Re-Tubing the Tracker Bar

by John A. Tuttle

What is a Tracker Bar?

The Tracker Bar is the part of the Player Piano that 'touches' the paper roll. It is located between the Roll and the Take-up Spool in the Spool or Roll Box.

How is the Tracker Bar Re-Tubed?

Lots of Player Pianos have flexible tubing connected to the Tracker Bar and, as the tubing ages, it looses it's flexibility and cracks. When this happens, notes play when they are not suppose to play (called cyphering). This type of cyphering can only be fixed by replacing the flexible tubing.
Removing and Replacing the flexible tubing is one of the more intimidating jobs facing many novice rebuilders. However, Tracker Bars are all basically the same in that each nipple on the tracker bar is connected to a piece of hard tubing at the other end.
Typically, they follow a very neat order in that the first note hole on either end on the Tracker Bar corresponds to the first (or last) note on the Stack.
Each piece of 'hard tubing' is connected to a note valve at one end and the Tracker bar at the other end. It is the re-tubing of this later section that is addressed in this treatise. Once the upper half of the player mechanism has been removed from the piano, removing the tracker bar is usually very easy. Directly in back of the tracker bar (on the upper side) there are normally two pieces of wood. Locate the screws and remove the two pieces. In some cases, parts of the roll tracking mechanism will have to be disconnected and put to the side temporarily. In a few types of players, there is also a piece of wood on the underside of the tracker bar. If so, it should be removed.
Now the Tracker Bar is fully exposed and you can see the tubing. The majority (or all) of the tubing is in a tight mass that looks almost impossible to remove. To begin removing the tubing, take a very sharp knife and cut the entire mass right down the middle from one side to the other. (Do not attempt to cut each tube lengthwise.) Next, counting from the right (or left), gently pull every other tube (and it's associated tracker bar nipple) upwards until it no longer touches the tube and nipple on either side. Be careful not to bend the nipple any further than necessary. In some cases, the tubing can now be removed from the tracker bar. However, do not try to pull it off. First, try to push it ON a little further. This will break the natural seal between the brass nipple and the rubber tube. Now the tube can very easily be removed and discarded. If the tubing will not 'push on' any further, proceed as follows. Now take a sharp knife and score the tubing where it connects to the nipple in a lengthwise fashion right down to the brass nipple. Then take the blade and spread the tubing where it is scored. This will usually release the natural seal and the tubing will pull off easily. If the tubing is very hard and cracks instead of scoring, refer to the other treatise on retubing the tracker bar at:
After all the upper row of tubing is gone, proceed as above on the lower row, but turn the mechanism up-side-down. When finished, remove the tracker bar and clean and polish it for installation later and turn your attention to the section of tubing connected to the lead tubing. Removing this tubing requires more a delicate touch since it is not as forgiving as brass. If the lead tubing continues to break no mater how you handle it, it should also be removed and replaced with neoprene tubing as per the treatise at:
Now the tracker is ready to have the new tubing installed. My best recommendation for installing the new tubing on a transposing tracker bar is to start at one end and place each tube on in it's natural order, i.e., 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., as opposed to tubing the lower half or upper half first. After all the tubes are back in place, crush the tubing into a nice ever mass as it was before you started. This is best accomplished with your fingers. I simply squeeze the upper and lower rows together as tight as possible. I do not recommend the use of pliers or vise-grips to do this job because the nipples would be mashed down. You will be surprised how easily they will push back into place. Then reassemble the remained of the pieces.

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This page was last revised on March 2, 2002 by John A. Tuttle
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