PLAYER PIANOS WERE OUR FIRST PASSION. Mike Rechel rebuilt his first player piano at age fourteen, following the instructions in a book from the library. Since then we have learned a lot about player repair, and here’s the most important lesson:
The more you use the methods and materials used by the craftsmen that built the player piano, the better your player will perform.
So, we use the same animal glues, the same twill covered hose and 100% rubber and cotton pneumatic cloth as original. New leather on all the gaskets. And time, lots of time. Player work is meticulous, and it takes time to do it right. But the result is a player piano that pumps well, sounds great and lasts for years.
If your player was working well and suddenly stopped, it’s probably a simple repair involving a loose hose or a linkage that requires adjustment. These repairs are usually quick and inexpensive.
If your player has not worked in a number of years, it may require a total rebuild of the player unit of the piano. A proper rebuilding of the Player action includes replacing all the pneumatic cloth (thin cotton cloth covered with rubber), hoses and rubber tubing, leather gaskets and valve facings. All these material disintegrate over time and lose their ability to maintain the vacuum which the player uses to operate. The player is then reassembled and the valves and pneumatics regulated to allow the player to reproduce all the notes on the player roll.
Typically one of two scenarios presents itself with a hard to pump player. Occasionally a single component - a hose or air motor or such -will be defective and need to be rebuilt or replaced. More often, the player mechanism was rebuilt thirty or more years ago and the materials used in the rebuild are now starting to dry out and leak. In this case, you have two options; installing an electric blower to get more years out of the existing player piano, or having the player unit rebuilt.
A centrifugal electric blower is installed out of sight in the lower portion of the piano cabinet. Attached to the player action, it creates the same vacuum to operate the player that you do when you pump the treadles with your feet. The blowers manufactured and installed by Rechel Piano Company feature a volume control, a rewind speed reduction, and a one way valve to allow the piano to still be pumped by foot.
Reproducing player pianos were manufactured between 1905 and World War II. They not only play the notes, but also vary the volume and intensity at which the different notes are played. The result was a sound very close to reproducing that of a living person playing the piano. This type of piano was quite expensive, usually mounted on a grand piano and was somewhat rare.
They were produced by three companies: Aeolean, who made the “Duo Art”, American Piano Company, who made the “Ampico”, and the “Welte”, made by several companies. Each brand used it’s own specially coded rolls, which were not interchangeable. Rechel Piano has experience in the service of each of these models.
Yes. The QRS company continues to make player rolls, as they have since the turn of the century. They can be contacted at 1-800-24rolls or www.qrsmusic.com. Several companies also still make rolls for reproducing player pianos. Please contact us for more information.
We strive to have a service technician available to answer the phone 9 to noon, E.S.T., weekdays. At other times, they will answer if they are available, but they may be doing restorations or be in the field. At these times, please leave a message and we will respond as soon as possible.