Way Back When: Make Your Own Music

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Way Back When: Make Your Own Music
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(Image Source: Wikimedia)

By Betsy J. Green

100 years ago, folks didn’t have radios in their homes yet, but you could make your own music with a mechanical piano. In April 1919, Brown’s Music House at 718 State Street was selling Player Piano rolls.

A player piano roll was a length of paper wound around a wooden spindle. As the paper was unwound and moved to an empty spindle, holes in the paper caused a mechanism in the player piano to touch a key and play a note. (If you’re old enough to remember IBM punch cards, this concept may sound familiar to you, but of course, IBM punch cards are fast becoming ancient history as well.)


Betsy's Way Back When book -- 1918 -- is now available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. This is the fifth book in her series of the history of Santa Barbara, one year at a time. Learn more at betsyjgreen.com

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Factotum Apr 06, 2019 11:52 AM
Way Back When: Make Your Own Music

The song words were printed on the paper scrolls and everyone gathered around for a sing-along. It was fun. Simple, unplugged fun. Songs appealed to all ages.

Flicka Apr 06, 2019 10:06 AM
Way Back When: Make Your Own Music

I was fooled by one of these when I was a kid. My cousin and I were visiting a friend when she said her brother was going to play the piano for us. We sat where we couldn't see the keys. The guy played beautifully. The girl and my cousin started laughing, I thought it really rude to laugh at the brother who was playing so well. Of course, it turned out to be a "player piano". I'd never heard of one.

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