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Using The Player-Care Test Roll
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The Player Piano Rebuilder's Most Important Tool
(Other Test Rolls that we offer are found here.)

To purchase the Player-Care Test Roll for $34.70, Click Here to fill out the Order Form (preferred), or call 1-732-840-8787.

The Player-Care Test Roll is designed to help the user determine Six basic operating characteristics of any regular 88-note player piano mechanism. They are: General Leakage, Tracking, Tempo Control, Scale Uniformity, Repetition, and Capacity. Our new test roll tests ALL 88 notes. It should also be noted that the tests on the roll are not individually marked or named. Therefore, small graphics are included below as necessary to help you determine which portion of the roll performs which test. To hear what the test roll sounds like as played in the MIDI program used to design the roll, click here. Or, to hear an MP3 file, click here.

Before using the Test Roll, play each key on the piano by hand, and note all problems or inconsistencies.

Remember: The player mechanism cannot play the piano any better than the piano plays by hand.

Before You Begin: Use a Trackerbar Pump and 'Pump the Bar'.

Installing the Test Roll

Picture of a Standard-Type Spoolbox

1) Place the Play/Reroll Lever in the Reroll position. This action disengages the Take-Up Spool from the Transmission, allowing the Take-Up Spool to turn freely.
2) Place the Test Roll into the upper portion of the Spoolbox by depressing the Spring-Loaded Roll Chuck on the left with the flange on the left end of the music roll, and then guide the Slotted Flange, on the right side of the music roll, onto the Slotted Roll Chuck on the right. Be sure that the slot in the flange lines up with the protrusion on the chuck.
3) Pull the End Tab on the music roll down and over the Trackerbar, and connect the End Tab to the small Hook on the Take-Up Spool.
4) Turn the Take-Up Spool around by hand One Full Turn, insuring that all of the Note Holes in the Trackerbar are completely covered with blank paper.
5) Move the Play/Reroll Lever to the Play position.
6) Move the Tempo Control Lever so the needle on the Tempo Indicator points to '0' (Zero).
7) The unit is now ready to start testing.


Test No.1 - General Leakage Test

Click Here to see the Insides of Foot-Pumped Player Piano

Performing this test is quite easy. Simply start pushing alternately on the foot treadles at a rate of approximately one push per second. In a perfect world, you should only be able to push on the treadles three or four times (full pumps) before they resist being pushed any further.

Next, move the Tempo Control so the indicator needle points to '10'. Give the treadles three or four full pumps and then count the number of seconds it takes before the roll stops moving. In a perfect world, it should keep moving for about 5-8 seconds.

NOTE: One of the most important tests of any player piano mechanism is determining how well it can hold vacuum. The degree to which the system holds vacuum is directly related to the overall efficiency and function of the player mechanism. If the player mechanism is incapable of holding vacuum for at least a few seconds, one or more of the components in the system is leaking and should be fixed. To help you locate which component/s in the system is leaking, go to the "Test Your Player" web page - click here!

After completing the leakage test, Rewind the roll to the beginning and put the unit back in the Play mode. Then set the Tempo to '70'.


Test No.2 - Automatic Tracking Test

The first series of perforations on the Test Roll are designed to test the operation of the 88 notes. However, the very first two perforations on the roll are notes #1 and #88. If they do not line up with holes #1 and #88 on the trackerbar, there is a problem with the alignment of the roll tracking system. Also note that some player piano makers use holes #1, #2, #87, or #88 for Automatic Rewind. If your piano uses any of those holes for Auto-Rewind, it is recommended that you take a very small piece of Scotch brand invisible tape and permanently cover the hole on the test roll. That way you can still see through the holes in the roll to see if they line up with the holes in the trackerbar.

Note: The Tracking Sensors are like the 'Eyes' of the player mechanism. What they 'look at' are the edges of the music roll. Their only function is to provide the automatic tracking mechanism with information about the physical location of the music roll as it relates to the note holes in the trackerbar. If it is operating correctly, the automatic tracking mechanism will keep the holes in the music roll perfectly aligned with the holes in the trackerbar. (Some of the oldest player pianos did not have automatic tracking devices. If you have such a unit, manually adjust the position of the trackerbar so that notes #1 and #88 line up with holes #1 and #88 in the trackerbar.)

1) Start pumping.

2) As the perforations in the roll pass over the holes in the Trackerbar, check to see that the holes in the Trackerbar are being fully exposed (or opened 100%). If you have a hard time seeing what is happening, reduce the Tempo as necessary.

3) Locate the Automatic Tracking Sensors. (There are only two types of Automatic Tracking Sensors. They are: "Tracking Fingers", which touch the edge of the roll, and "Pneumatic Sensors", which are small holes at the right and left ends of the Trackerbar that sense the position of the edges of the paper.)

4) Alternately Open and Close the Tracking Sensors on the right side and then on the left side with your finger. As you do this, watch the movement of the music roll (or the Trackerbar). It should move smartly in the direction opposite to the Sensor being activated. With Finger Tracking, if you Open the Sensor on the Right, the roll should move Left. With Pneumatic Tracking, if you Close the Hole on the Right, the roll should move Left. Next, check the sensors on the Left, and insure that the roll moves Right.

(Note: Due to the fact that the Left Roll Spindle is Spring-Loaded, there is a natural, or normal tendency for the roll to move to the right. This is why you should check the operation of the sensors on the right before checking their operation on the left.)

5) When you stop activating the sensors manually, the roll should return to a position that is equidistant between the two sensors.

NOTE: If the Tracking Device does not perform well, or if it is sluggish in any way, the result will be a poor musical performance at the very least. Poor Tracking can also cause the player mechanism to malfunction.


Test No.3 - Note Function Test

NOTE: Basically speaking, the first set of perforations on the Test Roll are designed to test the function of each note. Each note should sound four times in a "Da-Dit-Dit-Dit" manner. List all of the notes that do not perform properly. Click Here to see a list of possible problems with notes that do not perform correctly. The holes in the roll are 1.7mm (or 0.067") in diameter -slightly over 1/16".

The Note test
Figure 1

1) Rewind the roll to the beginning. Set the Tempo to '70'. Put the unit in 'Play'.

2) As evenly as possible, pump the treadles and listen to each note as it plays. All the notes should play at the same volume level. List all inconsistencies.


Test No.4 - Tempo Test

NOTE 1: With regards to the Tempo setting, ALL player pianos have one thing in common. For every division of '10' on the Tempo Indicator, '1' foot of music paper should travel across the trackerbar in '1' minute. So, if the Tempo is set to '50', five (5) feet of music paper should travel across the trackerbar in one (1) minute. At '100', ten (10) feet will travel across the bar in one (1) minute.

NOTE 2: Although this test is primarily used to properly adjust the Tempo Control and the Air Motor Governor, it can also tell you quite a bit about the entire drive line between the 'governor' and the 'take-up spool'. For now, I will only explain how to perform the test.

Note the two 'snakebite' marks in the middle of the roll (see Figure 1 above). There are ten of these snakebites on the roll. They are spaced at ONE FOOT intervals.

1) Set the Tempo set to '60'.

2) Rewind the roll to the beginning of the roll.

3) Have a Stop Watch or a Wrist Watch with a Second Hand readily available.

4) Start pumping at a normal playing rate.

5) Start the stop watch (or note the position of the second hand) as the first set of snakebites crosses the holes in the trackerbar, and keep pumping.

6) If the Tempo Control and Air Motor Governor are correctly adjusted, the snakebites should sound at TEN SECOND intervals. So, by the time the 7th set of snakebites cross the bar, ONE MINUTE should have elapsed.

8) Stop the Stop Watch (or note the position of the second hand) when the 7th set of snakebites crosses the bar. Write down the amount of time that has elapsed. (This will be helpful when making adjustments to the Tempo Control and Air Motor Governor.)

9) If the mechanism fails this test, adjust the calibration of the Tempo Control and Air Motor Governor as required. See: Testing the Air Motor Governor

Lastly, also note that since the snakebites are spaced at one foot intervals, you can also check the linearity of the Tempo Control. That's because regardless of where you set the Tempo, the snakebites are set at one foot intervals and one foot of paper should travel across the trackerbar for every 10 deviations on the Tempo Indicator.

Test No.5 - Repetition Test

Repetition Test

NOTE: As the name implies, this test checks the repetitive ability of both the player mechanism and the piano action. In most cases, if the mechanism fails this test, there are problems with the valves or the regulation of the player mechanism. However, it is also possible that the problem is related to the regulation of the piano action. If you are in doubt about the regulation of the piano action, consult with any regular piano tuner. After performing a few very simple tests, they can tell you if the piano action is properly regulated.

1) Leave the Tempo set at '70' and pump the treadles so that the volume of each note is as soft as possible. Pumping the treadles hard or fast can mask repetition problems. As each perforation passes over the trackerbar, the corresponding notes should articulate evenly. Note all inconsistencies.


Test No.6 - Scale Uniformity Test

Scale Uniformity Test

NOTE: As the name implies, this test checks the uniformity of the scale from Note 4 to Note 84. What this means is that the volume of each note should be the same as every other note. The volume should be 'uniform' from one end of the scale to the other. Most 'uniformity' problems are related to improper regulation of player action or the piano action.

1) Leave the Tempo set at '70' and pump the treadles so that the volume of each note is as soft as possible. Pumping the treadles hard or fast can play the notes so loudly that it will be difficult to determine which notes are louder or softer than the rest. Note all inconsistencies.


Test No.6 - Capacity Tests

Capacity Test

NOTE: This test is designed to give you a good idea about how the unit will perform under 'normal' to 'very heavy' usage. Unlike the previous portions of the Test Roll, this section plays numerous notes at the same time.

1) Leave the Tempo at '70' and pump the treadles normally (as though you are playing a regular music roll).

2) Play through the first portion of this test, which plays as series of large chords, in a normal fashion. Take note of how the tension of the treadles changes as the large chords play. You might have to pump a bit faster (or harder) to keep the volume uniform. This is normal.

3) The next portion of this test plays a rather large arpeggio, followed by a series of chords.

4) The next portion is a very aggressive capacity test which plays an increasing number of staccato notes. As the number of notes being played increases, it is normal for pumping to become increasingly more difficult. This test is designed to determine the amount of transient losses caused by valve travel. If the valve travel is excessive, it might be quite difficult to keep the notes playing at the same volume as when the notes started playing.

5. The next section is primarily designed to test the atmosphere side of the valves and the note bellows. If they are leaking, the notes will initially play fairly well, but the pedal pressure will rapidly decrease.

6. The last section plays three very large chords. Here again, these chords test for exhaust valve (or atmosphere side) and bellows leakage.

This concludes the Test

Below is a list of the various problems that could cause a note not to work correctly. Some of these problems are relatively easy to correct. Therefore, for simplicity sake, the corrective action is included here. As time permits, I plan to link the other problems to a web page that will endeavor to explain how to correct the problem.

1. Paper Dust and Debris in the trackerbar tubing and the bleed cups. Remedy: "Pump the Bar"

2. Pinched, collapsed, or bent trackerbar tubing. Remedy: Visually inspect effected notes. Correct as needed.

3. Leaking valves. Remedy: Inspect, clean, or rebuild. (web page under construction)

4. Leaking or damaged pouches. Remedy: Seal or replace same. (web page under construction)

5. Leaking or damaged note bellows (or striker pneumatics). Remedy: Repair or re-cover same. (web page under construction)

6. Broken or deteriorated leather nuts at striker rods.

The above tests are merely the major aspects of a player system that can be checked and/or tested by using the Player-Care Test Roll. I often use the roll to troubleshoot normal problems like intermittent or leaky valves, and odd problems like incorrect tubing of the trackerbar or leaky exhauster flaps. In the hands of a qualified technician, or an experienced user, the Test Roll can even be effectively used to check the regulation of the player and piano actions. The point is, THE TEST ROLL IS A VERY IMPORTANT TOOL.


John A. Tuttle
Email: john at player-care dot com


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This page was last revised July 9, 2023 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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