At the turn of the 20th century player piano music became the preferred form of entertainment for many American homes.
Player instruments became very popular as mass production made it possible to market this item to the public. The Pianola, an antique Aeolian player piano, was so well-advertised that the said brand name became the generic name of the said musical innovation.
Priced at $250 back then, the 65-note player unit is equivalent to about $6,000 today. A decade later, the 88-note “Pianola” with a built-in player was developed by Melville Clark of Story and Clark. The standard player piano from then on eventually was patterned after Clark's innovation.
Beethoven's Fifth, Symphony No. 5 on Player Piano Demo
The production of Pianolas saw a steep climb in the 1910s. Known pianists were hired to record player piano music to be converted into music rolls. Other pianoforte companies followed suit. Kimball and Wurlitzer manufactured their own designs.
Superb craftsmanship was evident in the casing and cabinetry of these musical instruments. Truly inspiring casing were of the American Arts & Crafts era. A restored 1911 Kimball player piano today will fetch at around $18,000. A restored Wurlitzer player piano circa 1919 is pegged today at $ 13,500.
Upright player pianos were the major product but other piano companies such as Apollo that also produced grand piano player keyboard. Player piano music rolls are extensive. There are rolls that play the classical music of Beethoven, Bach as there are rolls that play the music of the great Gershwin.
Music rolls repertoire includes popular songs that span across the 20th century. QRS Company is still the leader in the manufacture of music rolls.
Advancement in technology made the traditional player instruments obsolete. Though there are still a lot of automatic reproducing keyboards out there, the manufacture of this type of piano has stopped.
Today, player music pianos take the form of pianos fitted with digital player piano conversion kits. Yamaha player piano is more commonly known as the Disklavier. The acoustic piano is fitted with a DKC-850 Disklavier control unit for recording and playback. It has a USB port for flash drive that contains your preferred playlist. It even has a Disklavier radio, audio and video sync recording and storage for MIDI files.
There is no need for perforated music rolls as digital technology has replaced them. Electronic player piano is not the same as an acoustic keyboard fitted with a player piano system as the former produces its sound by means of a synthesizer while the later produces sound by pressing the keys which in turn strikes the hammer which in turn strikes the strings of the acoustical keys.
Not everyone can afford a Disklavier reproducing pianoforte. However, it is possible to outfit a traditional acoustic keyboard with a player piano conversion kit to turn it into reproducing piano or its digital counterpart.
Gone are the days when expressive and wonderful pianoforte music were only available to those who have spent years of classical training. It is now possible to “play” the keys with the help of software programs that are part of a digitalize system.
Yamaha has the SmartKey where an entry level “pianist” plays the keys prompted by the “keys” as it plays the more complex part of the music.
Maple Leaf Rag video demonstration
If you are considering of converting your traditional acoustic keyboard into a digital player piano, there is PianoDisc and QRS's Pianomation to consider. These two systems can be fitted into any size, brand and make of keyboards. Each has its own range of digital system that can be added to an upright, grand, old or new acoustical keyboard.
The PianoDisc system has an 88-note playback capable of producing 127 levels of expression for each key. The ivory instrument can actually be played pianissimo to fortissimo.
The Pianomation 2000C offers wireless technology that enable user to drive his acoustic upright or grand from an existing CD player. The grand or upright wirelessly receives data from a wireless transmitter. The transmitter is the size of a TV remote control. There are no wires to mar the aesthetics of your acoustical keyboard.
Add-ons and other options are available for modern digital player keyboards. The market is highly competitive as there are a number of digitalized “pianola” music systems that are available for purchase, while the value and prices for used vintage items are decreasing.
More Information? Go from Player Piano Conversion Kits to Piano Rolls
Return from Player Piano Music to Homepage