Collection: Pianola Pianos

The Pianola, a brand name that has become synonymous with player pianos, was invented by Edwin Scott Votey in 1895 and later marketed by the Aeolian Company starting in 1898. This early player piano mechanism operated pneumatically, using foot-operated bellows to create a vacuum that powered a pneumatic motor. The Pianola played music rolls perforated with specific patterns that controlled the notes played on the piano.

One of the most distinctive features of the Pianola was its ability to transform any piano into a self-playing instrument by positioning a cabinet with wooden fingers in front of the keyboard. These fingers would press the keys according to the patterns on the perforated rolls. The mechanism allowed for manual control over dynamics and tempo through various levers and pedals, providing a level of musical expression that was appealing to both amateur and professional musicians.

The success of the Pianola led to its integration into the piano itself, creating the player piano, which became widely popular in the early 20th century. Aeolian's introduction of the Duo-Art reproducing piano in 1914 further advanced the technology by enabling playback of rolls that captured the nuances of live performances by famous pianists.

Despite the decline in popularity due to the rise of radio and phonographs, the Pianola and other player pianos experienced a revival among collectors and enthusiasts in the mid-20th century. Organizations such as the Player Piano Group in England and the Musical Box Society International in the USA were formed to preserve and study these fascinating instruments.

Today, Pianola pianos are cherished for their historical significance and the unique mechanical ingenuity they represent. Restored Pianolas can be found in museums and private collections, continuing to captivate audiences with their blend of automation and musicality.

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