The Pianocorder Reproducing System is a solenoid-driven player piano retrofit developed by Superscope in the late 1970s (also available factory-installed in the Marantz Reproducing Piano). The Pianocorder system uses ordinary cassette tape (traveling at 3.75 ips- twice normal speed for extra bandwidth) as a storage medium, encoding the entire state of the piano in 128-bit frames, streamed at a rate of approximately 35 frames per second. The playback system does not load the data into any kind of memory but instead plays it directly from the cassette tape using a decoding system of counters, shift registers, etc. The playback tempo is changed by simply varying the speed of the tape player.
The Pianocorder supports 80 notes, along with the soft and sustain pedals. Unlike more modern solenoid piano systems such as the Yamaha Disklavier, PianoDisc and QRS Pianomation systems, the Pianocorder cannot reproduce polyphonic expression (the capability to simultaneously strike multiple keys with different velocities). Instead, the Pianocorder splits the keyboard into two halves, much like the pneumatic reproducing systems of the 1920's, using 5-bit treble and bass intensity values to control the expression. For a given frame, all treble notes and all bass notes receive the same respective intensities. However, the expression levels only apply to one frame and can be entirely different for adjacent frames. In this way, notes in nearby frames can all receive different expression levels and still be played at about the same time. This can approximate the effect of polyphonic expression reasonably well.
Superscope and QRS jointly created a fairly extensive library of material for the Pianocorder system, available on over 350 40-minute cassette tapes. A large portion of these recordings were made by converting reproducing piano rolls to Pianocorder format. However, several famous pianists, such as Liberace, Oscar Peterson and George Shearing, produced recordings directly on Superscope's master recording piano.
- Pianocorder Marketing Presentation circa 1978 (9:18 - MP3 audio format)
A cassette tape of this marketing presentation was sent to piano dealers throughout the U.S.A. in the late 1970s, introducing them to the "completely new, excitingly innovative, tremendously marketable" Pianocorder Reproducing System, "the most important new product to appear on the music industry scene in the past 50 years!"
- Pianocorder Upgrade Kits
Remove the cassette deck and control your Pianocorder from your personal computer, MP3 player, tablet, or smartphone.
- Pianocorder Control Plug-in for WINAMP
Control your Pianocorder from a Windows PC using this extension to the popular WINAMP media player. Plays MIDI files, ESEQ files, and original Superscope/Marantz Pianocorder cassettes converted to disk files.
- Pianocorder Forum
Discussion forum for Pianocorder owners and technicians
- Pianocorder Documentation
All of the Pianocorder installation manuals, service bulletins, and troubleshooting materials in PDF format.
- Pianocorder Technicians
An up-to-date listing of piano technicians specializing in Pianocorder service and repair.
- Pianocorder Alignment Tape in MP3 format
The official Pianocorder alignment/test tape in MP3 format. You can play it on your Pianocorder using an MP3 player playing through a cassette adapter in the Pianocorder's tape deck (PLAY must be depressed).
- Pianocorder Wireless Kit (2003-2010; discontinued)
Resources for owners of the earlier upgrade kit offered at this site, which replaced the Pianocorder's cassette deck with a 900 MHz wireless link to a Windows PC.
- Preservation and MIDI Translation of the Pianocorder Music Library
(15 MB, Adobe PDF format)
My master's thesis in computer science at The Ohio State University, completed in 1997, presenting a justification and process for preserving the entire Pianocorder tape library in modern digital formats.
- Step-by-step guide to cleaning and lubricating Pianocorder pedal solenoids
courtesy of Megumi Imai at Pianogiken.com of Japan.
- Aliens Project Pianocorder Page
Das Synxss-Studio in Germany proudly owns one of the few Pianocorder systems in Europe
- The Mechanical Music Digest
An excellent, moderated mailing list covering a wide variety of topics of interest to mechanical music enthusiasts.
- E-Roll Collectors Yahoo Group
Discussion group covering digital piano roll conversions and the hardware on which to play them.
- Mechanical Music Preservationists Yahoo Group
Discussion group covering the design and construction of hardware/software systems to scan and archive pneumatic music rolls and book music.
- International Association of Mechanical Music Preservationists
The non-profit organization set up by the MMP Yahoo group as a repository for their work.
Last updated: 9 October 2014
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