases would
take the place of older works. Of the 200+ classical Ampico rolls in
our collection, 65 of them are older original rolls with B coding added
by the factory.
The popular tunes would start their transformation at about the same
time as the classical. The pop rolls and the Ballad series received the
same treatment as the classical series, although one great exception
was that most of the rolls in the popular series had a relatively short
life span. This was about two years. After a two year span, there
would not be much demand for a specific song title and the title could
be safely withdrawn from the catalog and no one would miss it.
Popular song exceptions could be "Song of India", Ampico 202491, and
"Indian Love Call", Ampico 205473.
Even the Ballad series was included to provide owners of the new
Ampico the opportunity to have more relaxed pieces express themselves
with a bit of bravado. The Ballad series was filled with many titles
that had a long lasting shelf-life. Songs such as "Trees", Ampico
1391, "When Irish Eyes are Smiling", Ampico 2103, "Ah Sweet Mystery
of Life", Ampico 2011, and "Oh! Promise Me", Ampico 91, were perennial
favorites and needed to be able to be played on the new pianos. So
B coding was added to them and some of these songs are still popular
The American Piano Company, like most profit-based companies, wanted to
make money for their stock-holders and to pay their employees. If they
had a piano system that could be upgraded, but the software (rolls)
needed to be "tweaked" to make the system properly display its improved
capabilities, they would make the changes necessary to show off their
new pianos. The "new" Ampico was introduced in the spring of 1929.