Early Pianola Lessons in the 1920s!
At the foot of this page a number of player piano booklets are available for free download, in Adobe pdf format. If you want to skip the rest, click here!
The Pianola, by which we mean the foot-operated player piano, is at first glance a deceptively easy instrument to play. Assuming that the darn thing works well enough, then all you need to do is to insert a music roll, take a deep breath, and pedal. Out will come all the correct notes, and if you are playing a singalong roll, perhaps one of the many thousands made by J. Lawrence Cook for the QRS Company, then the simple notes may be enough for you. You can find many examples of such music on Youtube, clearly giving pleasure to many people in all parts of the world.
But if you bothered to look at this webpage, then it may be that such simplicity is not quite what you had in mind. You may have wondered why standard classical and jazz rolls on the Pianola don't sound as good as your favourite CDs or LPs. The answer is, of course, that you don't really get anything for nothing. The Pianola is only an instrument; if you want to sound like Vladimir Ashkenazy or Oscar Petersen, then you may well have to practise like them. Well, perhaps not quite THAT much!
Consider a symphony orchestra; most good ones are perfectly capable of playing without a conductor, because the players are able to listen to each other, and to remain together in all but the most complex music. The conductor who simply beats time will be very unpopular with such musicians, who instead need him (or her) to shape the music being played, and perhaps to generate excitement, so that a communal flow of adrenalin permeates the musical performance. The conductor draws out from the orchestra an individual interpretation of the music, providing the players with a secure framework in which to give of their best. Well, that is how it ought to be, although there are also some conductors who wave their arms around to very little effect. They should try practising the Pianola!
Virtual Library of Player Piano Manuals
One day this page may be expanded to a whole course of lessons on the Pianola. For now, and for those of you who have acquired a player piano, and wish to read through some basic instructions on how to pedal and use the levers and buttons, we intend to begin publishing a virtual library of player piano instruction manuals. As of April 2008, the list stands as follows:
The 'Pianola' Piano - Instruction Booklet No. 1, for the normal 88-note Pianola Piano, published by the Aeolian Co. Ltd, London, c. 1927, [0.5 Mb]
The 'Pianola' Piano (with reproducing action) - Instruction Booklet No. 2, for the pedal operated Duo-Art, published by the Aeolian Co. Ltd, London, c. 1927, [0.7 Mb]
The 'Duo-Art Pianola' Piano (The Pedal Electric Model) - Instruction Booklet No. 3, for the pedal electric Duo-Art, published by the Aeolian Co. Ltd, London, c. 1927, [0.7 Mb]
On Playing the 'Pianola' and the 'Duo-Art' 'Pianola' Piano - by Reginald Reynolds, published by the Aeolian Co. Ltd, London, c. 1927, [3.0 Mb]
Artistic Piano Playing with the Angelus - Instructions for the 88-note Angelus player piano, published by Sir Herbert Marshall & Sons, London, 1920s, [1.4 Mb]
Notice sur le Fonctionnement et le Jeu du Pleyel-Pleyela et de l'Auto-Pleyela - Instructions in French for the 88-note Pleyela player piano and the Auto-Pleyela expression piano, published by Pleyel, Paris, c. 1923, [1.0 Mb]
Welte-Mignon Reproduktionsklavier - Technical manual in German for the green Welte-Mignon (98 holes on the tracker-bar), Welte & Sons, Freiburg, c. 1925, [4.8 Mb]
Welte-Mignon - Test Roll 98 - Instructions in English for the green Welte-Mignon test roll (98 holes on the tracker-bar), published by Welte & Sons, Freiburg, c. 1925, [2.5 Mb]
Welte-Mignon - Skala-Rolle 98 - Instructions in German for the green Welte-Mignon test roll (98 holes on the tracker-bar), published by Welte & Sons, Freiburg, c. 1925, [3.6 Mb]
Meisterspiel-Dea - Gebrauchs- und Regulieranleitung - Instructions in German for the Meisterspiel-Dea push-up, published by Ludwig Hupfeld A.G., Leipzig, c. 1910, [4.1 Mb]