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People keep asking me good questions about this project, so I will add the questions as I think of them.

Why not use a pre-made player piano, like a Disklavier or a vorsetzer?

A couple reasons:

First, I like building the thing. When I got the piano, I spent a day just playing with the mechanism. It's great! So I wanted to build the playing mechanism myself, purely for the pleasure of building.

Second, a vorsetzer sits over the keys, and prevents a pianist from playing the thing. So it would not be appropriate.

Third, Disklaviers are expensive, and vorsetzers are hard to find. Granted, building the thing myself adds up in costs, but I get a lot out of the process.


Why not use MIDI and a synthesizer?  Synthesizers are great, but there is a quality of sound that comes from an analog instrument that no synth can repeat. In addition, part of this project is about embodying activity, so the movement of the piano's mechanism is an important part of the experience.


Okay, so why not use MIDI to at least control the thing?

It's not out of the question. However, MIDI is a serial protocol, which means no two notes can be played at the exact same time. The electromechanics of my system may make this a moot point, in which case a MIDI interface might be a good idea.


What's a vorsetzer?

"A piano playing mechanism that actually preceded the inner player, vorsetzers were common in the early part of the century. Also called push-up players they could be "pushed up" to a piano, where wooden, felted "fingers" would play a piano key board. Usually cumbersome, they were for the most part discontinued after the inner player was developed and gained popularity."

from Terms Used with Piano Player Rebuilding

Thanks to Ben Rubin for making me aware of their existence, and Jamie Barnett and Mark Lerner for lots of links on them and other piano mechanical info (coming soon).

What's a Disklavier?

Basically, an electronic player piano. Yamaha makes them.