Foot pedal pumped upright player pianos for the home were introduced shortly after 1900. For nearly 30 years, these were immensely popular as a major source of home musical entertainment in the age before radio.
An advanced version of these pianos called reproducing pianos were soon introduced. They contained a special elaborate mechanism designed to play special coded rolls, often recorded by famous pianists, to accurately reproduce all the dynamics of the original performance. Imagine listening to Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 played by Paderewski, or Rhapsody in Blue played by the composer George Gershwin! All played as they were originally on a magnificent Steinway Grand with all the expression and dynamics intended by the artist. Thousands of classical and popular performances by famous composers and pianists were recorded on rolls for these special reproducing pianos.
Two examples of reproducing pianos are in this collection. The Steinway Duo-Art XR and the Knabe Ampico model A are magnificently restored grand pianos.
This Steinway six foot grand was built around 1925 with a factory installed Duo-Art expression system. It was completely restored around 1990. The mechanism of the Duo-Art reproduces not only the notes, tempo, phrasing, and attack, but also every tone gradation precisely as originally played and recorded by the artist, including all the dynamics of his rendition with the innumerable gradations from pianissimo to sforzando, all crescendos and diminuendos, and all pedal effects. In short, the Duo-Art music rolls reproduce the individual manner and musical personality of the recording artists in a truly remarkable manner.
Not to be outdone by the Duo-Art Company, The American Piano Company produced a competing mechanism and installed it in fine upright and grand pianos. Its reproducing mechanism was called the AMPICO. This piano is a 1920 Knabe 5'' 8'' grand. It was completely refinished and restored in 2000 to better than new! Where Duo-Art placed their roll spool box above the key board, Ampico placed it in a sliding drawer below the keyboard. While the design and architecture of the Ampico was different than the Duo-Art, the musical result was the same. Ampico also contracted with notable pianists and composers for creation of rolls.
This page was last updated on: March 5, 2013
A small portion of the Music Roll library available for these pianos