So, you guys know how much I loved singing… but one thing I never learned to do, but always meant to, was read music. While I’m able to use my ear for singing, that’s as far as my ear has been able to take me.
My Grandpa Gerald has this great knack for being able to play piano by ear. He would pluck out the polka Red Wing whenever he was visiting and my siblings and I would dance like it was a Friday night with Lawrence Welk. Last summer when he and my Grandma came to visit he walked by my piano and hit a few keys with his fingers… same song from all those years ago. “Guess I still know a little of it.” he said.
I had the best of intentions when this old piano came to my home. I was finally going to learn how to read music and have the ability to hear the piano played whenever I wanted. The piano was a hand-me-down, and I knew that it was built around 1900 and used to function as a player piano. It has all of it’s original parts and had only been tuned once… and I really need to have it tuned again. But truly, the sound isn’t all that bad.
My brother-in-law Jeff and nephew Thomas were playing around with it a few years ago, just out of curiosity to see how it worked. They opened the sliding doors and fiddled with little levers here and there, trying to see what they were attached to and how it was put together.
Wouldn’t you know it? They found this little lever that said “play.” Thomas started pedaling and suddenly the keys were moving up and down and little notes of music trickled out. After I hugged them each fifty thousand times, I clapped like a little school girl at the prospect of it working.
I didn’t need to learn to read music after all… I just needed to be able to pedal! [I tried very hard to get you a close up shot of the pedals, but a certain poser wouldn’t get out of the way.]
All this time, I had thought the roll in the piano was just a place holder, but it turns out it holds an actual song. And a lovely one at that.
And when it finishes, you can see the patent information for the scroll.
As you can see on the top line, that date reads December 29, 1896. The oldest date on the sheet is 1909. Isn’t that amazing? From the little research I’ve done, this type of player piano was only made for a few years and has a 65-note format. Any players made after 1908 have an 88-note format and almost any rolls of music you can find are now made this way.
I had to tape a few tears in the paper of my roll, but it still worked beautifully. Or at least it did a few years ago. Now when I try to play it the roll moves slowly and I can hear air escaping from one of the tubes. Someday when I get it tuned I’m hoping that an air hose just got loose and when it’s reattached it will play like this again:
Didn’t my Jonboy do a great job?!?! It’s a whole lot of pedaling, but I’m thinking that’s one form of physical therapy I could talk myself into doing. :)