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A Look at the Player Piano Technology

Last updated 2 years ago

Player pianos have long been charming objects of fascination. A self-playing piano, the player piano was first invented in the 19th century and remained popular throughout the first half of the 20th century. Player pianos were all the rage in the 1920s, and many homes had them in the parlor or living room. Also known as the autopiano or the pianola, the player piano may seem to be a mystery to many, but the technology behind these alluring objects is simple to understand.

A traditional player piano uses rolls of paper with holes punched in it to control the piano. Simply put, the piano translates the holes punched in the paper into movements of keys, which are played pneumatically. Each key to the piano has a small bellows attached to it, and suction moves the bellows, causing the key to depress. When a player piano is functioning correctly, it will appear as if a ghost were playing a tune on the keys.

The rolls of paper used to produce this effect, called music rolls or piano rolls, were created by a number of different methods. One involved marking out the music on a master stencil metronomically via a piano keyboard punching machine. Piano rolls are rarely produced these days, as modern player piano technology has evolved beyond the need for the traditional mechanics.

The modern player pianos rely upon different technology to produce the same delightful effect. The piano has a computer installed with a CD to control the keys. Servo motors attached to each key give the modern player pianos precise control over the hammers of the keys.

For all your piano needs, come to Arizona Piano in Phoenix. We’ve got upright pianos, grand pianos, baby grand pianos, player pianos, and much more. For more information, please give us a call at (602) 457-3910.


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Take advantage of our holiday inventory clearance sale on all new and used pianos to clear out remaining inventory! We have a huge selection of baby grands, grands, consoles, player pianos and studios in various finishes and styles.


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