I Love a Player
The Preface: A World Wonder
by John A. Tuttle
Since my first encounter with the player piano at the age of twenty-one, I have loved making them work and seeing the smiles that hearing them play can bring to peoples faces. This mechanical marvel has had a profound influence on my personal life for many reasons.
Primarily, the fact that the piano was my first abstract love at the age of eleven and my familiarity with vacuum operated devices, vaguely similar to those I encountered as the operator of a two-and-a-half million watt radar system aboard a pressurized aircraft, gave me the nerve to attempt my first "repair job".
The similarity between the player and the first computers further stimulated me to explore the workings of the mechanism. And after successfully repairing the very first one I encountered, I was "hooked". My abstract love affair with pianos and player pianos has continued to grow and with the exception of God, my wife and my daughter, I can say with certainty that "I love players" above all else.
For years I have been enthusiastically educating people about the workings and proper care of their player mechanism and have often been asked to "write it all down". One other impetus for this treatise is my belief that the mechanism is actually pretty easy to understand if presented in a manner which draws on the universal principles that most people learn in grade school. Personally, I think that learning how to play the piano "correctly" is much more difficult than understanding the principles of operation of the player mechanism.
Furthermore, I have heard, from numerous customers over the years who have read the two most noted reference books: Rebuilding the Player by Larry Givens and Player Servicing and Repairing by Arthur Reblitz, and attempted to work on the mechanism, that the principles are not explained in a manner that is easily understood.
Unfortunately, most of us live in a "pressurized" world. That is to say that almost everything we do requires some type of pressure to accomplish a task. In Chapter One I will explain "Negative Air Pressure" and how it is utilized in the player piano.
Lastly, I wish to emphasize that although the basic operating principles of the player piano, nickelodeon and reproducing instruments can be readily understood, attempting to repair or rebuild them should be approached with caution and lots of research. Understanding how and why something works and repairing it when it's broken are, in my opinion, two entirely separate issues. Further, I'm inclined to quote Larry Givens who said on Pg.19 of his book, "Some ingenuity may be required, as manufacturers practices varied to such an extent that it is impossible to give any general procedure for this operation.", which he said in regard to separating the stack (or windchest) of the player mechanism upon which the small "finger pneumatics" (or strikers) are mounted.
This page was last edited on February 3, 2004 by John A. Tuttle (John A Tuttle)
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