DIYAPASON-L Digest #204 - Monday, December 11, 2000
Organ roll players
  by "Robert W. Taylor" <>
Introduction and MIDI stuff
  by "Mickey Sadler" <>

(back) Subject: Organ roll players From: "Robert W. Taylor" <> Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2000 14:22:16 -0600   Recent discussions about adaptations of roll playing devices for pipe organs as well as original organ roll players, have sparked my writing spirit. As some of you know, I have a long association with mechanical music in the paper roll format. Preserving that medium is my passion.   My own organ project centers on restoring a 3/34 Aeolian player organ. = The goal of the project is to return this instrument to full operation using its original components and also to supplement the operation with modern technology. While I patiently wait for construction crews to finish my music room, I work diligently on things that can fit in my workshop.   The console is in the workshop and its original 116 note Aeolian roll reader has been fully rebuilt. Additionally, an Aeolian Duo-Art Concertola, which plays fully automatic 176 note rolls, is in the shop and is nearing completion.   A Devtronix MIDI interface has been added to the console. Output from all three manuals, pedal board, stops tablets and couplers are fed into the MIDI interface. Additionally, Great, Swell, and Pedal outputs from the roll player are connected to the MIDI interface. Unfortunately, all = pipes are still in trays.   Wanting immediate access to the content of over 1,300 organ rolls in my collection, I have hooked the MIDI output to a MAC computer running Mastertracks Pro and to an Ahlborn Archive Module. Now, the output of the 116 note rolls can be heard electronically.   Here is the part of this missive that directly relates to the current discussion. As I play the rolls, I also record the files in the computer. The Mastertracks program "step editor" has an on screen display that is in piano roll format. The screen display layout is with the keyboard vertically at the far left of the screen, with the treble notes at the = top. As the music plays, the roll presentation moves from right to left. The depiction looks just like the roll. Using this visual presentation, very accurate analysis of roll player operation can be made.   Since small variations in the performance heard in real time through the roll reader are not discernible or precisely identifiable, more is needed. The on screen display can be frozen for extremely detailed examination of the system. Trills are most revealing. If the appearance of a trill is not exactly uniform, adjustments to both the pouch bleed and the contact gap can be made. As previous articles have noted, some chain bridging (extended notes) may be read as separate note events. When the roll = reader is properly adjusted these chain bridged notes will appear as a continuous line on screen. The converse is also true. Short, staccato notes will maintain a gap and will not run together.   These adjustments are absolutely necessary for any roll reader which is going to be used to archive the roll data. Further, if that data is to be used later to produce new rolls, a correction for "hole elongation" must = be made. This hole elongation phenomena has always plagued efforts to copy rolls that are pneumatically read. The easiest way to explain the = problem, is to study a single dot perforation as it passes over the tracker bar. Generally, the roll speed is determined by the editor who must find the shortest note in the composition and then represent that note as a single dot. As that dot passes the tracker bar, the note first starts to sound when the dot is about 50 percent uncovered. As the dot continues, the = note sounds until the dot has passed being fully opened, followed by 50 percent closing as it passes the tracker bar hole. If this data is immediately used to make another roll, the note duration would exceed the length of = one dot, unless some compensation is applied.   Proper play back of rolls is not a casual event. The roll, tracker bar, and instrument must be matched and be properly regulated. Certainly many adaptations with some degree of success are possible. In making an adaptation, one must decide the degree of perfection that is desired, being mindful that most adaptations will have some compromise.   Anyone comtemplating a roll system adaptation should consider availability of rolls. Aeolian had the largest library. Some other companies had very good systems but almost no distribution of their rolls, which are very scarce today.   Eventually my system will be used to archive my entire collection. Some = of the 116 note rolls will be upgraded to fully automatic Duo-Art format. Additionally, all my Aeolian rolls can be made in other formats such as Estey. Anyone wanting to trade Aeolian rolls with me should contact me privately.   Bob Taylor        
(back) Subject: Introduction and MIDI stuff From: "Mickey Sadler" <> Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2000 22:59:37 -0500   Hello All,   It's about time I stop lurking and introduce myself. I'm Mickey Sadler in Dublin, Ohio. I don't have a pipe organ yet, I do have a Wurlitzer 950 electronic organ that I bought when I was "young(er) and foolish" enough to not know I could actually have a pipe organ at home. (well, it _is_ a Wurlitzer anyway.) I hope to build a small practice organ when I retire. I am also interested in band organs and calliopes. I don't play well - I am a "self-taught play by ear" type but I plan to learn properly after I retire in a couple of years.   I recognize several people here from the Mechanical Music Digest at We sure get around don't we?   There is a good article by Richard Vance in the MMD Technical section on building a pneumatic switch contact assembly that can be used between a tracker bar and computer input device. Also, John Anderton at has designed a band organ and electronic controller for it. The you can download the software, which will allow you to write the music on screen in a piano roll view, import MIDI files and read rolls with a companion reader. He sells the controller board, but he also has the info to build it in his "how to build a band organ" documents. He can also send you the reader schematic. He says that the controller can control any device up to 112 channels. The output will drive relays, etc. and the program can print out a template to punch your own rolls. The program runs under DOS, and can be configured to fit your organ. Not too bad for a free program and construction article!   The Richard Vance switch unit would be perfect as the input device for the Organeze reader and I think that is the way I will go to build a reader/controller device for an organ.   Check out the Organeze site and let me know what you think.   Mickey -- Mickey E. Sadler, Dublin, Ohio <>