Player piano

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A player piano (also known as pianola or autopiano) is a self-playing piano, containing a pneumatic or electro-mechanical mechanism that operates the piano action via pre-programmed music perforated paper, or in rare instances, metallic rolls. The rise of the player piano grew with the rise of the mass-produced piano for the home in the late 19th and early 20th century (see Harvey Roehl's "Player Piano Treasury"). Sales peaked in 1924, as the improvement in phonograph recordings due to electrical recording methods developed in the mid-1920s. The advent of electrical amplification in home music reproduction via the wireless in the same period helped cause their eventual decline in popularity, and the stock market crash of 1929 virtually wiped out production.



The idea of automatic musical devices can be traced back many centuries. The idea of using pinned barrels to operate percussion mechanisms (such as striking bells in a clock) was perfected long before the invention of the piano. These devices were later extended to operate musical boxes, which contain a set of tuned metal teeth plucked by the player mechanism.

An early musical instrument to be automated was the organ, which is comparatively easy to operate automatically. The power for the notes is provided by air from a bellows system, and the organist or player device only has to operate a valve to control the available air. The playing task is ideally performed by a pinned barrel, and the art of barrel organs was well advanced by the mid-18th century.

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