Pianola for Everyone

The perfect family piano

Here are several postcards advertising Pianola player Pianos. I never learned how to play the piano. I wish I had had one of these to play

Fun for All Ages

Fun’s in Store for Everyone

A Piano Everyone Can Play


This brief description from Wikipedia tells how the pianola works:

The pianola (pronounce: “pee-ah-NO-la”), also called the player piano, is a piano which has a pneumatic mechanism so that it can play by itself. The air for this system came from a pump operated by the players feet, and in some later models, an electric pump. Inside the piano are paper rolls which have holes punched in. These holes release air which in turn triggers the keys to play. When the pianola plays itself the keys of the piano can be seen “playing themselves”.

The pianola was developed around the 1880s. It was fitted with control levers so that the player (“player pianist” or “pianolist”) could play in the way he wanted. The pianola made it possible for the player to sound as if he was playing very difficult music that he was not capable of playing. At the same time he could control the performance.

The pianola became popular in the late 19th and early 20th century as mass-produced pianos became popular in people’s homes and more and more people bought sheet music. By the 1920s it started to become less popular again as the gramophone had been invented.

A pianola is the same as any other piano except it is fitted with a pneumatic player action, which plays paper rolls. This mechanism consists of about one hundred bellows, large and small, the smaller ones being called pneumatics of which there are 88, one for each note on the piano.The largest are the foot operated ones,called the bellows. Other pneumatics of varying sizes operate the roll motor, tracking device, motor speed governor, and the sustain and soft pedals.

You can see a pianola in action in the following YouTube video.


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About postcardy

I am a longtime postcard collector who has been creating websites and blogs based on my postcard collection since 1998.
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7 Responses to Pianola for Everyone

  1. Georgie says:

    I had a friend growing up whose parents had a pianola. They were so much fun to play. Thanks for sharing the postcards.


  2. My parents knew a couple with one of these, which looked like the tall “Easy to Play” one with the baby under it. They kept it on an enclosed side porch, and when we visited their children and I would pump away playing song after song. Later, in my twenties, I knew a woman who worked at the Buffalo, NY company that was still manufacturing the rolled paper music for pianolas, who always had a pile of them in her trunk moving them from here to there. These postcards depicting player pianos are wonderful!


  3. Kathy says:

    I love the look of these old ads.


  4. smkelly8 says:

    I’ve always loved player pianos and those rolls of “paper songs.”


  5. I knew of the older pianola and have seen them played, but never knew there was a more recent modern version. At one time they were THE amazing modern technology that everyone had to have. The companies producing the rolls recruited some of the best pianists/composers of the 19th/early 20th century to record/perform on them to make a master recording tape. Scott Joplin was one I believe, but Stravinsky, and Gershwin also made rolls that are replayed today on modern pianola instruments to understand the tempos and dynamics of the original artists.
    My mother recently bought a Yamaha electric piano which has 101 tunes digitally stored in memory. She pushed a button and gets a concert whenever she likes.

    I found my photographer Sussman’s full name in the photographers list at the Minnesota Historical Society website. http://www.mnhs.org/people/photographers/
    Dates are not always reliable but it helps to quickly put them in historical context. Minneapolis was a real center for photographers.


  6. Wendy says:

    The pianola took up a lot of room in the name of family fun!


  7. Barb Rogers says:

    What a great link to sharing music and gathering people together! Player pianos, usually uprights, which often were out of tune, have ended up in many homes where elders live. They supposedly want to hear the songs of the 1890s, which were probably their parent’s era. I hope Elvis is played when I live in one of those homes!


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