Pianola and/or Barrel Organ rolls

My parents have an old restored pianola that plays music it reads from a perforated roll of paper.

I’ve been thinking it’d be a fun project to:
a) write a script of some sort that can convert midi files into a pianola / barrel organ / other format
b) use a glowforge pro to cut the holes for one of these rolls, it’d take a while to do but would be a lot of fun to be able to ‘print’ our own songs!

Here’s an example that shows a barrel organ reading a song roll:

and another one of a pianola doing a similar thing:

Does anyone else here have access to one of these instruments?


An amazing thing just happened! After listening to the first tune i though wouldn’t it be interesting to hear Bohemian Rhapsody done like that!!! :dizzy_face:

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if you can work out a script for translating the midi, it should be easy enough to build a roll holder and a hand-cranked take-up reel to easily feed roll-material through a Pro.

I wonder if you could modify an electric braille reader to fit where the roll goes… though at that level of over-engineering you may as well just connect a computer in place of the whole card reading system in the first place.

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Lol how are there not more likes on this post lol. That smoth criminal one just made my day. Thx

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If anyone can help you, it’s this Ronald Walters: he is an engineer maker and has done barrel organs. Not clear in his YouTube about custom music rolls but he surely could assist in design a music roll cutter.

Ask and ye shall receive :smile:


About 20 years ago someone had the awesome idea to digitize some pianola rolls that Gershwin recorded himself. So they scanned the perforations and translated them into notes and then added the average speed of the roll advance. With all this data they programmed a player piano and got a brand new crisp recording of Gershwin “playing” his own music.

You might want to research who did it or someone else that has done this type of work.

This is another on my to do list. I have and love my player piano, and very interested in making my own rolls and also converting from midi (bmp, jpeg, etc) back to paper.

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