Reproducing Players

Posted by: Rich Galassini

Reproducing Players - 12/17/01 11:06 PM

For those in the industry,

Have you ever had requests for reproducing pneumatic player grands? We are doing less of them these days, simply because there are less of them out there. It seems there is still a market for Mason & Hamlin, Chickering, Knabe, and others.

Any comments?
Posted by: turrin150

Re: Reproducing Players - 01/20/06 07:53 PM

I know you posted this years ago - but I just bought a beautifully restored Weber Duo-Art grand
reproducing piano - 1925, about 5'11" plain
mahog case. Great piano to play by hand - action not heavy as some critics of D-A pianos claim - the secret is in the quality of the restoration/rebuild of the action. Aeolian/Weber built great pianos in those days - has warm rich sound, duplex scaling, beautiful case.
I hope there is continued interest in these pianos - I know there is among my fellow members at AMICA. I also like the Ampico in brands you listed in 12/17/01 posting - maybe my next piano. I live in the NY area - next time I visit Philadelphia - I'll drop in. All the best.
Posted by: Grandpianoman

Re: Reproducing Players - 01/22/06 04:45 PM

Hi Rich,

I am not in the industry, but I do keep and eye and ear in this area, as I am having a 1925 Mason & Hamlin RBB restored. I know that these types of reproducing pianos have a small following among collectors, AMICA was mentioned. It's primarily due to the expense of rebuilding and who actually does the work. Good re-builders of these pianos are becoming a rare commodity, and when you do find one, they are often booked 2-3 years in advance. To add another 6-10K to rebuild the player mechanism is a lot when you are also paying to rebuild the rest of the piano.....add to that, the cost of the rolls, storage considerations as well as the fragilty of the paper from age/wear and tear. Also, with the advent of the electronic piano and the solenoid systems such as Disklavier, PianoDisc, with remote control etc., the reproducing piano, Ampico, Duo-Art, Welte, which btw, cannot record by themselves, seem outdated..... but not to collectors. \:\) Another factor is the music selections...most of the reproducing rolls are either classical or popular hits of the day, 1920-40's. With the modern solenoid systems etc. you can have up to date music and you can also record and playback your handiwork with a remote control. I think these are some of the main reasons why you are seeing a decline.

Posted by: turrin150

Re: Reproducing Players - 01/26/06 09:53 PM

Dear Gpman,

Good luck with your M&H Ampico restoration! I think the RBB is about 7' long - so you have a rare reproducing piano. I agree, for all the reasons you cite in your post, one has to be a little crazy to want to invest in a vintage reproducing piano - but after it's all done, hearing a well-restored Ampico will blow you away. The local chapter of the Amica organization was helpful in locating a couple of competent restorers and technicians in my area. Ampico rolls seem to be fairly plentiful - many on Ebay.

Posted by: Grandpianoman

Re: Reproducing Players - 01/31/06 04:54 AM

Hello Turrin,

Thanks. Yes, this is a very rare piano, only 74 were made by M&H. When it is all said and done, it will be one fine sounding piano. I wish it had been intact when I found it, but unfortunately they had removed the complete Ampico system by the time I got a hold of it. They also took out the double V legs and the skirt, so it looks like a normal BB.

It sounds like you are also having one rebuilt..what is the model/year etc?

Good luck,

Posted by: turrin150

Re: Reproducing Players - 02/05/06 11:07 AM

Hi Gpman,
I bought a 1925 Weber Duo-Art grand. It's 5'11" long, plain mahogany case. The piano and D-A system had been rebuilt about 7 years ago, but not refinished. I bought the piano last summer through the re-builder who was holding the piano for the owner. The owner was moving. I had the piano refinished as original. The rebuilder, D. L. Bullock of St. Louis who helped with the original rebuild in 98, spruced up the pneumatics - he says that there is better leather and cloth available now than a few a years ago. He's well respected in Amica circles.
The Weber has a deep rich sound. The rebuilt action is very responsive and the D-A sounds great.

Keep me posted on your restoration.

All the best, Turrin150
Posted by: Grandpianoman

Re: Reproducing Players - 02/06/06 07:34 PM

Hello Turrin,

That sounds great...the older Weber pianos are excellent, and to have a later Duo-Art in there as well, is a plus.

I am familiar with Mr. Bullock, and have read some of his letters etc over at MMDigest. He sounds like a very good re-builder.

Will keep you informed as to the progress of the will probably be finished some time in June of this year, fingers crossed!

Posted by: Rich Galassini

Re: Reproducing Players - 04/21/06 06:29 AM

Both of these pianos sound as if they will be great instruments when they are completed.

I wish you both lots of luck in the restoration projects. We currently have a 1919 Steinway M Welte in our showroom that plays beautifully.
Posted by: Grandpianoman

Re: Reproducing Players - 04/24/06 10:10 PM

Thanks Rich.....I will try and post some pictures and MP3's of the RBB when it's finished.

A Steinway M with a, that is great. I have always felt that the Welte and Ampico from that era were the best in reproducing the classical library.

Posted by: turrin150

Re: Reproducing Players - 04/27/06 10:46 PM

Hi Rich,
Of the "big 3" - Welte's seem to be the rarest.
I do see D-A's and Ampicos for sale on Ebay and in other sources.
I saw your 2001 posting and picture of the custom art-case Weber Ampico you had in your shop. Beautiful piano! That piano was probably built after the merger of Aeolian and Ampico in the early 30's - is that right?
Does you firm still work on reproducing pianos?
Posted by: CTPianotech

Re: Reproducing Players - 04/30/06 11:38 PM

Hi Rich,

My father has been restoring pneumatic players for over 25 years, and while his schedule is always booked well in advanced, they are people who already own a pneumatic player. There are not, as you have noticed yourself, a huge number of "new" people looking to get a pneumatic player.

With the advent of the solenoid based systems, it is perceived by many that the pneumatics are outdated. (though if more folks had heard an Ampico or DuoArt etc, playing at its full potential, I think there would be a greater appreciation for them)

One bone I have to pick with the solenoid based system makers, is that so much of their music does not take full advantage of the expressive capabilities of the systems in the way that the reproducing rolls more often did. Interestingly enough, I've found that my favorite solenoid CD is a Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff, taken from Duo-Art rolls.

Posted by: turrin150

Re: Reproducing Players - 05/03/06 06:18 AM

To CTPianotech,
I agree - there seems to be little interest in or knowledge of these pianos. Very few have had the opportunity to hear an Ampico or Duo-Art playing at full potential. I also think that reproducing players were obscure during their heyday since their cost was so far above what the average family could afford during the 20s. Most people were only exposed to regular players and nickelodeons. My first encounter was only by chance some 20 years ago when I heard a restored Chickering Ampico B grand in NYC. Upon arrival at the former Cloud Club in the Chrysler Bldg where an Art Deco exhibit was being held, I did not see the piano but heard Sophisticated Lady being played in the kind of 1930's arrangement that one rarely hears live but only in old records or movies. Following the music, I discoverd the Chickering Ampico B grand. The owner graciously educated me and played many other rolls. I was hooked.