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Trouble Shooting a Player Piano can be intimidating if you don't have a thorough understanding of a few basic principals. One of the most important of these principles is 'How a Valve Works' -click here. Next is understanding the primary function of each of the major components in the system -click here. Next is isolating the component that is most likely causing the problem, and testing that device -click here. From that point, it's best to get the service manual (if one is available) -click here for your particular player mechanism. While all player pianos operate on exactly the same principles, pictures and diagrams are often helpful. For general information about 'the basics' and Rebuilding a Player Piano -click here.

As the player piano developed, a number of highly sophisticated systems were manufactured. They include the Duo-Art, Ampico, and Welte-Mignon Reproducing systems. Slightly less complex are 'Expression Systems' like the Recordo, Art Apollo, and Angelus. However, while these systems are indeed quite complicated overall, every one of the devices in the mechanism use the same principles of operation as every other type of player piano. In a very real sense, player pianos are like the automobile before computers came along. While valve trains, carburetors, and ignition systems were designed differently, they all operated on the same principles. That said, it is still highly recommended that you purchase the appropriate manual for any reproducing or expression system before attempting to do any trouble shooting.

In order to do effective trouble shooting, you need a source of vacuum. A regular household vacuum cleaner produces more than enough vacuum to trouble shoot virtually any device in any type of player piano. In fact, most vacuum cleaners produce too much vacuum, and for that reason it is wise to have a means of regulating the amount of vacuum. This can be accomplished in either of two basic ways. One is by introducing a controllable leak into the vacuum supply line. Although crude, this can be done by putting a "T" into the supply line and connecting a faucet to one leg of the "T". The second way is by varying the voltage to the vacuum cleaner. This can be easily accomplished by putting a household dimmer switch in series with one leg of the A/C line. (Naturally, once you have a variable vacuum source, you'll need a number of different sized fittings to connect the source to the device being tested.)

One other tool that's good to have is a vacuum gauge. These can be quite expensive because player pianos actually require a very low amount of vacuum if they are working correctly. In fact, the vacuum is measure in inches of water. Here is the link to a simple homemade gauge -click here.

Player Piano Reference Materials - Click Here

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This page was last revised May 14, 2017 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 T 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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