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the best known makers are the Pianola, the Angelus, the Chase and Baker Piano-Player, the Cecilian, the Simplex, the Apollo, and last, but not least, the Metzler A. I. Piano-Player, and the Metzler F 5 Piano-Player. The music for all these, consisting of perforated paper, is practically the same, and is, in some cases, interchangeable.
The perforated sheet, the mechanism common to piano-playing attachments, as well as self-playing pianos, first appeared in a French patent in 1842. The United States patent for the key-board piano-player was issued to E. D. Bɔotman, 18th December, 1860, and the first pneumatic piano-player was patented in France in 1863, by M. F. Fourneux, and between 1879 and 1992, the total of 55 patents had been issued in the United States, the first complete was the Angelus, 1897, the Pianola followed 1898, and the Apollo in 1900.
The pneumatic piano-player is the product or outcome of ceaseless experiment, and over twenty years' experience in the manufacture of pneumatic instruments and perforated music paper of many different styles. The ideal is very difficult of attainment, and the points which go to make an ideal piano player are so many and various, it is not at all surprising they have been difficult indeed to achieve.
The brains, the energy, the labour, patience and capital, represented in a product such as the piano-player is never conceived or realised by those whose experience is confined solely to the finished instrument.
I will endeavour to explain some of the points which appeal to the musician, and which should influence purchasers, in the choice of a piano-player.
The essential of all music is time, and the soul of all music, expression. The chords of the most beautiful composition may become almost as irritating as discords, if improperly expressed, and to obtain proper expression, the first consideration is the rendering of the composition correctly as regards time; as the beauty of even simple compositions is entirely spoiled if reeled off in a mechanical, lifeless manner. Here the delicately arranged tempo lever gives the performer absolute control of the duration of every note. The second consideration is the striking of the keys of the piano with a force of varying intensity, representing as it does the technique of the musician. The third consideration is in being able to adapt the degree of stroke to any particular note or chord instantaneously, and without affecting the chords immediately pre
ceeding or following those required to be emphasised.
Now the extremely sensitive pneumatic action, combined with the accentuating lever, the pedal lever, and the markings on the music paper enables the performer, after a little practice, to obtain the most exquisite and human-like effects of expression. It should be borne in mind that there are various degrees of capacity of expression in the different styles of piano-players now on the market. It is claimed for several pianoplayers that they are without these so-called complicated means of expression, the expression being obtained solely by means of the feet in pedalling, as exemplified in the Simplex and Metzler F. 5 Piano-Player. It is a simple method, certainly; but so, too, are the results; and the trained musician will detect the advantage of the accentuating lever immediately.
The piano-player, truly, may be played by the most absolute novice with pleasing effect; but the ideal of the musician-the expression, the technique, the soul of the music of which the piano-player is capable-may also be obtained after careful and thoughtful practice.
When you sit down to a piano-player you take up the position of conductor for the time being; the tempo and expression are subservient to your will. Instead of waving a bátor you simply touch little levers, whereby you may emphasise or regulate the power or speed of any particular note or chord instantaneously.
Some piano-players are quite incapable of this minute and instantaneous alteration of the expression; on some players it is necessary to pedal for dear life for a few seconds when you wish to emphasise a particular note, and then breathlessly wait for the result, trusting to luck that the chords or notes immediately following those emphasised are not emphasised too, though they usually are. On the piano-player having levers the fortissimo or pianissimo may be obtained instantaneously by a slight movement of the fingers, and without varying the pedal in the slightest degree. Undoubtedly the chief use and scope of the piano-player is educational. It is now, for the first time, for amateurs to make themselves. acquainted with the whole of the masterpiecesof pianoforte literature in the chronological order of their composition, and, through the medium of arrangements, with all the great orchestral works. The influence of this increased facility for becoming familiar with all the best music will speedily be making itself
felt in the nation. The great artists need have no fear they will be supplanted. On the contrary they will find their audiences will become larger and more appreciative. Composers will find that it will pay to write good music, and they will not have to wait long for its recogni-player is an ingenious and easily manipulated
arrangement for transposing the music, whereby any song or other composition may be played in eight different keys without the least trouble. This desirable addition, it is almost unnecessary to explain, will prove a great boon to all who wish to use the piano-player as an accompanist.
Just consider the advantage this offers! Some piano-players would need eight rolls of music to obtain the same results, as are achieved on the new piano-player with a single roll.
tion. A generation steeped in the great classics will soon find out and appreciate good modern music.
This is why the piano-player is an educator and musical instructor, not a reproducer of simple, rudimentary music only, but capable of rendering correctly the most difficult or highly classical piece composed. It is not restricted to any particular class of music; it is equally at home with a Beethoven masterpiece as with a rollicking cake walk.
The capabilities of the piano-player are not grasped or learned in one sitting, or in twenty. As the performer becomes more practised, so constantly some new feature is revealed which adds to the pleasure of the performer, and to the technique and brilliancy of the playing. The effects obtained by a practised performer on the piano-player are almost inconceivable.
Hundreds of pianos, hitherto silent and unused, excepting as sideboards, are now echoing with the great works of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and other masters. That this beneficent invention, adding so enormously to the artistic delight and intellectual enjoyment of thousands, should be discountenanced because in the hands of the unmusical and ignorant it can be rendered a positive instrument of torture, is as retrograde and illogical as the demand for suppression of motor-cars, because foreign chauffeurs and a few reckless and inconsiderate drivers and untrained horses have caused accidents and some inconvenience to the general public.
How many expensive pianos are there distributed in various drawing-rooms, so little used that they would fill their purpose equally well were they empty cases? How much is expended by parents on the musical education of their children, and with what results? A really finished performer is as rare as an oasis in the desert.
Just imagine! Try to realise! Those who cannot play a note of music; what a thrill of delight they experience in sitting down to your usually inanimate piano, out of which you have never been able to produce anything but discord, and being able to play-by your very own self, without any tutoring, without even practising-a soul-stirring piece full of ex
pression and passion, in a manner that only a few skilled musicians could equal.
Everyone is aware how difficult it is to obtain a song in a specially desired key. Now. a most important feature of the new piano
The Pianola and Angelus were first made at Meridan, Conn., at two factories situated in the same street and opposite one another. The Pianola was not brought before the public until 1898. It had then, as now, a compass of 65 notes, and rolls were specially prepared for it from the pianoforte scores. The Angelus was brought out a few months earlier, in 1897. It had 58 notes, and used organ music as prepared for the Eolian and other instruments of an organ nature.
The Metzler A. I. Piano-Player has been invented and perfected this year, and has 1. Scale of 65 notes.
2. Transposing arrangement whereby songs may be played in eight different keys. 3. Both loud and soft pedal lever.
4. Accentuating lever-for regulating the expression and accentuating given notes or chords instantly.
5. Tempo lever—to regulate time.
7. Transparent music cover and dust excluder.
8. Steel fingers or strikers.
10. Lock-up, folding cover, and pedal doors. There are many kinds of players on the market; but, although the number of names and designs of cases are numerous and increasing each month, there are only six or eight really different varieties in construction. Piano-players are made principally in America; but Germany is now making them, and there is a factory in London.
To insert the music roll, first place the rounded peg of the music spool in the spring bearing on left hand of player, press the bearing inward until the notched peg on other
end of music spool is allowed to enter the slotted bearing on right hand side of the instrument. Then set the Time regulator lever at 75, and the Switch lever at "To play;' operate the pedals, and the take-up spool will begin to revolve. Now take the ring on music spool and place it over the hook on the take-up spool, the music will commence to travel over the small square holes or air channels of the music rest and actuate the striker fingers of the player.
The speed or time of the music is determined by adjusting the Time regulator lever; and this is best and most satisfactorily accomplished by holding the lever between the first and second fingers of the right hand, placing the third finger on the wood-work and using it as a stop or rest to steady the hand and ensure the more accurate movement of the lever.
The Expression or Accentuating lever is best worked by the thumb of the left hand, but as the pedalling is a most important factor in producing correct expression, it is necessary to practice pedalling before attempting to make a general use of the expression lever, and the following instruction should be carefully noted.
Pedalling Instructions.-There are two quite distinct styles of pedalling, each of which are equally effective if properly carried out. In the one case the feet are placed full and flat on the pedals, the toes about level with the end of the pedals, and the motion is imparted from the ankles. In the other case the toes only are placed well forward on the pedals, and the motion is obtained partly from the ankles and partly by raising the limbs up and down.
The object to be aimed at is to obtain as long and full a stroke as possible, as one long, full stroke of the pedal is equal to two or three short, scratchy ones. When one or the other of these styles of pedalling has been mastered, the various grades of expression, the light and shade of the music, may be obtained by altering the length of stroke or rate of stroke of the pedals; also, if only a few notes appear in the music, it is only necessary to pedal very slowly; but when a number of notes appear, the pedal strokes must be faster and of fuller length. When obtaining the expression from the pedalling only, the expression lever must be set full on to the ff. With the expression lever set in this position, it is possible to obtain very good results by pedalling hard or soft, as may be required for loud or soft passages, and using the loud and soft pedal lever.
It must be clearly understood, however, that it is impossible to accentuate any particular notes or chord by means of the pedals, the same as may be expressed by using the expression lever. With the pedals the accentuation of any one note or chord is almost certain to be imparted more or less to the notes immediately preceding or following the note or chord required to be emphasized, so that in such cases it is absolutely necessary to use the expression lever if correct results are desired To use this lever to advantage, it is necessary to first pump up a sufficient reserve power to obtain the ff. and then without any variation of the pedalling, the various degrees of expression may be produced by the movement of the expression lever only. It may be mentioned that the most realistic pianistic effects are best obtained by combining the two above systems of expression, and by so doing, the expression of playing is reduced to a minimum.
The Loud and Soft pedal lever is used for the pp (very soft) or ff (very loud) passages, and when neither soft or loud pedal is required, the lever must be set in the centre between these two positions.
To Rewind. When the end of the music roll is reached, the music paper has to be rewound on the music spool, and to effect this, the switch lever must be set full to the re-roll mark. While the music paper is being rewound, do not pedal fast, and do not allow the music paper on the take-up spool to overrun itself. Should it have a tendency to do this, press the forefinger of the left hand very gently on the outer edge of the flange of the take-up spool; judgment must be used in doing this, as if too much tension be put on, the edges of the paper are liable to be damaged. Violent pedalling when re-winding, causing the motor to work at a very high rate of speed, has a very detrimental effect on the motor, and should be sedulously avoided, also suddenly altering the switch lever from one position to the other, while the motor is being driven fast, is most injurious to the mechanism, the driving chains become stretched and loose, or are thrown off.
Adjusting the Player for 58 and 65-note Music. To use the 58-note music in the normal key, set the transposing bearing of the music spool on right hand side of player at No. 5 position, by first raising the small flat metal stop, and taking the nickelled knob between the fingers and pushing inwards or pulling out the bearing until the No. 5 slot appears, when the small flat metal stop is
dropped into the slot to retain the bearing in that position.
The take-up spool has now to be set for the 58-note music, and to do this, first see that the switch lever is set at re-roll, then turn the spool round until the long nickelled spring which has two holes in it only-appears on top, gently raise the spring by inserting the finger or thumb of the left hand under the extreme end, taking care not to lift the spring too high, but just sufficient to allow of the hole in the nickelled spring slipping over the stop-peg, then with the right hand, slide the spool to the right until the stop-peg comes opposite the hole on the right, when the spring should be released; next, in a similar manner, set the spring numbered plate so that the stop-peg enters the hole numbered 5; the spool is then ready for use.
When the 58-note music is being used, care must be taken to see that the position number of the music spool bearing, and the position number of take-up spool coincide, otherwise the music paper may be damaged. The two small nickelled slides on the left and right hand sides of music rest, are used in conjunction with the 58-note music paper only, as the exposed air channels are required to be covered, and care must be taken when adjusting these slides to see that they are under the music paper about 1-16th of an inch only, they must on no account be allowed to get on top.
To change the key, all that is required is to set the music spool bearing to whatever number is desired, adjust the take-up spool to same number, and then set the slides on music rest as before explained.
When using the 65-note music, set the music spool bearing at No. 1, and also the take-up spool at same number, move the two remaining portions of take-up spool to the left, and set back the left and right hand slides on music Test as far as they will go, the music may then be inserted.
To take the music spool out of the player, all that is needed is to reverse the operation of inserting the spool, and when the music roll is taken out, the music paper should be gently tightened up by gripping the roll in the middle by the left hand, and twisting the spool round by the flange with the fingers of the right hand. This will keep the music in good order, and render it less liable to atmospheric changes.
Care of the Music.-The music paper being very susceptible to dampness, care must
be taken to preserve the music rolls in a dry situation, otherwise the paper will expand and buckle, and when unwound off the spool will not return, being too wide; when this happens it is proof of the paper being kept in a damp position, and the situation should be changed. To effect an immediate contraction of the paper the roll should be unwound in front of an ordinary fire, when the paper will return to its normal width, and may be re-wound on to the music spool.
Height of Seat.-It is of the greatest importance that the seat used when playing be at least 26 inches high. This will enable the operator to work the pedals with greater firmness and at the same time make the operation of pedalling much easier. Satisfactory results cannot be obtained when using a low seat.
The Care of the Piano-player.-It must be kept in a dry place, its mechanism being more susceptible to atmospheric influences than a piano. Often a piano is situated in a room where fires are rarely lighted, and the action becomes stiff, but the piano-player under similar conditions is likely to be more injuriously affected.
The piano-player too must be periodically lubricated. Invariably a piano-player has as much work in the first few months after purchase, as a piano would have in the ordinary way in the same number of years; it is, therefore, imperatively necessary to oil or grease the frictional parts of the motor and drivinggear especially, and the slides of the motor must be kept well lubricated with very fine powdered dry blacklead. If these precautions are neglected and the face of the motor of the slides become worn, the regular working of the motor is seriously affected.
Great care must be taken that no foreign substances ever enter the air ducts or channels. In my opinion there is a great future for piano-players, and Mr. Ashton Johnson, in very able paper, entitled "Music and Mechanism," says:
ing will take the shape of musical lectures, which he can illustrate to his heart's content on the pianoplayer. How it simplifies and encourages the learning of new music by amateurs of limited technique must be experienced to be appreciated."
Also, "give me," wrote Mr. G. Bernard Shaw in 1894, while discussing "The Religion of the Pianoforte," "give me a fingering mechanism so contrived as to be well under the artistic control of the operator, and I will make an end of Paderewski." He has asked for it, and if, in the language of the advertisement, he has got it, I hope he is now happy. But he is not abolishing Paderewski, nor indeed any other artist worthy of the name. He is certainly assisting at the annihilation of all pianists whose sole claim to distinction is a more or less perfect technique, unsupported by intellectual, poetic, or emotional inspiration.
Again, at an afternoon recital at Bechstein Hall last season, I counted in the gallery alone, four men, who, to my personal knowledge, had left the City to hear Godowsky play Chopin's "Fantasia" and Beethoven's "Appassionata," in order that they might rush home and imitate his readings on their recently purchased piano-players.
In conclusion, properly used, the pianoplayer must enormously simplify and aid a true musical education, and with the aid of valuable patents and increased facilities for manufacture, piano-players can be had at prices to suit everybody's pocket, but I lay stress upon the fact that in the selection of a piano-player discrimination must be used, and anyone who can appreciate the artistic work of a good pianoforte will understand the value of a high grade piano-player.
[In illustration of the subject of the paper, three Piano-Players were shown, which were operated upon by Mr. Knightley and Mr. Coward. Miss Teresa Blamy sang a song with an accompaniment on the Piano-Player. Mr. Ffrangcon-Davies also sang Sir Frederick Bridge's new song "The England of Tomorrow," words by T. W. Wheeler, K.C., and was accompanied by the Chairman.]
The CHAIRMAN said the examples of mechanical players which they had before them, and the performances of Mr. Knightley on the machine, had given the meeting a great deal of pleasure, and he thought that many persons in the audience had been consilerably surprised. They had heard a piece of
Beethoven played without any wrong notes, and as they must admit, a most remarkable amount of expression. He did think that the piece wanted a little bit more of the real expression, but still there had been a great deal of expression in the way in which it was played, and a great deal more than was got from the playing of a young lady who practised two or three hours a day to the detriment of her health, and the neglect of her general education. Then they heard an accompaniment played upon the instrument, and the singer was allowed to sing the song with just as much expression as she thought fit to put into it; and as far as he could judge the piece was accompanied by Mr. Coward so well, that if he had not been looking at the instrument he should not have known that Mr. Coward was not playing in the ordinary way with his fingers. He did not think that there had been much to complain of in that accompaniment. At any rate it was better than was got ordinarily from a young lady in a drawing-room, when asked to accompany a song. It would be a perfect blessing to many people if they were able to have a song with an accompaniment played in a decent way. This would no doubt be a tremendous gain; so it was impossible to gainsay the fact that the machine might be extremely useful, and would supply a genuine want. It would enable people to play classical music which they could not hope to play at all fairly with their hands, and it would enable them to have a properly played accompaniment to a song. There was no doubt that those things were not possible in the ordinary state of musical education. Many people could be found to play classical pieces fairly well, but there were very few people who could play the accompaniment to a simple song. This showed that there must be something wrong in the way that pianists and children at school were being educated. The power to read a simple piece of music such as the accompaniment of an ordinary song, was hardly to be found, and yet some people could sit down and play half a dozen extremely difficult pieces such as ballades of Chopin and sonatas by Beethoven. He had heard this admirably done by children, and he had given the same children a small piece from an album, and they had been unable to read it. To be able to play the difficult pieces without being able to read the simple ones, was not being a musician, it was being a machine. He would rather buy a machine than have his child turned into a machine. One of the things that the inventors and advocates of the machine for playing the piano ought to be most proud about, was the fact that they had got the machine into such a position that it demanded from the performer the exercise of his own brain. It was not a thing where they had simply to turn on a tap, so that they could sit down and smoke while they listened. That had been done many years ago. But here was an instrument into which the performer could put his own musical feeling if he had any. This was a fact