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Solodant Expression Systems

Solodant and Themodist "Themed" Rolls
By Dan Wilson

 [ A "themed" roll is simply an 88-note roll but with extra holes which
 [ operate a pneumatic "theme" device.  Notes struck coincident with the
 [ tiny extra "snake-bite" holes will be accented if the system is set to
 [ play "un-themed" notes at a softer "subdued" level.  -- Robbie

Colin Hinz asked if the rolls made for the Themodist and Solodant expression 
systems are mutually compatible.

"Solodant" was originally Hupfeld's name for their theme system which, like 
a lot of the later instruments and even some early Aeolian Themodist machines, 
only gave you one level of subduing on the non-themed notes when you pushed 
the lever or button. You couldn't undo this subduing gradually if you wanted 
a crescendo, you had to switch the whole system off.

Aeolian kicked off in 1897 with a graduated subdue using slider levers years 
before Themodist (treble only to start with, then bass plus treble circa 1899).  
When they agreed with Hupfeld to use the theme system, it was natural that 
they would make the "snakebites" undo the subduing they already had, so they 
had "graduated subduing" from the start.  This turned out to be vastly superior 
once the user understood what was going on.

With Aeolian machines appearing in Germany, Hupfeld were quick to appreciate 
the difference and all their 88-note rolls and machines were designed from the 
start (1908) for graduated subduing.  So Animatic rolls have snakebites all the 
way through, because the user can remove their effect in loud playing if desired.  
Aeolian, on the other hand, sold its rolls to people with wretched "button subdue" 
systems, so all the loud parts had to be labeled NORMAL to tell them to switch 
the theme system off, and the softer parts labeled SOLO to tell them snakebites 
were coming again, even though none of this was needed on its own Aeolian 
instruments. This NORMAL/SOLO convention was used everywhere except in France, 
where Pleyela (but not EMP !) called SOLO "CHANTEUR".

Apart from this, themed rolls are themed rolls and you can use them on any system 
if you know what you're doing with the controls.

---------------------------

Re: What is "Solodant" Control?
By Robin Pratt

"Solodant" is quite simply the same as "Themodist" on Aeolian products. It's a 
method for "accenting" or "theme-ing" a note or group of notes -- in other words, 
to make them somewhat more pronounced (or louder) than the accompanying 
(accompaniment) notes. You will find Solodant on Wilcox and White products. 
Possibly elsewhere.

Robin Pratt

---------------------------------

Re: What is "Solodant" Control?
By Dan Wilson

Terry Macham wrote in Digest 970113:

> I ran across a Weber (Canadian) player piano the other day. There
> is a lever located to the right of the tracker bar labeled "Solodant."
> What is the function of this control?

"Solodant" means the same as "Themodist" -- it's the system that employs the 
little snakebite perforations on the edges of "Solo", "Accentuated" or 
"Metrostyle-Themodist" rolls. Usually (but there are always exceptions) 
Solodant cut the playing down to a fixed power level and Themodist cut it 
down to the degree you're holding the treble and bass slide levers over; and 
the "snakebites" undo the subduing for those notes starting at the same instant. 
Result, "snakebitten" notes stand out above the others. A useful add-on, in my 
view -- nearly all UK players use this system in one form or another.

What intrigues me is that a Weber piano should have this label, because "Solodant" 
was the system used by the rivals to Aeolian Co. who owned the Weber marque. Was 
this a piano converted to a player by someone else ? Does the motor have five or 
six bellows, Terry ? What other controls and labels are there ?

There was a long and badly-written account by me of Solodant in MMD 96.09.11, 
subject: "More Foot Pumping".

Dan Wilson

[ That subject of that article is perennial, Dan. Could you re-write it
[ sometime for publication again in the Digest? -- Robbie

---------------------------------

More Foot Pumping
By Dan Wilson

Jim Canavan asks about playing Themodist rolls on a non-theme
player:

> When "SOLO" appears on the roll, I normally hold the Bass
> slider over to dampen the bass line. Once "NORMAL" appears,
> I release it. My reasoning is that since I can't increase
> vacuum to the theme half of the keyboard (as I could with a
> expression or reproducing piano), it makes sense to "quiet"
> the bass line. Does this make sense?

The situation with SOLO on the rolls is more than a little
strange. The original patentees of the system in Europe were
Hupfeld who called it Solodant and used it on their 73-note rolls
with the theme down the middle. The original form of this had bass
and treble subduing using buttons with a left thumb lever enabling
you to increase the overall subduing relative to the theme (which
was as loud as you were pedalling). So you could subdue bass or
treble individually, but not by different degrees. Aeolian somehow
managed to weasel round the patents with Themodist by giving you
double thumb levers which gave (if you were good enough to use
them that way) different subduing for treble and bass, except when
pressed hard over, they just allowed a two-note chord to speak
when you were pedalling fit to burst - a very good system indeed
which I think could only have been improved by making the levers
work backwards so that you had to use them to get any sound at all
and so would have had to learn how to use them. As it was, most
beginners with no tuition simply ignored them and the pianola got
a junk reputation amongst piano lovers as a result.

Other makers bought Solodant licences and those using the Standard
action gave you two subduing buttons which shut down the playing
to a fixed degree, sometimes by choking one half of the stack and
sometimes using pneumatics driving divided half-blow rails, and
instead of Hupfeld's differentiation slider, a nasty little toggle
lever (I'm being partisan here to gee up the discussion a bit)
which turned the Solodant on. This merely gave you two power
levels, your pedalling power when a theme hole was open and a
halfway-down power (something like both Aeolian levers two-thirds
over) when it wasn't. If you put SOLODANT on when there was no
theme on the roll, it made playing unexpressive and difficult, so
following the tradition on the original 73-note rolls, all
Solodant rolls said SOLO and NORMAL as appropriate so you could
switch on Solodant when needed.
The above articles are used by permission from the Mechanical Music Digest

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This page was last revised October 23, 2022 by John A. Tuttle, who Assumes No Liability
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This web page was originally posted in 2013.


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