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A player piano (also known as a pianola) is a self-playing piano containing a pneumatic or electro-mechanical mechanism, that operates the piano action via programmed music recorded on perforated paper or metallic rolls, with more modern implementations using MIDI. The rise of the player piano grew with the rise of the mass-produced piano for the home, in the late 19th and early 20th century.  Sales peaked in 1924, then declined, as the improvement in phonograph recordings due to electrical recording methods developed in the mid-1920s. The advent of electrical amplification in home music reproduction via radio in the same period helped cause their eventual decline in popularity, and the stock market crash of 1929 virtually wiped out production. 
In 1896, Edwin S. Votey invented the first practical pneumatic piano player, called the Pianola. 
This mechanism came into widespread use in the 20th century, and was all-pneumatic, with foot-operated bellows providing a source of vacuum needed to operate a pneumatic motor, driving the take-up spool, while each small inrush of air through a hole in the paper roll was amplified in two pneumatic stages, to sufficient strength to strike a note. 
Votey advertised the Pianola widely, making unprecedented use of full-page color advertisements. It was sold initially for $250. Other, cheaper makes were launched. A standard 65-note format evolved, with 11+1⁄4-inch-wide (290 mm) rolls and holes spaced 6 to the inch, although several player manufacturers used their own form of roll incompatible with other makes.
By 1903, the Aeolian Company had more than 9,000 roll titles in their catalog, adding 200 titles per month. Many companies' catalogs ran to thousands of rolls, mainly consisting of light, religious or classical music. Ragtime music did feature, but not commonly.
Melville Clark, introduced two key features to the player piano, the full-scale roll which could play every note on the piano keyboard, and the internal player as standard.
By the end of the decade, the piano player device and the 65-note format became obsolete. This caused issues for many small manufacturers, who had spent their capital on setting up 65-note player operations, and the result was rapid consolidation in the industry.
A new full-scale roll format, playing all 88 notes, was agreed at an industry conference in Buffalo, New York in 1908, the so-called Buffalo Convention. This kept the 111⁄4-inch roll, but now had smaller holes spaced at 9 to the inch. This meant that any player could now play any make of roll. This consensus was key to avoiding a costly format war, which plagued almost every other form of entertainment media that followed roll music.
While the player piano matured in America, an inventor in Germany, Edwin Welte, was working on a player which would reproduce all the aspects of the performance automatically, so that his machine would play back a recorded performance exactly as if the original pianist were sitting at the piano keyboard. Known as a Reproducing Piano, this device, the Welte-Mignon, was launched in 1904. It created new marketing opportunities, as manufacturers could now get the foremost pianists and composers of the day to record their performances on a piano roll, allowing owners of player pianos to experience such a performance in their own homes on their own instruments, exactly as the original pianist had played it.
Aeolian introduced Metrostyle in 1901 and the Themodist in 1904, the latter being an invention "bringing out the melody clearly above the accompaniment."  With sales growing rapidly, and the instruments themselves relatively mature, this decade saw a wider variety of rolls become available. Two major advances were the introduction of the hand-played roll, both classical and popular, and the word roll.
The other major advance was the arrival in America of two major commercial rivals for the Welte-Mignon Reproducing Piano: the Ampico (from 1911 but fully 're-enacting' by 1916) and the Duo-Art (1914). Artrio-Angelus also introduced a reproducing player from 1916. When World War I came in 1914, German patents were seized in the US. In England, Aeolian had a huge factory and sales network, so easily outsold the Ampico. Other makers of Reproducing systems were successful in Europe: Hupfeld Meisterspiel DEA (1907) and Philipps Duca (c 1909). Hupfeld perfected an 88 note reproducing system, the Triphonola, in 1919 It is estimated that around 5% of players sold were Reproducing Pianos.
In America by the end of the decade, the new 'jazz age' and the rise of the fox-trot confirmed the player piano as the instrument of popular music, with classical music increasingly relegated to the reproducing piano. Most American roll companies stopped offering large classical catalogs before 1920, and abandoned 'instrumental' rolls (those without words) within a few years.
In England, the Aeolian Company continued to find success selling classical material, as well as customers willing to contribute to performances by following directions printed on the rolls and operate the hand and foot controls. Sydney Grew, in his manual The Art of the Piano Player, published in London in 1922, said that "it takes about three years to make a good player-pianist of a man of woman of average musical intelligence. It takes about seven years to make a good pianist, or organist, or singer".  Word rolls never became the norm in England, always being charged at a 20% premium over non-word rolls. As a result, post-World War I American and British roll collections look very different.
During the early 1950s, a number of collectors began to collect player pianos and all the other instruments of the 1920s and earlier. Among them was Frank Holland, who formed his collection while working in Canada. On returning to England, he located a number of like-minded enthusiasts and started to hold meetings at his house in west London. In 1959 this was formalized as 'The Player Piano Group'. By the early 1960s, Frank Holland had formed the British Piano Museum (now the Musical Museum) in Brentford.
In America, another collector was Harvey Roehl, who was so enthused by the players that in 1961 he published a book called Player Piano Treasury. This sold by the tens of thousands, and was followed by books on how to rebuild and restore these instruments. Roehl's Vestal Press was a major driving force in raising awareness of the player piano within the general population.
Other societies worldwide were formed to preserve and study all aspects of mechanical music, such as the Musical Box Society International (MBSI) and the Automatic Musical Instruments Collector's Association (AMICA) in the USA. 
In 1961, Max Kortlander died of a heart attack, and QRS was run by his wife until she sold the company to Ramsi Tick in 1966, who focussed on limiting losses rather than widening profits. QRS's presence ensured that owners of newly awakened players could purchase rolls of the latest titles, so ensuring that the instrument remained current, not just a historical curiosity.
The revival of interest in player pianos in the 1960s, lead to the production of player pianos to start again. Aeolian revived the Pianola, albeit this time in a small spinet piano suited to post-war housing. Other manufacturers followed, and production has continued intermittently ever since. QRS today offers a traditional player piano in its Story and Clark piano.
In recent years, there has been greater focus on full rebuilding as original instruments. Early enthusiasts could often get by with limited patching, but the repair requirements have slowly risen, although to this day it is possible to find original 1920s instruments that still work.[ citation needed ]
While there are many minor differences between manufacturers, a player piano is a piano that contains a manually controlled pneumatically operating piano player mechanism. It is intended that the operator manually manipulates the control levers in order to produce a musical performance. Various aids to the human operator were developed:
Music rolls for pneumatic player pianos, often known as piano rolls, consist of a continuous sheet of paper rolled on to a spool. The spool fits into the player piano spool box whereupon the free end of the music sheet is hooked onto the take-up spool which will unwind the roll at an even pace across the reading mechanism (the "tracker bar") The music score to be played is programmed onto the paper by means of perforations. Different player systems have different perforation sizes, channel layouts and spool fittings though the majority conform to one or two predominant formats latterly adopted as the industry standard.
Music is programmed via a number of methods.
The player piano sold globally in its heyday, and music rolls were manufactured extensively in the US, as well as most European countries, South America, Australia and New Zealand. A large number of titles from all manufacturers survive to this day, and rolls still turn up regularly in large quantities.
It was reported that the last remaining mass producer of piano rolls in the world, QRS Music, temporarily halted production of the rolls on December 31, 2008.  However, QRS Music still list themselves as the only roll manufacturer remaining, and claim to have 45,000 titles available with "new titles being added on a regular basis". 
The Musical Museum in Brentford, London, England houses a nationally significant collection of piano rolls, with over 20,000 rolls, as well as an extensive collection of instruments which may be seen and heard. 
Later developments of the reproducing piano include the use of magnetic tape and floppy disks, rather than piano rolls, to record and play back the music; and, in the case of one instrument made by Bösendorfer, computer assisted playback.
In 1982, Yamaha Corporation introduced the "Piano Player", which was the first mass-produced, commercially available reproducing piano that was capable of digitally capturing and reproducing a piano performance using floppy disk as a storage medium.  The Piano Player was replaced in 1987 by the Yamaha Disklavier and since 1998, the Disklavier PRO models are capable of capturing and reproducing "high-resolution" piano performances of up to 1024 velocity levels and 256 increments of positional pedalling using Yamaha's proprietary XP (Extended Precision) MIDI specification. 
Almost all modern player pianos use MIDI to interface with computer equipment. Most modern player pianos come with an electronic device that can record and playback MIDI files on floppy disks and/or CD-ROMs, and a MIDI interface that enables computers to drive the piano directly for more advanced operations. The MIDI files can trigger electromechanical solenoids, which use electric current to drive small mechanical plungers mounted to the key action inside the piano. Live performance or computer generated music can be recorded in MIDI file format for accurate reproduction later on such instruments. MIDI files containing converted antique piano-rolls can be purchased on the Internet.
As of 2006 [update] , several player piano conversion kits are available (PianoDisc, PNOmation, etc.), allowing the owners of normal pianos to convert them into computer controlled instruments. The conversion process usually involves cutting open the bottom of the piano to install mechanical parts under the keyboard, although one organization—Logos Foundation—has manufactured a portable, external kit. A new player piano conversion kit was introduced in 2007-08 by Wayne Stahnke, the inventor of the Bösendorfer SE reproducing system, called the "LX".
Steinway now manufactures a player piano based on Wayne Stahnke's Live Performance LX system. Live Performance Model LX, was sold to Steinway in 2014 and re-branded as Spirio. In contrast to other piano brands, a recording option was not originally available in Steinway Spirio pianos.  However, in 2019 Steinway introduced the Spirio | r, which is capable of both reproducing and recording piano music for later playback.
Edelweiss is a British music upcomer on the player piano market offering totally bespoke pianos, available in luxury department store Harrods since 2017  and according to the Financial Times YouTube channel 'How to Spend it', Edelweiss is "regarded as the most upmarket of today's breed of the self-playing piano". 
A player piano is neither an electric piano, electronic piano, nor a digital piano. The distinction between these instruments lies in the way sounds are produced. A player piano is an acoustic piano where the sound is produced by hammer strikes on the piano strings. Electrical or electronic components are limited to moving the keys or hammers mimicking the actions of a person; no sound is produced from electrically amplified audio.
The piano is a keyboard instrument with strings struck by wooden hammers coated with a softer material. It is played using its keyboard, which is a row of keys touched by the performer with the fingers and thumbs of both hands, causing the hammers to strike the strings. It was invented in Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori around the year 1700.
A piano roll is a music storage medium used to operate a player piano, piano player or reproducing piano. Piano rolls, like other music rolls, are continuous rolls of paper with holes punched into them. These perforations represent note control data. The roll moves over a reading system known as a tracker bar; the playing cycle for each musical note is triggered when a perforation crosses the bar.
Bösendorfer is an Austrian piano manufacturer and, since 2008, a wholly owned subsidiary of Yamaha Corporation. Bösendorfer is unusual in that it produces 97- and 92-key models in addition to instruments with standard 88-key keyboards.
M. Welte & Sons, Freiburg and New York was a manufacturer of orchestrions, organs and reproducing pianos, established in Vöhrenbach by Michael Welte (1807–1880) in 1832.
The Radiodrum or radio-baton is a musical instrument played in three-dimensional space using two mallets. It was developed at Bell Labs in the 1980s, originally to be a three-dimensional computer mouse. Currently it is used as a musical instrument similar to a MIDI controller in the sense that it has no inherent sound or effect, but rather produces control signals that can be used to control sound-production As such, it can be thought of as a general telepresence input device. The radiodrum works in a similar way to the theremin, which uses magnetic capacitance to locate the position of the drumsticks. The two mallets act as antennas transmitting on slightly different frequencies and the drum surface acts as a set of antennas. The combination of the antenna signals is used to derive X, Y and Z.
Ballet Mécanique (1923–24) is a Dadaist post-Cubist art film conceived, written, and co-directed by the artist Fernand Léger in collaboration with the filmmaker Dudley Murphy. It has a musical score by the American composer George Antheil. However, the film premiered in a silent version on 24 September 1924 at the Internationale Ausstellung neuer Theatertechnik in Vienna presented by Frederick Kiesler. It is considered one of the masterpieces of early experimental filmmaking.
A fairground organ is a French pneumatic musical organ covering the wind and percussive sections of an orchestra. Originated in Paris, France, it was designed for use in commercial fairground settings to provide loud music to accompany rides and attractions, mostly merry-go-rounds. Unlike organs for indoor use, they are designed to produce a large volume of sound to be heard above the noises of crowds and fairground machinery.
A Yamaha Artist is a designation bestowed by Yamaha, by invitation, to musical artists, considered to be critically acclaimed in their instruments or genres. Acceptance as a Yamaha Artist is tantamount to a reciprocal endorsement by Yamaha. Like other musical instrument manufacturers, Yamaha supports its artists in various ways.
QRS Music Technologies, Inc. is an American company that makes modern player pianos. It was founded as Q•R•S Music Company in 1900 to make piano rolls, the perforated rolls of paper read by player pianos to reproduce music. The company also produced vinyl records in the 1920s and 1930s and radios beginning in the 1920s. Today, it makes modern, digital variations on the player piano and the recordings to drive them.
A music roll is a storage medium used to operate a mechanical musical instrument. They are used for the player piano, mechanical organ, electronic carillon and various types of orchestrion. The vast majority of music rolls are made of paper. Other materials that have been utilized include thin card (Imhof-system), thin sheet brass (Telektra-system), composite multi-layered electro-conductive aluminium and paper roll (Triste-system) and, in the modern era, thin plastic or PET film.
American Piano Company (Ampico) was an American piano manufacturer formed in 1908 through the merger of Wm. Knabe & Co., Chickering & Sons, and Foster-Armstrong. They later purchased the Mason & Hamlin piano company as their flagship piano. The merger created one of the largest American piano manufacturers. In 1932, it was merged with the Aeolian Company to form Aeolian-American Co.
Duo-Art was one of the leading reproducing piano technologies of the early 20th century, the others being American Piano Company (Ampico), introduced in 1913 too, and Welte-Mignon in 1905. These technologies flourished at that time because of the poor quality of the early Phonograph. Between 1913 and 1925 a number of distinguished classical and popular pianists, such as Ignace Paderewski, Josef Hofmann, Percy Grainger, Teresa Carreño, Aurelio Giorni, Robert Armbruster and Vladimir Horowitz, recorded for Duo-Art, and their rolls are a legacy of 19th-century and early 20th-century aesthetic and musical practice. The recording process – using a piano wired to a perforating machine – was unable to capture the pianist's dynamics automatically. These were added by a recording technician, who manipulated hand controls to notate the dynamics onto the recording 'master'. Thus, post-recording editing was required to produce the finished performance – usually a joint effort by the recording technician and the pianist themself, who approved the final product. Thus, these recordings do represent the overall style of these great artists and are a good representation of their live performances.
Disklavier is a brand of reproducing pianos manufactured by Yamaha Corporation. The first Disklavier was introduced in the United States in 1987.
The Aeolian Company was a musical-instrument making firm whose products included player organs, pianos, sheet music, records and phonographs. Founded in 1887, it was at one point the world's largest such firm. During the mid 20th century, it surpassed Kimball to become the largest supplier of pianos in the United States, having contracts with Steinway & Sons due to its Duo-Art system of player pianos. It went out of business in 1985.
Yamaha Artist Services, Inc. is a provider of professional services exclusively for performing music artists, concert venues, performing arts organizations and educational institutions. Located at 689 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York City, YASI is owned by the American subsidiary of Yamaha Corporation and features rehearsal, recording and performance spaces for musicians.
The Vocalstyle Music Company of Cincinnati, Ohio was one of the foremost manufacturers of piano rolls. Founded around 1906, they were the first company to conceive of the idea of printing song lyrics on the piano roll so they could be viewed and sung as the music played. They patented this idea and collected royalties from all other music roll companies that printed lyrics.
Gershwin Plays Gershwin: The Piano Rolls is an album of piano rolls recorded by George Gershwin. It was released by Nonesuch Records in 1993.
Ludwig Hupfeld was a German musical instrument maker and industrialist.
Edwin Scott Votey was an American businessman, inventor, industrial designer, and manufacturer of pianos and organs. He worked in the organ field all his adult life and had over twenty patents. He invented or co-invented several inventions for World War I. One was a pilotless airplane that was going to be used to drop bombs on the enemy but was never used.
Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff (1873–1943) was a Russian composer, virtuoso pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninoff is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music.
Edwin Votey is attributed as the inventor for this instrument.