of the most significant developments in player piano history was the
introduction of the reproducing piano. Whereas the foot-impelled player
piano requires a certain degree of skill on the part of the operator
to impart musical expression and phrasing, the reproducing piano is
designed to achieve this without any manual intervention. Its function
is to faithfully reproduce the music of human pianists, who recorded
their work for the music roll medium. For the listener, a well-adjusted
instrument should create an impression that the original recording
artist is present in the room, playing the piano himself.
the reproducing piano is akin to any ordinary player piano, except
that the foot operated bellows are displaced by an electric suction
pump, and a sophisticated expression control mechanism is incorporated.
It functions by regulating the level of suction with which the note
pneumatics are operated, consequently varying the force with which
they collapse and the intensity of the notes they play. The rolls
are coded with the required expression information, by means of additional
instrument of this type was introduced just after the start of the
twentieth century, by the Welte company of Germany. The so-called
'Keyless Red Welte' dispensed with the foot pedals and hand controls
in favour of electric operation and as its name suggests, possessed
no keyboard. Welte also introduced a cabinet-style external player,
for use in combination with any ordinary piano and later installed
their system within fine quality grand pianos, most notably the Steinway.
Several other companies, predominantly in the USA, subsequently introduced
their own design of reproducing systems, the most successful of which
were known as Ampico, Duo-Art and Welte-Mignon (Licensee). All of
these systems were invariably fitted to fine quality pianos and were
considerably more expensive than their pedal-powered counterparts.
capabilities of the reproducing piano attracted great interest from
eminent pianists of the player piano era. Understandably, many considered
the music roll to be an excellent alternative to the phonograph, which
at the time could provide little more than low fidelity sound.
grand reproducing piano by Rogers of London