Automatic Pianos Going Strong Since the 1800s

The keys move on their own and the strings reverberate, but no one is actually playing the piano. Some would call the instrument possessed, while others would call it an invention that has survived being built before its time.

Appearing in the 1800s, automatic pianos wowed individuals as tunes would be played without anyone having to touch the keys. Now, electronic data can be fed to the musical instruments that communicate the speed at which the hammers are to hit the strings. Even iPhones can control these musical wonders so they can play virtually any tune fed to them.

But before the automatic piano’s tunes were determined by a paper scroll with holes punched in it, the choices were limited. Holes would be made in a piece of paper, similar to a punch card. This is a trend that originated in Europe, but it was the United States that saw a boom in the early 1900s and, in 1919, the automatic piano topped its regular counterpart in terms of sales. Anyone could own one, whether they could play or not.

These pianos continue to be popular and the choice of piano says a lot about the person doing the buying. How they are made is unique and indicates quality, such as ensuring the wood is aged adequately before manufacturing. The wood may have to air for three to five years so that the water content is lowered to just 15 percent. After the wood is brought indoors, the water content drops to 10 percent. This may seem like a lengthy process, but it is necessary. It also ensures that the particular buyer is someone who gets exactly what they want. Quality is everything, especially when the instrument is expected to last decades. Some have lasted centuries.

Because automatic pianos are popular choices, devices that convert regular pianos into automatic pianos have become popular. Although the method of marking holes on paper rolls had been an accurate practice since the early days, controlling them digitally results in the ability to play and even record a piece that sounds as if it was played by a professional pianist.

These digital conversion devices are usually used by individuals who may not be able to play, but they may have been given a piano. Even those who do not know how to play enjoy the sound, as well as the aesthetic appeal, that this keyed instrument provides a room