This is Colin Lloyd's current project, a push-up pianola which he has fully restored and furthermore substantially enhanced to reproduce the 'dynamics', i.e., emphasis, where all notes are not played with equal amplitude. This probably makes this device unique in the world.
It is called a push-up pianola because it 'pushes up' to an existing standard piano, and then plays the piano, hitting the keys in a manner similar to that of a live pianist.
That's the extent of my very limited knowledge of what Colin's developed here, and Colin will hopefully be adding a few explanatory notes.....
And Colin will hopefully add some further notes further down..
Cye has asked me to give a short explanation on this project and I will try to keep it brief. I have been working on pianolas for the past 20 years after buying one at an auction near Lisburn. The normal pianola that you are likely to see ( youtube etc;) will be the later version with the controls built into a normal "Upright" or "Grand" piano. Please do not judge pianolas by the likes of what you normally hear as they generally without exception are in terrible condition or very poorly restored.This type of pianola can be played automatically by foot pedals ( forming a vacum) or by hand in the normal fashion. The automatic controls do not interfere with normal playing. I should point out at this stage that the pianola controls were very expensive to manufacture and were only installed in top quality instruments except at the very end of the era. Automated musical instruments have been around for many hundreds of years and had its origins in the invention of Cuckoo clocks. Pianos where for many years " The Goal" to automate and there were many companies and individuals working towards this all around the world but mainly in America and Germany. The "push up" you see in the pictures above came to the fore around 1890 and was made in America, this one by the Orchestrell Co; This unit was priced at $ 250.00 then and so was a very expensive instrument and was only affordable only to the wealthy. Paper rolls with the popular classical music or dance hall hits were made available and were transcribed directly from the sheet music on to the roll using a perforater machine. They played aroung 65 notes in the middle register of a piano which would have normally a full 7 & 1/3 octaves (88 notes). There was limited controls for putting self expression into the playing with a tempo lever and two levers for adjusting force/volume in the upper and lower register (bass/treble). These units were quickly overtaken with pianos with built in controls as their popularity increased and by the early 1900's everyone wanted a pianola which is easy to understand if you think that home entertainment was virtually non exsistant. Hand played rolls were now available which is were a very competent pianist would sit in a studio and play a poular piece of music and a perforator machine, linked to the piano, would punch the master roll as he played. This would then have small corrections made and using the master many copies would be made. These would be sold in music shops, top deaprtment stores and later as popularity reached a crescendo there were roll shops like modern day DVD hire shops were you could buy (expensive) or hire for a few days. They were so popular that the goverments taxed them ( no surprise) and many rolls in my possession have the original stamps on them showing tax paid. The makers of the pianola controls were not piano companies but became so wealthy that they bought up nearly all the major piano manufactureres in the world, very few survived without being taken over like Steinway who still had to make their pianos suitable for the pianola controls to be added, such was the demand from the public. About the time of the Titanic( there was a pianola in the first class dinning room on the Titanic) a system was developed that allowed top concert pianists of the day eg; Rachmaninnoff to come into a studio and play his latest composistion and for the first time the machine was able to record directly onto a roll exactly how he played it . This roll recorded the tempo, the notes, the soft and loud pedal but most importantly for the first time ever it recorded how hard he played each note and using the binary system ( in hole form ) punched this onto the roll. This roll was immediately available to play back through the pianola and Rachmaninnoff could then say where he wanted changes. When he was happy with the performance he would sign the roll and it would go into production. This roll ( called Duo-Art) could only be played on a special pianola fitted with the duo-art system and was generally fitted with an electric vacum pump and sometimes foot operated as well. As you can imagine these units were extremely expensive but were not rare and still turn up at times. I have one in my collection made by a German company, Ibach, and it was in the best condition I have ever encountered and it still took me 500 hours to restore.
My goal was to restore/redesign and build an original push up pianola to play these special duo-art reproducing rolls as I felt that the push up recreated the action of the pianist better by playing the keys rather that the hammers inside. This has taken eleven years, two of which was in the design, and only now can you hear these concert pianists playing their very individual work on any piano you choose. I have built this pianola to play the other types of roll and even modern rolls and I have rolls in my collection of The Beatles, Micheal Jackson and many others.
Hopefully we can put a visual/audio attachment on this forum but this is outside my ability, although Cye tells me someone else may be able to do that. I apologise but this is as brief as I can be and I am sorry if I havn't explained it very well. I would add that I have also built units that play as a band including drums, xylophone, accordian and lots of lights.
Last Edit: May 30, 2011 4:06:26 GMT -5 by colinpian
Hi, If it is 1901 there is a good chance it is the older 65 note player ie. It will play 65 notes of the full 88 notes on the piano. To Check which it is count the number of holes on the brass tracker bar which runs the full width of the of the box where the roll is installed. I have plenty of these older rolls to get you started. Check first and come back to me. If you have never "restored" a pianola before, this is a daunting task but with care and the right books it is possible. Regards Colin