How Pianola Rolls are STILL made

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How Pianola Rolls are STILL made

Post by Gmemg » Tue Dec 19, 2017 6:31 am

This is a short video i found on U - Tube and i must admit it astonished me ! i had no idea that new pianola rolls were still being made - i knew they were still available in the 1980's but assumed that it was just old stock being sold off but no they still make them

That;'s not the most astonishing part though - it's the fact that an awful lot of the making of the rolls is still done by hand - not the cutting of the notes , that's done by an astonishing machine who's complication is mind boggling but it's the assembly and finishing of the Rolls that requires a lot of hand work

amazing !

and here a reproducing Piano is demonstrated
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Re: How Pianola Rolls are STILL made

Post by donjohnson24 » Tue Dec 19, 2017 6:12 pm

Looking at the roll-making video, it was either shot some time ago, or the equipment has been in use for some time - viz the 5 1/4 inch floppy disc drive on a very old PC!

Besides Player Pianos or Pianolas and fair organs, the punched sheet system was very much the medium for music on small mechanical street organs or 'buskers'. I became involved with making one of these - see the first picture on - and to create more music rolls, I made an electro-mechanical machine to punch the necessary holes in paper cut down from a fax roll which was positioned underneath a master printed with lines where the holes needed to be. The masters were sold by composers who were skilled at getting great music from buskers with as little as 20 notes. The punching process was quite laborious, having to be done in sections, and for each one of the 20 rows!

The other organ on the page above - - is a 'Topsy', designed by John Smith, who did more than anyone to popularise the construction of hundreds of buskers all over the world, when he published and sold the plans for a machine which he had originally made for his six-year-old grandson. Later machines like Topsy were more like church organs, in that the flow of air to organ pipes was controlled by valves which in this system were activated by signals from a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) file, stored on an SD card - or in my case, a Palm Vx PDA (Personal Data Assistant). This meant that it wasn't necessary to carry around a large box full of music rolls, since hundreds of tunes could be stored electronically. Even so, the weight of Topsy and maneuvering it in and out of my car lately became to much for my 'dicky ticker' so - rather than leave them in my shed, I sold them to new enthusiasts so they can continue to provide personal pleasure and raise funds for charities - kids love them, and particularly liked turning Topsy's big red wheel (from an old mangle!)

John Smith's site is interesting -, and well worth a visit - and I say that not just because I designed and run it for him ! :D :D

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