Preserving Wurlitzer Automatic Player Piano (APP) Rolls
And Enjoying MIDI Files on Your Instrument
Addition to Paper Rolls?
Most music rolls are about 100 years old and may be brittle, damaged, and in danger of failure and loss. Scanning allows these rolls to be preserved in perpetuity for a new generation. Files benefit from transcription into a digital MIDI file (.mid) library, available to a new audience and generation to be enjoyed by many others at low cost.
Why Wurlitzer APP rolls?
First, Wurlitzer was one of two large coin-piano companies in business for a long time from the early ‘teens though the 1930’s that mostly used their own arrangers to pump out thousands of terrific, visionary arrangements with a unique Wurlitzer sound that were not the usual QRS rolls that made up the bulk of “A”, “G”, and other rolls used by most coin piano companies. (The other independent company arranging their great own music was the Link Piano Co. of Binghamton, NY, where Ray Deyo did most of the arranging). The attraction here again is the music. Wurlitzer’s arrangers turned out so much great music that did not sound like anything QRS (or others) did.
Wurlitzer’s early rag and two-steps are some of the finest and rarest early piano roll music. From the mid-twenties through the early 30’s, Wurlitzer’s arrangers created a carousel / honky-tonk sound that was vastly different than all the usual “A” and “G” rolls. During the mid to late 1920’s, Wurlitzer did use some QRS masters.
Seeburg H Rolls First
Matt Jaro and I first started this project preserving Seeburg H rolls. (See AMICA Bulletin May-June 2020, page 11). Why? Same reason as Wurlitzer APP. Seeburg H music is unique and rare, and some of the best music ever arranged for a US made coin-operated orchestrion. So far, we have preserved over 3,000 music files and made them available to Seeburg H instrument owners in MIDI digitized format to play on their instrument.
Wurlitzer Style "CX" with piano, mandolin, violin and flute pipes, bass and snare drums, and bells. One of many Wurlitzer styles where a non-invasive MIDI system can easily be added.
What About MIDI?
Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) is a common digital musical specification that allows an instrument to have an electronic / digital interface that can play music by computer or digital interface.
You can add a non-invasive MIDI system at low cost and enjoy 1,000’s of tunes at the press of a button, yet still enjoy your instrument from paper rolls anytime.
A MIDI system can be easily added by an experienced professional technician, usually on your site in a couple days without moving the instrument to a shop. The cost is manageable and process non-invasive. The parts don’t take much room and are usually out of sight inside the case. Once installed, the MIDI system cohabitates nicely with your original roll system, can easily be removed, and gives access to so much music that likely have been previously impossible
MIDI In Your Instrument? Installation?
Probably. Wurlitzer APP instruments came in many styles, about the size of a standard upright piano or with extended cases to house other instruments such as percussion, pipes, and bells.
It could either have a single 10-tune “long” roll frame or have a unique Wurlitzer ferris-wheel rotary roll changer that plays six 5-tune APP “changer” rolls. If you have either, you have a unique opportunity to participate in a major roll preservation project and be the resulting beneficiary of a MIDI system installed in your instrument that can play your choice of around 5,000 tunes scanned and preserved from both 5-tune changer and 10-tune long frame 10-tune rolls.
Typical styles are A, B, C, I, AX, BX, CX, IX, and LX. Some MIDI components in upright-size cases might need to be installed outside or on the back of the case.
We have relationships with several professional MIDI installers listed below you can contact about an individual proposal for your instrument. If you are knowledgeable, you can install the system yourself from component providers we can provide.
What About the Music?
Even if you are familiar with Wurlitzer APP music, be sure to listen to some of the sample recordings played on an APP machine representative of these files. Note the style of the Wurlitzer arrangers, so different and enjoyable from the usual sameness of most other coin-piano music and brands.
Much of the music comes from my personal 500+ roll collection. We have also borrowed some rolls from gracious others who were pleased to contribute to the preservation project.
You can access any of several tune lists here from the music included in our first release.
History has told us most people prefer early ragtime-era rolls and mid-20’s through mid-30’s popular music. Most are arranged by Wurlitzer’s own arrangers. Our music catalog, gradually growing to around 5,000 tunes prioritizes these selections and minimizes others. Initially, we have about 1,000 selections available with periodic new releases several times a year. Most will want to subscribe to the full packages and releases for best availability and pricing, but you can choose individual selections if you prefer.
MIDI files are licensed to you under an agreement you must review and accept.
MIDI files are priced at the typical mechanical music rate of $2 /file when purchased in bulk. Periodic releases of about 500-1,000 files allow you to purchase as many groups of files as you like at this favorable rate. For example, a group or release of 500 files, equivalent to 100 rolls of APP 5-tune changer rolls, is only $1,000 at this rate. Each "group or release" has a variety of great music, mostly fox trots, one-steps, rags, blues, and waltzes. No junk! Some "unknown" tunes are included at no charge.
Other rates for much lower or higher quantitates, certain types of music, or other special requests are available. Inquire.
Recommended professionals for a MIDI installation proposal:
Jeremy Stevens; 464 W. Creekside Ln; Kaysville, UT 84037-3144; email@example.com. 801-510-3495
Dick Hack; 2051 Chesapeake Road; Annapolis, MD 21409-5714. Rhack1@verizon.net 410 279-5859
More information, questions, and detail:
Glenn Thomas; 165 Kildee Rd., Belle Mead, NJ 08502; firstname.lastname@example.org. 908 447-9724
Matt Jaro; 24219 Clematis Dr., Gaithersburg, MD 20882; mjaro@Verizon.net. 301-482-2008
Recordings of APP Music Samples Played on a Wurlitzer CX
APP Tunes transcribed to Seeburg H
Listing of APP Current Files