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1908 Buffalo Convention
1908 Buffalo Convention Piano Roll Specifications
Buffalo Convention Sets Piano Roll Standards
by Matthew Caulfield (080219 MMDigest)

Last year Wayne Stahnke and I became interested in tracking down the convention held 100 years ago which set the standards for 88-note piano roll hole spacing.  We had heard it referred to as the "Buffalo Convention" or the "Chicago Convention," and it was said to have been held in 1910 or any number of dates around that year, depending on whose account you read.

Recently Dave Bowers gave to the MBSI a set of the "Music Trade Review" (MTR) magazines which he owned.  That weekly publication has now been scanned into PDF digital format by the MBSI, so that it can be searched and copies can be printed.  The resulting file is very large, taking up most of a 200 GB hard drive, and the searching time, if you don't know the approximate date of what you are trying to locate, can be enormous.

By the power of the computer and the good offices of the MBSI, the Music Trade Review report on that elusive standard-setting convention has been located.  The convention, attended by representatives of the roll-making industry and by player piano manufacturers, was held December 10, 1908, in Buffalo, New York, at the Iroquois Hotel.  It was there that, after a day-long debate, the 9-holes-to-the-inch hole spacing won out over 8-holes-to-the-inch by a twelve to six vote, which was later made unanimous.  Page 31 of the December 12, 1908, MTR issue (v. 47, no. 24) contains a full-page report on the debate.

Two issues later (v. 47, no. 26, p. 27) William Braid White, an MTR staff writer, worries that the close spacing chosen would make tracking devices on player pianos necessary, although he admits it did leave room at the edges of a roll for expression holes.

Matthew Caulfield
Irondequoit, New York
19 Feb 2008 17:40:36 -0500

Thanks, Matthew and MBSI.  A history of the Iroquois Hotel of  Buffalo, New York, is given at

MTR v. 47, no. 24, p. 31: Gathering of the Player Men at Buffalo   (MTR-1908-12-08-v47-n24-p31.pdf  2,549 kb)
MTR v. 47, no. 26, p. 27: The 88-Note Player, by Wm. B. White  (MTR-1908-12-26-v47-n26-p27.pdf  2,235 kb)

20 February 2008

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