Townsend & Thomson Player Piano

Ask questions on piano history and the age of your piano.

Moderators: Feg, Gill the Piano, Bill Kibby

Post Reply
dcparlier
New Member
New Member
Posts: 4
Joined: 28 Jun 2014, 13:57

Townsend & Thomson Player Piano

Post by dcparlier » 28 Jun 2014, 14:13

I just bought a used player piano with the following info on 2 metal plates:

Townsend & Thomson, est. 1829, 79 George St., Edinburgh (was told by seller it was a 1919 model) and

John Malcolm & Co., London (on a metal plate behind the piano roll holder)

Do you have any info on these companies? Also, were Townsend & Thomson the piano builders or only the retailers?

I have questions on the player piano controls in front. They are as follows, left to Right:

Bass Treble DIM (a lever - not sure what it does) Tempo Lever RITARD button (? use) Forward/Rewind Lever

Would like to know what DIM, the next lever and Ritard button do.

Thank you,

Dave Parlier
Hendersonville, NC USA

User avatar
Bill Kibby
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 5282
Joined: 04 Jun 2003, 19:25
Location: East Anglia UK
Contact:

Re: Townsend & Thomson Player Piano

Post by Bill Kibby » 28 Jun 2014, 23:25

I can't help you with player controls, someone else may answer, but DIM probably means DIMINUENDO - getting quieter.

Malcolm made Piano Players before they were built into pianos, and he also made piano actions. I guess that Malcolm made the player action.

Townsend & Thomson were certainly retailers, but I cannot definitely say they didn't make it. Townsend himself was established in 1829, it was Townsend, Thomson & Grubb until 1881. They were not at 79 George Street until 1883, but stayed there at least until 1914.

Any further clues to date or origin will be hidden inside, see
http://pianohistory.info/datemarks.html
Piano History Centre
http://pianohistory.info
Email bill@pianohistory.info
If you find old references or links on this site to pianogen.org, alter these to pianohistory.info

dcparlier
New Member
New Member
Posts: 4
Joined: 28 Jun 2014, 13:57

Re: Townsend & Thomson Player Piano

Post by dcparlier » 29 Jun 2014, 11:16

Thanks Bill, that helps a lot.
Dave

User avatar
Colin Nicholson
Executive Poster
Executive Poster
Posts: 1829
Joined: 04 Jul 2010, 19:15
Location: Morpeth, Northumberland
Contact:

Re: Townsend & Thomson Player Piano

Post by Colin Nicholson » 30 Jun 2014, 02:07

Hi
With the exception of the play/rewind lever, the 'expression' levers will only work when the player unit is up and running and you are pumping the bellow pedals and running the paper roll.

The wind motor has three suction controls: 1. The governor 2. tempo control 3. accelerator. The speed and volume remains constant until you slide the levers - then the suction decreases or increases.

Most players have a standard volume level when played.... if you slide the lever to 'bass' - the bass notes will become quieter by less suction (which is how a pianist should play the piano normally),

The retard lever slows the music down .... this is done at the end of certain phrases.... depending on how far you extend the lever, the tempo control suction valve will decrease - even though you are pumping the pedals at the same speed.

The rewind lever is used to reverse the paper roll - and you pump the pedals (which shuts off the suction) - and the paper roll rewinds itself back onto the roll.... like rewinding a cassette tape.

Various valves and pneumatics work these levers independently - even though the player unit runs at the same constant speed.... depending on the level and experience of the pianist, they can gauge louds & softs/ rubato/ expression by simultaneously moving these levers a small amount during certain parts of the music, then returning them for normal play. The dim lever is controlled by your left hand, and the tempo/retard lever is controlled with your right hand..... often worked both hands together! For example, at the end of a piece of romantic music, a real pianist would gradually get slower and quieter towards the end. The retard lever should be used sparingly - and too much lever can ruin the sound of the music.... a good 'pianola' player will just nudge the lever a fraction when needed - say last few notes of a phrase, then gradually move the lever to resume normal tempo for the start of the new phrase. Even though you don't need to touch the keys, there is an art in playing these pianos properly.

This is of course assuming all the control valves are working correctly and connected up under the keyboard, and admitting the right amount of suction.... if there are any air leaks/ loose or worn hose or pipe connections or perished bellow parts (diaphragms/ pneumatics etc).... they might not work.... and depending on your aural skills?

To learn more about player pianos/ vocabulary/ diagrams/ how things work etc.... buy the book "Player Piano Servicing and Rebuilding" by Arthur Reblitz.

Hope that helps....
AA Piano Tuners UK

Colin Nicholson Dip. Mus. CMIT CLCM PTLLS
Piano tuning & repairs. Full UK restoration service
http://www.aatuners.com
Tuition ~ Accompaniment ~ Weddings
http://www.pianotime1964.com
Member of The Guild of Master Craftsmen

dcparlier
New Member
New Member
Posts: 4
Joined: 28 Jun 2014, 13:57

Re: Townsend & Thomson Player Piano

Post by dcparlier » 30 Jun 2014, 10:39

Thank you, Colin. I really appreciate the responses. We're really enjoying the piano and have many WWI and II music rolls. The piano has been restored and motorized. The only oddity is the keys don't move when the music is playing. I don't know if it was designed that way or if there is a control somewhere to reverse this. Anyway, I guess it saves wear and tear on the keyboard mechanism. Thanks again all.

User avatar
Colin Nicholson
Executive Poster
Executive Poster
Posts: 1829
Joined: 04 Jul 2010, 19:15
Location: Morpeth, Northumberland
Contact:

Re: Townsend & Thomson Player Piano

Post by Colin Nicholson » 01 Jul 2014, 00:48

It's perfectly normal for some player units to be designed without keyboard movement. In the early days of the player piano, manufacturers didn't stay with a particular design for long - so some had weird and wonderful automated devices that were constantly changing. Some have "lock & cancel" devices. The Reblitz book explains about these devices.... but judging by your reply, (with respect) - you may be like a kid with a new toy, and not fully understand the mechanics.
AA Piano Tuners UK

Colin Nicholson Dip. Mus. CMIT CLCM PTLLS
Piano tuning & repairs. Full UK restoration service
http://www.aatuners.com
Tuition ~ Accompaniment ~ Weddings
http://www.pianotime1964.com
Member of The Guild of Master Craftsmen

dcparlier
New Member
New Member
Posts: 4
Joined: 28 Jun 2014, 13:57

Re: Townsend & Thomson Player Piano

Post by dcparlier » 01 Jul 2014, 13:08

You're right, it's like Christmas morning each time I put another roll in. Thanks for the book advice. I ordered it this morning.
Dave

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 7 guests