No study of the player piano would be complete without considering the basic, run-of-the-mill instruments that dominated the market, and for which most piano rolls were intended. Such is the instrument used in today’s program. A Lakeside upright factory-fitted with a Simplex 3-tier player action, this instrument contains no expressive devices to accent the melody and no pneumatic to automatically operate the sustain pedal. All expressive effects are achieved by varying the pressure on the foot pumps, and by manipulating the five levers located in front of the keyboard. One lever controls the movement of the damper rail via a simple linkage, effectively replacing the sustain pedal. The hammer rail is split into bass and treble sections, each controlled by another simple lever which throws either or both sections into “soft pedal” position. A fourth lever controls the speed at which the roll travels (the “tempo” lever). The fifth lever operates the roll transmission, providing for forward motion (“Play”) and silent reverse (“Reroll”). An intermediate position of this lever permits silent fast-forwarding (“Silencer”). The rolls in today’s program were selected to expose listeners to material they may not have heard on rolls before. This includes several rolls issued between 1913 and 1926 for the once-thriving “foreign” markets; popular, country, jazz, and blues selections issued between 1973 and 2004, representing the craft as it was most recently practiced commercially; and one of the Victor Record Accompaniment Rolls, originally intended for the 1916 “Apollophone” combination player piano and phonograph. The phonograph used in today’s performance is a Victor III of about 1909, with a Model L horn.

Player action rebuilt by Jon Perry Piano Restorations, Marion Center, PA
Piano rebuilt by Bob Sowyrda, East Aurora, NY

–Bob Berkman