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Player Piano Roll Production Ceases 117

Posted by kdawson
from the day-the-music-died dept.
boustrophedon writes "The Buffalo News reports that QRS Music Technologies halted production of player piano rolls 108 years after the company was founded in Chicago. QRS continues to make digitized and computerized player-piano technology that runs on CDs. 'We're still doing what we always did, which is to provide software for pianos that play themselves. It's just the technology that has changed. But I would be lying to say [the halting of production] doesn't sadden me,' said Bob Berkman, the company's music director. Piano rolls can last for decades, but not forever. Volunteers at the International Association of Mechanical Music Preservationists build piano-roll scanners to scan rolls optically and convert them to MIDI files. The IAMMP archive and others contain thousands of scanned rolls."
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Player Piano Roll Production Ceases

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  • OK, so who holds the copyright, so we can tell Noh "Maddog" Hall [linux-magazine.com]?

  • Nostalgia... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chrisq (894406) on Monday January 05, 2009 @04:34AM (#26327363)
    I remember my gran having a player piano. It was great fun (as a seven year old) working the peddles to play music at double-speed. It also seemed somehow magical seeing the keys "play" themselves.
    • Still can be done (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770)

      It's just MIDI data has replaced a paper roll. Yamaha makes a line of pianos called the Disklavier. They are real pianos (grand or upright) with control systems that read and record MIDI data. However you get a much better result than with a player piano. Player pianos only signal note on and note off with the paper. So everything is played at one volume level. MIDI pianos (good ones at least) record the note velocity, which is how hard the key was hit. So they reproduce the dynamics as they are supposed to

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Vintermann (400722)

        As I recall, there were three kinds of rolls, no expression (the most common, the one you mentioned), those with dynamics hand-crafted afterwards, and those with recorded dynamics.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by dondelelcaro (81997)

        Player pianos only signal note on and note off with the paper.

        Higher-end player pianos (Ampico, Aeolian, Welte, etc.) control the amplitude at which notes are struck, though no where near as accurately as MIDI (which controls velocity and can even modify the velocity after touch). That's why they have more than 89 holes in the tracker bar.

        That said, all of QRS's rolls that I'm aware of are 88 note, though they often have instructions for how to modify the amplitude printed on the roll, along with lyrics in

      • Re:Still can be done (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Reality Master 101 (179095) <RealityMaster101@noSPAm.gmail.com> on Monday January 05, 2009 @10:18AM (#26329335) Homepage Journal

        That's like saying modern digital pinball machines are better than the old electro-mechanical ones. Sure, they are technologically better in nearly every way, but there's something about mechanical devices that are intrinsically more fascinating than electronic ones. (and if I have to explain why, you'll never understand. :) )

        • by gad_zuki! (70830)

          Let me guess, you only listen to vinyl records and post to slashdot with a commodore64. I'll wait a while for your response, I know how slow and annoying 300 baud modems can be, especially when they disconnect right when youre flipping the LP.

          • Let me guess, you only listen to vinyl records and post to slashdot with a commodore64.

            Sheesh, way to miss the point.

            The point isn't that old technology is better (though, some insane people think vinyl is better and prefer the effect of the distortion), the point is that mechanical things are cool, because you can see the mechanics at work. You can't see what's going on inside an electronic device.

            (As I said, if I have to explain it, you won't understand)

          • Maybe RealityMaster, like me, prefers to see physics in action rather than a computer simulation of physics. That applies to pinball, player pianos, flight simulators, and everything else.
      • by timbck2 (233967)

        Don't those Yamaha players still run on floppy disks (rather than CDs)?

      • by Petrushka (815171)

        Player pianos only signal note on and note off with the paper. So everything is played at one volume level.

        As others have pointed out, there's player pianos and there's player pianos. Mechanical ones reproduce (or reproduced) dynamics by means of a pneumatic system. There were Ampico recording pianos in the 1920s that were good enough to record Rachmaninov playing his own and others' works well enough that they compare favourably to many modern recordings -- in terms of not only the quality of the performer, but also the sensitivity of the performance. Really they have to be heard to be believed. Here's [youtube.com] a sample

  • Oh well (Score:5, Funny)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Monday January 05, 2009 @04:39AM (#26327379) Homepage Journal
    There goes my backup strategy.
  • by denzacar (181829) on Monday January 05, 2009 @04:49AM (#26327427) Journal

    ...Next time someone mentions a technology that is outdated. Like say... floppies.

     
    *5th of January 2009 is today, when you read the news about the last mass produced player piano roll going out the door.

    • Damn straight!

      Obsolete? Hardly. All you need is a copy of WinRAR, $2.50 media mail postage, and 50 floppies to distribute the latest episode of Doctor Who. (Or Stargate or Galactica.)

      • Nah, this is the BitTorrent era! You need $125 to send each floppy to 50 different people!
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          It's funny you bring that up. Back in the 90s there was a show called Babylon 5 which I wanted to share with other Forum posters. Today it would be easy via high speed internet, but most people were still stuck at 28k, so that was not a practical solution. Instead I created five VHS tapes and distributed them to five people.

          I let them keep the tapes for a week, and then pass the tapes to the next person on my list (at their own expense). After about a year around 200 people on my forum had watched the B

          • by denzacar (181829)

            I did something similar couple of years ago (2005) when first torrents of Final Fantasy VII Advent Children were leaked.

            Burnt a couple of CDs, and mailed them to several forum friends across Croatia (I'm from Bosnia) as 700+ MB was not yet such a trivial download around these parts back then.
            They've burnt copies of those and transferred them further around where they lived and to other forum members.
            Not sure about the numbers, but everyone on the forum had a copy in about a week.

            Kinda like a bushman's torre

    • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Monday January 05, 2009 @11:42AM (#26330311)

      Next time someone mentions a technology that is outdated. Like say... floppies.

      Ironically (?), the predominant distribution media for digital player pianos is STILL the 3.5" floppy disk.

      What was state-of-the-art when the first Disklaviers were released in the late 1980s is now hopelessly anachronistic, but as long as first-generation hardware owners continue to be willing to pay $30 for a handful of MIDI files, concessions to them will continue to be made.

  • by rts008 (812749) on Monday January 05, 2009 @04:49AM (#26327433) Journal

    Don't shoot! I'm only the piano programmer!

    Westerns won't be the same...*sigh*

    • by JamesP (688957)

      Don't worry they'll call you to fix all those pianos for the Y2Ksomething bug

    • fascinating video!

    • +1 Awesome
    • See? Apples are for creative types - see the Apple II being used to edit the piano roll?
      • by ncc74656 (45571) *

        See? Apples are for creative types - see the Apple II being used to edit the piano roll?

        That video [youtube.com] was from the '80s, but a comment from 3 weeks ago states that they were still using their Apple IIs. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

        Apple II Forever! :-)

    • Ah! Good ol' David Stringer. I used to watch his show Fast Forward back in the long ago. He has a great way of explaining things. I especially liked his way of explaining laser light: This is a plate of spaghetti noodles, and this is a plate of lasagna noodles.
  • huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by russ1337 (938915) on Monday January 05, 2009 @04:56AM (#26327463)
    'We're still doing what we always did, which is to provide software for pianos that play themselves.

    Piano Porn?
  • by gzipped_tar (1151931) on Monday January 05, 2009 @05:05AM (#26327499) Journal

    Listen to Gustav Mahler playing himself [youtube.com]. He played a part (the Death March) of his Fifth Symphony in 1905, recorded to piano rolls.

    I just hope at least some of the player pianos could be preserved in a working state, although it would be getting more and more difficult as time goes by.

    Technologies get replaced but the coolness remains.

    • Ours is a " Betsy ", and works flawlessly.

      There are a few out there that have been restored. The bellows on many are brittle, but most have been electrified by using a motor to supply the air, but you lose things like volume control etc, when you go electric on the old one.

      This is our model here in the image ... [wikipedia.org]
      And it works great, has a home, and isn't going to be thrown out anytime soon!

      • by hey! (33014)

        Why should you lose volume control? Presumably there is some clockwork mechanism to regulate speed, so if air pressure is used to control volume why not put a speed control on the motor, like a triac light dimmer?

    • by NeBan (606215)
      My family has had a player piano for over 60 years. It still works great. The most we've had to worry about from a maintenance standpoint was occasionally replacing an old hose.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by HungWeiLo (250320)

      There are several CDs available of player rolls of Rachmaninoff pieces played by Rachmaninoff himself. The recordings also have pieces by other composers as well.

  • I can safely say that I will actually miss this.

    When I was a young lad in the 60's this was still one of the coolest things out there. I used to love going to grans as a small child and cranking up the piano. ( Yep hand crank version ).

    The death of Nintendo Game cube or equiv gadget of the day will never compare to the death of something that lasted over 100 years.

    This device saved 10's of thousands of families around the globe from uncle Bob's horrible Xmas piano playing. It will be missed.

    • The sad part is it was the first medium to be reproduced and copied easily. Heck 100 years is a good run. :)
      • The sad part is it was the first medium to be reproduced and copied easily. Heck 100 years is a good run. :)

        For music, I am sure that is true. But the printing press [wikipedia.org] seems to have been in use in the 1700s.

        • Well I guess the written word will last a little longer. :) Which is funny you said that, I am sitting here trying to get my printer to work. I installed the drivers about two minutes ago and I am firing it up after about six years of sitting dormant. It works, LOL
        • I still get a twinge thinking of the old Linotype. I never worked on it myself, but UC Printing Services kept one going in Berkeley for years after it's obsolescence, just to print diplomas and such. What a cool bit of old school tech. Of course, reliability was on a different order of magnitude, but I maintain that there is some merit to a device that can be built or repaired with common hand tools. The Skilled Mechanic is the real loser here. Habitat loss will wipe them all out soon, I fear.

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      I give it 30years and things like this will start to make a come back. The technology we have now(and will have) is fine and grand and all that, but sometimes you just want to sit down and play other times you want to see that bit of mechanical technology do it on it's own.

      Which reminds me...I need to price out a clarinet, because as grand as it is listening to someone else play, or some of the greats...nothing beats playing yourself when you know how to.

      • by Dutch Gun (899105)

        I give it 30years and things like this will start to make a come back. The technology we have now(and will have) is fine and grand and all that, but sometimes you just want to sit down and play other times you want to see that bit of mechanical technology do it on it's own.

        I'm not so sure. That would be a pretty expensive item for a ride down memory lane. Besides, it's not like the concept is lost forever. It's just taken a slightly different form. [yamaha.com]

        • by Mashiki (184564)

          I've seen people spend $90k or more to restore classic cars these days for a taste of their '50's childhoods or to bring a 1910 back to life. While others spend $30k for a motorcycle, simply to avoid a midlife crisis.

          Sometimes you spend money for the pure pleasure of restoration and passing something on. Other times you do it for pure ego stroking.

    • by ubrgeek (679399)
      > This device saved 10's of thousands of families around the globe from uncle Bob's horrible Xmas piano playing.

      But sadly, it does nothing to save anyone from grandma's fruitcake.
    • I think they'll be around for a fair bit longer. The rolls last for decades, and you could probably modify an old dot-matrix printer to make less durable ones without much effort (which might be a fun toy for parties - grab a midi file, print it to some cheap paper, and play it on the piano). The machines themselves are still around and there are enthusiasts maintaining them. People still keep traction engines going, and they're even older. They won't be mainstream, but they aren't exactly now.

      While

      • Perhaps, if printing midi files for your player piano constitutes party fun, I might suggest slightly better parties.
  • by gnieboer (1272482) on Monday January 05, 2009 @05:20AM (#26327551)
    "...halted support for COBOL 108 years after the language was founded. We continue to provide support for Cybernetic Linux. We're still doing what we always did, which is to provide software for machines that help humans. It's just the interface that has changed. But I would be lying to say it doesn't sadden me..."

    So, any bets on whether the above statement will be a reality??

    Or the alternative version in 2109...

    "...halted support for Windows XP 108 years after the language was founded. We continue to provide support for Windows Vista. Windows Vista is a great enhancement to the user experience, and we really really really hope that people will get over it and stop asking for XP. Really, we mean it this time, NO MORE XP SUPPORT. No... Really..."
    • So, any bets on whether the above statement will be a reality?

      COBOL is the Dracula of programming languages. It will take more than 108 years for it to die. The only difference will be that in 2067 both surviving COBOL programmers will be commanding massive salaries as the only people capable of understanding the accounts software for half of the Fortune 500.

  • The soundtrack for Steampunk.
  • To go to the factory to see how they are made. We have probably 200 piano rolls, and play them. The oldest are almost 100, and getting brittle. You have to be careful with any of them, because the sides of the roll can get crimped..

    If none of you have ever seen the inside of a mechanical player piano in action, it is a thing of beauty.

    On ours wooden valves (slide type) hundreds of cogs and chain driven gears etc..

    We play ours a lot, and love it, and wouldn't stop playing it for anything. We feel it he

  • And thus... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Warhawke (1312723) on Monday January 05, 2009 @05:56AM (#26327723)
    The humble beginnings of the ever-turbulent fight between music publishers and end-users comes to an end. More than simply nostalgic, the piano roll was the first cheap medium for copying music, and as such it created the massive debaucle whose legacy is still carried on today by the RIAA. Prior to the hayday of the player piano, musical entertainment for home use required live performance. Sheet music publishers had a stranglehold on the industry. Enter the player piano roll, and suddenly these new device publishers could manually record, copy, and redistribute music en masse, and they did so with great frequency, never paying the sheet music publishers a dime. Even "worse", the player piano was autonomous, and so you didn't need a musician at all to enjoy the music played. Naturally, the sheet music publishers were outraged. They considered the device to be sterile and even dangerous to the artistry of music. If no one had to play piano, then no one would, and the music would simply cease to exist. They asked Congress to ban the piano roll and require that any new recording system be voted on by the sheet music publishers. Fortunately, that didn't hold, and instead a licensing system was created where player piano roll producers paid the publishers a paltry fee per roll produced.

    That system has held in place until today, though you see technology (and history) repeat itself over and over. It's important not just from a DRM and YRO perspective, but also from a historical perspective. Beyond the moving-type press, this allowed for the greatest proliferation of music across America to be enjoyed cheaply by everyone. The roll single handedly changed the way America could experience music, and it completely defined the historical legislation and business practice of modern music. This is the passing of a titan, not just a kitchy thing that your great-grandparents might have owned.

    Of course, now that I went to the effort to write all that, I remember Cory Doctorow mentioned the same thing in an old, well-read paper of his. [craphound.com]

    • Good points. The Player Piano also gave composers the chance to hear pieces human pianists simply could not play. Conlon Nancarrow wrote many pieces that pushed the limits of the Player Piano, astounding recordings of what the instrument was capable of.

    • ...is that I have known several people who owned players (including my parents), and every last owner played the piano more than they used the rolls. There are likely player piano owners who only use the rolls, but it's certainly not all of them, and as far as I can tell, it was never a majority. Someone always learned the piano after getting excited bye the automagic stuff, if nobody already knew how.

      Somehow the doomsayers are usually wrong,

  • Oh no, but CDs are so *cold* in their reproduction of the sound! They just can't match the warmth of a good piano roll!

    Very sad, it's a lovely technology that intrigued me since I was a kid, but I guess it's a free market economy - if there's no money in it there's no reason to continue to spend money on doing it. Would be lovely if it was possible to continue production on a small scale in a 'living industrial museum' and turn out a few for tourists and fans though if a funder could be found to keep the ma

    • While CDs don't capture the sound of a live piano fully (though well recorded ones come real close), doesn't mean that you can't have this sort of thing still. As I mentioned in another post, automatic pianos are still made, they just use a computer to control them and MIDI to store the data. Yamaha's Disklavier is the most well known line, but there are other and there are companies who will retrofit any piano you like.

      So if you like that sort of live sounds, then this is what you want. It'll do a better j

    • You jest, but what struggles to match the sound of a good piano roll, or rather a good piano roll in a good piano, are el-cheapo midi synthesizers and some of the digital pianos of today. Many digital pianos are just samplers and it's very hard to create the expressiveness of an actual piano using layered samples. You need a lot of high resolution samples and most (affordable) digital instruments will come with a selection of virtual pianos so they need to divide up the ROM space. Software synths have come

      • by Dr. Evil (3501)

        Somebody still played that piano to generate that roll. I think it's awesome.

        I find the perfection of midi reproductions shrill. Even when done with very good midi equipment, there are so many variations in the conversation between the pianist and other instruments, the pressure, attack, decay, tuning, blah blah blah, that it is just much easier to record audio of a real musician on a piano.

        I think the human brain is *very* good at picking out repetition in sound. It might not be conscious, and even

        • And old player pianos can be midi-fied.
          It just takes a bunch of pallet valves and a midi-controlled solenoid driver module (they're available).
          Of course, if you have the type of piano that requires pumping with your feet, you'll also have to retrofit an electrically (unless you prefer windmill or water wheel power) driven air pump.

        • I play piano, and I have recorded some of my compositions via the "mechanism" in my digital piano, and there's something interesting I noticed - when I record the piece using the piano's own proprietary file format, it is reproduced EXACTLY as I played it... but when I convert that into MIDI, it doesn't have anywhere near the subtlety - there doesn't seem to me anywhere's near the resolution in velocity that the machine's proprietary method uses.

          All of which leads me to believe that there's something inhere

          • All of which leads me to believe that there's something inherently limiting in MIDI - that it is, frankly, an obsolete format - that new digital interface methods better reproduce the mechanics of a performance.

            The MIDI specs only support 128 different values for parameters like note velocity and sustain pedal. Like the 640K limit of DOS, it seemed like enough 25 years ago.

            I wonder if anyone else has noticed this? Is there a MIDI 2.o in the works to address this?

            Some manufacturers have come up with extensi

  • Production pauses (Score:4, Informative)

    by yogibaer (757010) on Monday January 05, 2009 @06:39AM (#26327973)
    If you read the article carefully, it becomes clear that they will be trying to reestablish the production in a new location, but are a bit worried, that some of the ancient machinery will survive relocation. They still sell 50.000 rolls a year and have a stockpile that will last them for 1-2 years.
  • by VividU (175339) on Monday January 05, 2009 @06:52AM (#26328043)

    I had the great fortune to apprentice with one of the last remaining player piano craftsman/restorers/repairmen in the west coast. A mad genius if there ever was one. (Hey Larry!).

    Not many jobs gave me to opportunity to make glue from fish guts, cut leather, polish wood with graphite and tinker deep in the guts of Steinway's.

    The player piano's are truly amazing technology. Ask most people how the players work and they'll draw a blank. (Hint: vacuum).

    Sit next to a properly tuned (musically & mechanically) player piano, close your eyes and listen. They can be scary good.

  • by Vintermann (400722) on Monday January 05, 2009 @07:31AM (#26328269) Homepage

    Oslo's most awesome museum, the museum for science and technology, is currently establishing a permanent exhibition of "musical machines". It'll be done for summer. I can hardly wait.

    One curious thing about music machines: I have never heard a midi piano that sounded as good as the most sterile yamaha piano. Why is that? I would suppose you could do a decent physical simulation of the interior of a piano these days, capturing such things as interaction with other undampened strings. But they don't do that. The sostenuto pedal is usually just an echo effect...

    • by Granis (92074)

      One curious thing about music machines: I have never heard a midi piano that sounded as good as the most sterile yamaha piano. Why is that? I would suppose you could do a decent physical simulation of the interior of a piano these days, capturing such things as interaction with other undampened strings. But they don't do that. The sostenuto pedal is usually just an echo effect...

      Actually, there are digital pianos today that do a pretty good job at simulating effects like that. Not that they sounds perfectly like a acoustic piano, but they are getting quite close. You can get things like damper and string resonance that simulates how strings are interacting with each other. They can also recreate key-off effects to simulate the subtle sound you get when you release a key on a real piano. In more advanced models you can even find speakers placed inside the cabinet that produce sounds

  • I would imagine the production has stopped because there's hardly any player pianos out there. man they are cool though. a buddy of mine has boxes and boxes full of thousands of rolls if there's ever anybody out here looking to purchase large lots ;-D it's always a little sad when an old media dies out.. I'm surprised vinyl records have lasted this long as well.. it seems a ton of artists out there still get their music printed on vinyl for the novelty purpose.. rolls are hard to make last because of how ea
  • >>>Volunteers scan rolls optically and convert them to MIDI files

    First I downloaded floppies (80s).
    Then music CDs (90s).
    Now I can pirate piano player rolls.

    Is there anything that is safe from the internet? At this rate I won't need to buy anything except food... and I'm sure it's only a matter of time until somebody invents a way to bittorrent that too.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Dear Self:

      Don't be ridiculous. The conversion of downloaded digital data into sound in the air, or flickering light on a screen, is relatively inexpensive. A few watthours of power. Mere dollars.

      The conversion of digital data into a physical essence (food) is something entirely different. According to Einstein's E==mc(squared) formula, you would need a small Star Trek-style warp drive to accomplish that goal. Clearly we don't have that kind of power available in the year 2009 and even if we did, you co

      • I'd kill a man for a single mod point at this moment.

        Okay, maybe not. But I would for a million dollars!

        Well, let's be realistic. I'd probably do it for just a hundred grand.

    • by argent (18001) <<moc.agnorat.6002.todhsals> <ta> <retep>> on Monday January 05, 2009 @09:48AM (#26329121) Homepage Journal

      The sites listed in the article only contain music that is out of copyright, from rolls published before 1923.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by 5KVGhost (208137)

        And thank Heaven for that. These vile owners of player pianos are stealing the bread from the mouths of our hardworking musical performers. I say to you that the player piano is to the American musician and the American public as H.H. Holmes is to the woman home alone!

        Telegraphs have been dispatched, and intrepid agents of the RIAA are even now speeding cross-country in their horseless carriages! Tremble, law-breakers, for your time is now at hand.

        • You think that's funny, but I bet it's accurate. In the early 1500s when the Pope laid-off his scribes and replaced them with two printing presses, the scribes rioted and vandalized the Pope's church because they thought they were being treated unfairly.

          Nobody likes to lose a job, either now or back then (~1500).

          • The reaction to piano rolls by sheet music companies was just as unthinking and out of proportion to the threat as the reaction to every subsequent advance in recording and distribution technology. There were congressional hearings where they demanded that piano rolls be banned, that sheet music companies be given the right to control the sales of reproduction technology, and so on.

            The same scenario was played out for audio recordings, radio, and so on down the line, except that eventually the renegades (th

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by canajin56 (660655)
            You'd win that bet, because it IS accurate. The sheet music industry lobbied to have the player piano outlawed, on the grounds that if nobody needed to hire a live musician, there would be no such thing as music anymore, and nobody would buy their sheet music, ruining the economy. They didn't succeed, but as a concession, congress made it so player piano manufacturers had to pay the sheet music industry a fee for every roll they sold.
  • by GomezAdams (679726) on Monday January 05, 2009 @09:40AM (#26329045)
    Just as buggy whip and vinyl records and 8" floppy disks have gone so mechanical players and rolls are going away. As a former registered PTG piano tech I worked on my share of these player machines. I never rebuilt one but have made minor pump replacements and glued up the occasional bellows and made adjustments. As musical instruments older pianos are built to last a 100 years or more so these instruments are not going to disappear anytime soon. The rolls on the other hand are paper and can be damaged and just plain deteriorate long before the player part quits working. I hope someone will step up and keep a supply of rolls coming. It'll be a niche market for sure but just like keep ancient planes and autos running it will be worth it for future generations to see how 'The Old Folks'(tm) lived in The Good Old Days.
    • by hey! (33014)

      Hmmm. It seems to me, though, that a gizmo for recording rolls is well within the ability of a competent machinist to build. Possibly the kind mechanical enthusiast who goes in for old time player pianos could do it. The main difficulty for a clever mechanic would be getting rolls of paper of a suitable dimension and quality; that's a place where eccentricity provoked sweat equity wouldn't get you far, unless you got lucky. Maybe mylar would work and there are companies producing film rolls that coul

      • The main difficulty for a clever mechanic would be getting rolls of paper of a suitable dimension and quality

        Not really a problem. If you were building technology to record them now, you would do it onto some electronic form - they're basically a long string of 88-bit values, so you're just storing an array of 11 byte entries. If you can find an old dot-matrix printer that is wide enough, you could probably print them out by removing the ribbon and using weak paper. The old rolls last decades, but if you have the ability to print them at home then it doesn't matter much if they start to wear out after a few doz

  • I've got a working Ampico reproducing baby grand piano and lots of rolls, mostly from the 20s and 30s . New rolls have never been important as patching up the decaying paper on the old ones.
    Ampico rolls have dynamics info coded in them and they have been considered as accurate digital records of long dead piano virtuosos - although, like all digital recordings, these were heavily edited. I especially recommend any four-hands rolls!

    QRS rolls were always more pop oriented - cheesier in their arrangements, but

  • For those who are looking to alternative sources of piano rolls, here's the home page [wiscasset.net] of an (albeit) small producer of piano rolls. Artcraft music rolls, in addition to producing regular, what is called, standard 88 note [pianorolls.co.uk] rolls, also produce Duo-Art [wikipedia.org] rolls, which contains control punches which automatically adjust the sound level of the music, and is able to enhance single notes, so the music is more realistic, like a real piano player would achieve.

    You would need a special Duo Art player piano, to get the
    • Here's [folk.uio.no] a recording I made of one of the Artcraft rolls, Chicago March on an untuned Duo-Art player piano, and with it's Duo-Art system out of operation, so it does not serve the quality of the roll complete justice!

      I have myself a Duo-Art player piano, and have lots of those QRS Music rolls, and although the work of QRS is impressive, there were and are smaller roll producers, who made and makes much better quality music rolls, Artcraft being one of the very few who still makes such rolls. Since there'
  • This is too bad. I was hoping to construct a player computer keyboard to cut down on the repetitive and often difficult typing that I'm required to do for work :-(
  • while i think it is great that we are developing better technologies that can do things more precisely, faster, more cheaply, and more reliably, but i am still captivated by some of the older technological innovations that started the excitement in so many fields.

    the two that always stick out in my mind are the mechanical watch and the iron skillet. almost 300 years after its invention, the mechanism/s used in automatic watches are still popular, and not just among the idle rich. this is where technology a

  • We need a bailout! Classify piano roll makers as financial institutions and give them a piece of the TARP pie! If we let these jobs die we will never see them again! Bailout, bailout, bailout!!!

  • Piano rolls allowed for things that neither humans nor midi can reproduce, and Conlon Nancarrow was the only person I know of who saw that piano rolls could be used for more that simply imitating human players.

    I hope his body of work won't be lost because of this. Here's an example that will blow yer freakin' mind, dude.

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=jyRCdyNb3Eo [youtube.com]

"Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago." -- Bernard Berenson

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