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Roll Tracking Problems

Occasionally, I receive letters like the one just below:

"I have an Aeolian 'Sting' player piano purchased new in 1973, and half of the rolls I play sound fine but many of them sound terrible. Those that sound bad have many notes that do not play and some notes that sound very weak. The holes do not match up with the holes in the bar. Do rolls wear out? And if so, I would like to replace some of mine with new ones. Some of mine are more than 25 years old. They look ok but do not sound ok."

Here's how I responded to the above concern:

If rolls are well cared for, they typically last for at least 50 years. Some of the rolls in my collection are over 80 years old.

On the surface, it sounds like you might have a tracking problem. There is a device in the player piano that is designed to automatically adjust the position of the roll so that the holes in the roll stay in alignment with the holes in the trackerbar. The device relies on the edges of the roll being flat and straight. If the edges of the rolls are curled or damaged in any way, they will mislead the automatic tracking device.

Another problem could be that the small holes which "read" the edges of the roll have become clogged with paper dust. To solve that problem, you will need to vacuum out the tracker holes with a powerful vacuum cleaner or a hand-held trackerbar pump. That pump sells for $58.50 plus $8.95 S/H.

Further, you must insure that the music roll paper is touching the right hand flange. To do this, hold the roll in a straight-up position and allow it to drop onto a hard surface. This is called 'tapping the roll'. Instructions for doing this operation are usually written inside the top of the music roll box.

Another problem could be that the rolls are not correctly "seated" in the spoolbox. Awhile back, QRS had a rash of spool flanges that were a tiny bit smaller than normal. As a result, the flange did not marry-up properly with the roll spindle. The only way to fix the problem is to file down the right hand spindle about 0.005". With a fine file, it should take about five minutes to file it down.

Lastly, your Aeolian 'Sting' is equipped with a "Transposing Trackerbar". Though it was designed to allow you to change the key of the music being played, it can also be used to compensate for minor errors in roll position. The pictures below show the knurl knob (ttb1.jpg) and the position indicator (ttb2.jpg). The relative position of the trackerbar can be moved either right or left with the knurl knob to compensate for slight irregularities in the position of the roll or minor tracking problems. And, while I'm not suggesting that the transposing device be used as a permanent 'cure-all', it can be used temporarily to enjoy the music until the tracking problem is identified and corrected.

Musically,

John A. Tuttle


Position Indicator Transposing Trackerbar Knurl Knob

For more information about roll tracking problems and solutions, see:

Tracking Problems - Click Here
Testing the Player Piano - Click Here
Adjusting Pneumatic Finger Trackers - Click Here
How To Operate a Player Piano - Click Here

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This page was last revised October 8, 2016 by John A. Tuttle, who Assumes No Liability
For The Accuracy or Validity of the Statements and/or Opinions
Expressed within the Pages of the Player-Care Domain.
Cartoon Graphics by E7 Style Graphics (Eric Styles)


Since "Player-Care" is an internet business, I prefer that we correspond via E-Mail (click here to fill out the 'Request Form'). However, if I'm not in the middle of some other activity, you can reach me at 732-840-8787. But please understand that during the hours from 8AM-5PM EST (Mon-Sat), I'm generally quite busy. So, I probably won't answer the phone. If you get the answering machine, please leave a detailed message stating the reason for your call. Also, repeat your name and phone number clearly and distinctly. By necessity, I prioritize everything in my life. And, if you call and just leave your name and number, and ask me to call you back, it might be a day or two before I return your call. Why? Because I don't know why you want me to call and I might not be prepared to assist you in an effective and efficient manner. If you leave me an E-Mail address (which I prefer), spell it out phonetically. The more you do to help me, the more I can help you in return. Don't rush. You have four minutes to record your message.


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