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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.


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Last updated: 9 October 2014
Comments? Email Mark Fontana <mfontana@pianocorder.info>