Spencer's E-Rolls.com (History page)

  Antique Music for A Modern World

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Player Pianos were developed around the turn of the century (1900) and Reproducing Pianos were developed a short time later. Whereas Player Pianos play only the note information from the roll and leave the interpretation of dynamics and other aspects of expression to the user, the more advanced Reproducing Pianos control these additional aspects of the musical performance by special coding techniques. Three companies were responsible for the majority of Reproducing Pianos manufactured and for the music rolls for each of their systems. These systems were Welte Mignon, Ampico (American Piano Company) and Duo-Art (Aeolian.)

Huge libraries of rolls were produced by these companies over a period of approximately 30 years. Popular music of the day and much of the classical repertoire was recorded. Today these rolls are becoming rare as most were destroyed when the pianos to play them no longer functioned. The remaining rolls are often in frail condition due to the effects of acid laden paper, humidity and time.

Being a collector of these pianos and rolls, I began to become seriously concerned, several years ago. The prices of rolls began to climb as their condition continued to deteriorate. I decided to make an attempt to apply modern digital techniques to the recording of the information on these rolls so as to preserve the performances for myself and future collectors. It was my intention to produce copies of these rolls on paper. I made several attempts to develop optical scanning systems to capture the roll data but was unable to do so on my own within my limited budget. Through the Mechanical Musical Digest (MMD) I met Richard Stibbons of Cromer in the UK. He had been working on a similar project for a few years, and had developed a hardware method that seemed too simple to work. He had also developed a software system for decoding the roll images and producing MIDI files. About the same time the PowerRoll interface for Pneumatic pianos was introduced and additional motivation for developing the system therefore existed. My minor hobby interest rapidly developed into a much greater consumer of my time. Since that time, Richard and I have worked together to produce a very accurate and reliable system. Richard has concentrated his efforts on the programming and I have concentrated on the mechanical aspects as well as making improvements to the electronics and various other aspects of the system.

As a collector of Duo-Art Pianos and rolls, I have concentrated my efforts on preserving this library of music. I have produced CDs of both Popular and Classical in MIDI format and in BARR/ANN format for use with Richard Brandle's WindPlay program. Please see the links to the listings of the titles included on these CDs and the information for ordering. I am interested in scanning the worthy rolls from other collections that I do not have in my collection. In addition, I have begun scanning Welte rolls since I now have the ability to play these also. I would be interested in hearing from other collectors who are willing to contribute to this effort.

Recent improvements in scanning methods have allowed me to expand my library of Electronic Rolls (E-Rolls) to include the three major Reproducing formats. Duo-Art, Welte and Ampico E-Rolls are now available. Check out the To Order page to see what is available. Don't miss the New New New page for the latest additions.

After years of development and testing, the E-Roll Player Midi Valve system was produced and sold. It has now been in production for over 7 years and has proven to be accurate in reproduction and very reliable. Recent economic conditions and waning interest in reproducing pianos has forced me to discontinue manufacture of the E-Roll Player. Support and repair is still available for owners of all models of E-Roll Players.

My latest emphasis is the creation of files for the Live Performance LX reproducing system. The LX is a retrofit system that can be fitted to most grand pianos and outperforms all other retrofit systems. Click here for the LX Music Page of Ampico and Welte (Licensee) files available.


Spencer Chase