Scale of a pianola

Die unterschiedlichen Skala Systeme im Überblick

The scale of a pianola is the structure or scope of sound and controlling, provided by the holes in the tracker bar. Before 1945, most pianos had 85 keys/tones, grand pianos and concert pianos often had 88 keys/tones. Only a part of the tones available on the piano was originally addressed. Some of the most important pianola scales are


Most important scales of pianolas

65 note scale (Aeolian, after 1899)

72 note scale (Hupfeld, after 1902)

88 note scale (Standard, after 1908)

Advertising with larger scales

The subject of the broader sound range to reproduce pieces in the original score was advertised by the companies - here an example of Hupfeld - as an important characteristic.


Different scales at reproducing instruments

Differentiation by sound range was also tried at reproduction instruments (Philipps DUCA had exactly one tone more than Welte) - so that different scales were introduced and maintained for a long time.

Chase & Baker study 1908

Auszug aus dem Music Trade Review(MTR) 1908

A much cited analysis of Chase & Baker, 1908 which assessed 3838 piano rolls from their own catalogue showed that much less pieces could be converted 1:1 from sheets to rolls when the scale of 65 tones was used. Out of those 3838 piano rolls, 1130 (29 %) could be played with the 65 note scale. 2425 (63 %) of the piano rolls needed at least a range of 78 tones, 2542 (66 %) of them required 80 tones, 2660 (69 %) required at least 83 tones, 3676 (96 %) required at least 85 tones and all rolls could be played with the range of 88 tones, of course. Reductions and octavo shifts were carried out to keep the 65 tone interval so that pieces could be projected down onto the 65 note scale. The Chase & Bakers analysis understandably influenced the decision for one 65 note standard and one 88 note standard scale. Although this standardization was established in America and only by the leading American companies, the European manufacturers also began one by one to adopt the allegedly modern 88 note standard.


Aeolian's 65 Note Scale

Patentveröffentlichung von Aeolian in Deutschland

The 65 note scale was marketed by Aeolian in America as early as 1897, applying the Pianola as a push-up player. It entered the German market even before the Hupfeld Phonola. The advantage of the market-leader Aeolian could not be economically maintained, though, at least at the German market that was strongly dominated by German companies. Another reason was that the Pianola push-up player cost in Germany 1250 Reichsmarks, and that was obviously more than the Phonola (850 Reichsmarks), and it had only a smaller range of only 65 tones. As described, the product name "Pianola" yet remained as a generic name of all those self-playing systems.

The scale of the 65 note Aeolian system covered originally only 65 tones.


Aeolian's 65 note scale

Notengleitblock mit 65er Skala von Aeolian, ab ~1897

Themodist came after Solodant

Aeolian introduced the Themodist, i.e. the automatic accentuation of melody tones, later than Hupfeld. Because the paper width of the 65 note piano roll was already fully assigned, only minor double cuts (nickname: snakebites) could be used at the utmost edges for the melody accentuation in bass and descant.

Themodist scale

Notengleitblock mit 65er Skala und Themodist von Aeolian, ab ~1908

Allocation of the 65 holes

The allocation of the 67 holes in this scale is:

The allocation of the 67 holes in this scale

Hole 1: Themodist bass
Hole 2-66: 65 tones of A1 to cis4
Hole 67: Themodist descant

Pictures Aeolian 65

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Hupfeld's 72 Note Scale

Werbung für die neue Hupfeld Phonola

Hupfeld launched the 72 note scale in 1902 to surpass their main competitor Aeolian with a broader range and a divided wind chest (separate dynamism of bass and descant). Many experts, books, articles etc. stated that Hupfeld had a mistake in their Phonola advertising - as the Phonola played 73 notes instead of 72. The truth is that Hupfeld announced the 72 notes on purpose - as this was the intended standard. The notes ranged from F1-f4 - but without F#1. Many Hupfeld Phonola had the F#1 as "extra" note (makes 73 notes) on whole 39. We assume that Hupfeld gave 72 notes to the Hupfeld Phonola by default to allow the Phonola related Clavitist, Phonoliszt, Universal etc. to make use of max. 5 wholes on the tracker bar (77 wholes had all of them) to control the additional functionalities. Esp. the Phonoliszt made use of these. For sure there are Hupfeld instruments out there that deviate from this standard. Nevertheless "72er Hupfeld Phonola" would be the correct / intended denomination. After 1907, the Phonola is also available as a version that is integrated into pianos.


Hupfeld scale

The music rack was often mounted above the tracker bar of the Phonola, so that the allocation to the holes was made understandable.

Hupfeld scale 72

Notengleitblock mit 73er Skala von Hupfeld, ab~1902

Hupfeld Solodant

Hupfeld introduced an essential innovation to the market in 1908: the Solodant function, i.e. accentuated melody guidance. The arrangement of these accentuation punchings was up to the manufacturer, Hupfeld used the center of the roll (Aeolian had them at the edge, see above).

The allocation of the holes in this Hupfeld 72 note scale is:

Allocation of Hupfeld's scale

Hole 1-34, 36, 38-40, 41-77: 73 tones of F1 to f4 (without F#1)
Hole 35, 41: without allocation
Hole 37: Solodant bass
Hole 39: without allocation / or F#1
Hole 43: Solodant discant

Hupfeld approaching Aeolians market

Hupfeld offensively addressed the customers of their competitor Aeolian in 1908 by offering the possibility to play the 65 note piano rolls on the 72 note Phonola, using a switchable scale. The objective was unmistakably specified in the Zeitschrift für Instrumentenbau - see the accompanying article from 1908. Such a push-up player is in my collection.


Hupfeld 72 pictures

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The 88 Note Standard Scale

The 88 note standard scale was established during a congress in Buffalo, USA, in 1908. Most manufacturers adopted the 88 note scale one after another from 1910 onwards, although there are very few pieces that would require all 88 keys of a piano - and even after 1910, many (grand) pianos had only 85 keys. Hupfeld, like many others, offered in the transition phase systems with two piano roll scales - here is an example of the 88 note standard, combined with the 73 note scale.


Automatic accentuation

Most 88 note pianolas include on the piano rolls the control data for automatic accentuation (Solodant, Melodant, Themodist etc.) and even the automatic operation of the right sustain pedal. Thus, another three punchings are provided in addition to 88 holes for the tones. Here is an example of an Aeolian Pianola piano

Aeolian Pianola piano tracker bar

Allocation of 88 scale tracker bar

The allocation of the holes (from left to right) in this Aeolian 88 note standard scale is

Allocation of 88 holes in tracker bar

Hole 1-2 and 94-95 (superimposed): track control
Hole 3: sustain pedal (right pedal)
Hole 4: Themodist (accentuation) bass
Hole 5-92: 88 tones of A1 to c5
Hole 93: Themodist discant

Aeolian track control

Aeolian designed the track control differently later - enclosed is a picture of the tracker bar in a 1924 Ibachiola on which you see the movable brackets whose shifting activates the track control while the piano roll is unwinding.

Aeolian 88 tracker bar

Hupfeld 88 tracker bar

Hupfeld had a similar approach - here is also an example of a 88 note scale in a 1926 Hupfeld Phonola piano.

Hupfeld Phonola 88 tracker bar

Hupfeld 88 scale

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The Welte Red T100 Scale

M. Welte & Sons applied a T100 scale for the Welte red reproduction system. T100 refers to 100 holes in the tracker bar. 80 tones are played, 20 punchings are used for the sophisticated accentuation control. "Red" or "green" was derived from the typical color of the piano roll paper - T100 rolls were usually red while T98 rolls were green. Rolls of either format have been produced in other paper colors as well, though (see category “Piano Rolls”).


Welte T100 (red) tracker bar

Allocation Welte T100 holes in tracker bar

Hole 1: Bass mezzo forte off

Loch2: Bass mezzo forte on

Hole 3: Bass crescendo piano

Hole 4: Bass crescendo forte

Hole 5: Bass sforzando piano

Hole 6: Bass sforzando Forte

Hole 7: Soft pedal (left pedal) off

Hole 8: Soft pedal (left pedal) on

Hole 9: Large resistance (less suction)

Hole 10: Small resistance (more suction)

Hole 11-90: 80 tones of C1 to g4

Hole 91: Return

Hole 92: Without allocation

Hole 93: Sustain pedal (right pedal) on

Hole 94: Sustain pedal (right pedal) off

Hole 95: Discant sforzando Forte

Hole 96: Discant sforzando piano

Hole 97: Discant crescendo Forte

Hole 98: Discant crescendo piano

Hole 99: Discant mezzo forte one

Hole 100: Discant mezzo forte from

Recordings for Welte T100 (red)

Most recordings were made for the Welte red system - recordings were refitted into the smaller roll format for the Welte green scale that was later introduced.

Welte-Mignon T100 (red)

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The Welte Green T98 Scale

Welte introduced the T98 Welte green reproduction system as late as 1924. It became a tracker bar with 98 punchings (actually, there were 102, including the track control) - the reproduction system could play all 88 tones. 88 note standard piano rolls could thus be played on the instrument. Welte offered the whole repertoire of piano rolls in both formats at once. The late introduction and the already receding market in the mid-1920 suggest that considerably less Welte green systems were sold. Introducing other variations (a Welte pedal piano) did not help, either.


Welte-Mignon T98 tracker bar

Allocation of the holes in T98 tracker bar

The Welte green T98 scale has the following allocation (from left to right):

Allocation of the holes in Welte T98 tracker bar

Hole "0": Track control on the left (two superimposed holes)
Hole 1: Bass sforzando piano and return (with long perforation)
Hole 2: Bass mezzo forte
Hole 3: Sustain pedal (right pedal)
Hole 4: Bass crescendo
Hole 5: Bass sforzando Forte
Hole 6-93 88 tones of A2 to c4
Hole 94: Discant sforzando Forte
Hole 95: Discant crescendo
Hole 96: Soft pedal (left pedal)
Hole 97: Discant mezzo forte
Hole 98: Discant sforzando piano
Hole "99": Track control on the right (two superimposed holes)

Welte used the T98 scale in all types

Welte used the T98 scale in all types, i.e. there were Welte green cabinets, push-up players, pianos and grands.

Welte T98 (green) photos

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The Hupfeld DEA Scale

Hupfeld AG in Leipzig launched the DEA ("goddess" in Latin) in addition to the very successful Phonola in 1907. Hupfeld AG thus tried to establish a product in competition to the earlier released Welte-Mignon. In 1912, Hupfeld claimed in advertisements to have released the first reproducing grand piano - Welte offered the reproducing system in grand pianos not before 1913. The Hupfeld DEA had the widest of all scales, allocating 106 holes. On the left or right are again the accentuation controls for bass and descant accentuation.


Hupfeld DEA tracker bar

Allocation of holes in DEA tracker bar

The Hupfeld DEA scale has the following allocation (from the left to the right):

Allocation of holes in Hupfeld DEA tracker bar

Hole 1-6: Bass accentuation of PP - FF
Hole 4-49: Tones A2 to d1
Hole 50: Sustain pedal on
Hole 51: Tone e1
Hole 52: Sustain pedal down
Hole 53: Tone f1
Hole 54: Short = shutdown, long = rewind
Hole 55: Tone fis1
Hole 56: Short = soft pedal down, long=soft pedal on
Hole 57: Tone g1
Hole 58: Short = resistance on, long = resistance off
Hole 59-96: Tones gis1 to a4
Hole 97: Crescendo bass accentuation
Hole 98: Not allocated
Hole 99: Not allocated
Hole 100: Crescendo discant accentuation
Hole 101-106: Accentuation discant PP to FF

Hupfeld DEA rolls

DEA instruments are nowadays very rare – most of them are Rönisch (grand) pianos. Few original rolls are preserved because of their rather scarce distribution and certainly also because of the unwieldy huge roll format.

Hupfeld DEA scale photos

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The Hupfeld Triphonola Scale

The Triphonola reproduction system, built after 1919, used a standard scale, so that the standard 88 note piano rolls could be played. Reproduction, however, continued to require Hupfeld's special rolls Animatic T or Triphonola. The specific feature of the Triphonola is its variety of utilization. The instrument can be used as a normal manual piano, as an artistic piano in pedal mode, as an artistic piano with electric drive and as a fully automatic reproducing piano with electric drive.


Hupfeld Triphonola tracker bar

Hupfeld Triphonola scale

Only few of these exceptionally beautiful instruments continue to exist, because the Triphonola was offered only after 1919 and less and less pianolas were produced and sold in Germany during the 1920s. The Triphonola scale has 101 holes (including the big track levers of the track control) in the tracker bar. 88 punchings in the middle address 88 tones. Right and left are the holes to control the accentuation and the self-playing mechanism.

Hupfeld Triphonola scale has the following allocation (from the left to the right):

Hupfeld Triphonola scale allocation

Hole 1: Track control (track lever)
Hole 2 and 3: (Above each other) soft pedal (left pedal)
Hole 4: Dynamism control mzf p ff accompaniment
Hole 5: Dynamism control mzf p ff melody
Hole 6: Sustain pedal (right pedal)
Hole 7: Bass Solodant (melody accentuation)
Hole from 8 to 95: 88 tones A2 to c5
Hole 96: Discant Solodant (melody accentuation)
Hole 97 and 99: Crescendo
Hole 98: Dynamism control mzf p ff melody
Hole 100: Dynamism control mzf p ff accompaniment
Hole 101: Track control (track lever)

Hupfeld Triphonola photos

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The Philipps DUCA Scale

Phillips AG in Frankfurt launched the DUCA reproduction system in 1908. The importance of unique performance features in contrast to the main competitors is demonstrated by the fact that the DUCA reproduction system was promoted as having the widest range of all, 81 tones (Welte had 80 then). This system used also its native roll format - the narrowest of all reproduction systems, reasoning that these narrow piano rolls were better protected against expansion in humid conditions. Like Welte and Hupfeld, they tried to hire great names for the repertoire of piano rolls – success was limited - and that was in the end another reason why this system never attained the market share that the other two suppliers achieved. Technically, though, the DUCA system is high-quality and plays very well if it is faithfully restored.


Philipps DUCA tracker bar

The Philipps DUCA scale allocation

The Philipps DUCA scale has the following allocation (from the left to the right):

The Philipps DUCA scale allocation

Hole 1: Accent bass
Hole 2: Mezzo forte bass off
Hole 3: Mezzo forte bass on
Hole 4: Decrescendo bass slow
Hole 5: Crescendo bass slow
Hole 6: Decrescendo bass fast
Hole 7: Crescendo bass fast
Hole 8: Soft pedal down
Hole 9: Soft pedal half on
Hole 10: Motor off
Hole from 11 to 91: 81 tones C1 to g4
Hole 92: Soft pedal full on
Hole 93: Rewind
Hole 94: Sustain pedal on
Hole 95: Sustain pedal off
Hole 96: Crescendo discant fast
Hole 97: Decrescendo discant fast
Hole 98: Crescendo discant slow
Hole 99: Crescendo discant fast
Hole 100: Mezzo forte discant on
Hole 101: Mezzo forte discant off
Hole 102: Accent discant

Philipps DUCA scale

The DUCA scale has 102 almost uniform holes in the tracker bar - 81 for the tones and 21 for the controls, 11 to the right and 10 to the left. Philipps DUCA reproduction systems are mainly found in Feurich (grand) pianos and Arnold pianos - the latter one is one of those pianoforte factories that Philipps bought up during the late 1920s.

While Hupfeld and Welte had at first no suitable offers for restaurants and cafés, Philipps offered instruments for the insertion of coins. Note the Philipps revolver mechanics that was inserted into their instruments already in 1911 - and could automatically play six piano rolls in succession. The water motor for locations without (reliable) electric connection was as innovative - this water motor could be connected to any available water pipe and also activated by throwing in a coin.

Philipps DUCA scale photos

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The Aeolian Duo-Art Scale

The Aeolian Company New York used the 88 note standard scale for the Duo-Art reproduction system, marketed after 1913 and supplemented by punchings for accentuation and drive control. Its four accentuation holes in the tracker bar for bass or descant are remarkable; they are on the left and right above the row of holes for the tones - they control the "expression box ", the accentuation unit. If the selection switch is set on "Standard Full Scale Rolls", the holes for accentuation control are switched off and the four holes beneath are released for the four deepest or highest tones of the full 88 note scale.


Aeolian Duoart tracker bar

Aeolian Duoart tracker bar allocation

In an Aeolian Duo-Art, the track control is realized by means of the track guidance levers right and left.

The Aeolian Duo-Art Scale has the following allocation (from the left to the right):

Aeolian Duoart tracker bar allocation

Upper row:
Hole from 1 to 4: Accentuation control accompaniment
Hole from 5 to 8: Accentuation control melody
Lower row:
Hole 1: Rewind
Hole 2: Sustain pedal (right pedal)
Hole 3: Control bass melody
Hole from 4 to 90: 88 tones of A2 to c5
Hole 91: Control descant melody
Hole 92: Motor
Hole 93: Soft pedal (left pedal)

Aeolian Duoart versus Hupfeld etc.

Other than Hupfeld or Welte, Aeolian realized the accentuation of the Duo-Art in 16 defined steps, so it was not floating. But Aeolian combines this cleverly with the soft pedal, so that excellent sound and accentuation quality of the reproduction is achieved, a very well restored and adjusted instrument provided.

The Aeolian Company New York succeeded in getting an exclusive contract with Steinway & Sons for the American region, so that at least 600 Steinway instruments per year would be equipped with the Duo-Art system. The very extensive piano roll repertoire of Duo-Art is interesting. It includes a lot of classical titles but also popular music from the USA.

The Duo-Art System did not prevail in Germany against the powerful competition of Hupfeld and Welte, but the better it performed in America and England.

Aeolian Duoart photos

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The Ampico Scale

The Ampico reproduction system of the American Piano Company was - like the Aeolian Duo-Art - very successful at the native American market and rarely found in Europe - although European pianoforte manufacturers like Hopkinson, Grotrian-Steinweg and Bösendorfer used this system during its late phase.


Ampico tracker bar

Ampico systems

The arrangement of the tracker bar and the control elements in a drawer below the keyboard are remarkable. Thus the grand pianos were not artificially extended by the reproductive mechanism, as it was in Hupfeld and Welte instruments because the upper installation mechanism required space between pin block and keyboard. A 1.85 m Grotrian-Steinweg grand piano with Ampico system is a real 1.85 m grand - while, for example, a 1.80 m Niendorf-Welte grand piano contains only a 1.60 m grand.

The precursor (Stoddard-Ampico) was released in 1913 - the mature Ampico A after 1920. The improved version - Ampico B - was released in 1929. The Ampico system is also interesting in comparison to other reproduction systems precisely because of its special repertoire. The American Piano Company (derived from the merger of leading manufacturers/brands, such as Knabe, Chickering, Fischer, Haines, Marshall & Wendell and, later, Mason & Hamlin) managed to get an exclusive contract for the Ampico system with S. Rachmaninoff who was very pessimistic about reproduction instruments. This generated much attention and attracted buyers to the Ampico - as well as other famous pianists. Beside the rolls recorded by S. Rachmaninoff, there is a repertoire of popular music, i.e. of American music from the 1920s-30s.

The scale of the Ampico A of system has 100 holes in the tracker bar, including two track levers for track control.

The Ampico A scale has the following allocation (from the left to the right):

Ampico A tracker bar allocation

Hole 1: Track control left
Hole 2: Slow crescendo bass
Hole 3: Accentuation 1 bass
Hole 4: Sustain pedal (right pedal)
Hole 5: Accentuation 2 bass
Hole 6: Quick crescendo bass
Hole 7: Accentuation 3 bass
Hole 8: Accentuation bass down
Hole from 9 to 91: 83 tones of H2 to a4
Hole 92: Slow crescendo discant
Hole 93: Accentuation 1 discant
Hole 94: Soft pedal (left pedal)
Hole 95: Accentuation 2 discant
Hole 96: Quick crescendo discant
Hole 97: Accentuation 3 discant
Hole 98: Accentuation discant down
Hole 99: Motor
Hole 100: Track control right

Ampico photos

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Combined scales

Many combined systems were built in the transition phase that had 65 and 88 note or 73 and 88 note scales to be selected by switch or exchange of the tracker bar, so that they could play two roll types. Many owners of the former formats could still use the piano rolls that were already present thus - besides, some music titles were only available on rolls of certain formats.

The combined scales photos

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