Mechanical Music Restoration

Supplies & Services

Mechanical Music

Player Piano (Pianola, Piano Player)


Cylinder Musical Box

Disc Musical Box

This page will describe various instruments and will hopefully include some pictures, and perhaps even some sounds once I can master the techniques of digital recording and adding sound to the site!

It is aimed at newcomers to Mechanical Music, to give them a better understanding of the range of instruments available, and perhaps encourage them to take the plunge, or widen their horizons.

If you have details, pictures, sounds of unusual instruments you would like to add, e-mail me on


WHAT IS ...........................

Mechanical Music
Mechanical Music, as far as this site is concerned, relates to any machine or instrument which produces music from a mechanical system. This usually requires several distinct parts:-

Music producer - the heart of the instrument, which makes the sound, such as the piano part of a Player Piano, the comb in a Musical Box, the reeds in an Organette, or the pipes in a street organ.

Motive power - the powering mechanism, e.g. human feet and pedals in a player piano (or an electric motor in motorised instruments), a hand crank, or a spring motor.

The music program - the part which determines what tune is played,e.g. piano roll, pinned cylinder, disc with holes, or even, in many modern street and fair organs, an electronic memory using the MIDI system.

Playing mechanism - the part which causes the music producer to play the tune provided by the program, e.g the pneumatic actuators in a Player Piano, the star wheels in a disc Musical Box, or the valves and pallets in an Organ. This part doesn't really exist in a Musical Box since the pins act directly on the comb to produce music.

If you have all (or most) of these bits, then you have a mechanical musical instrument. Some would also use the expression Self Playing instrument. Gramophones, etc. are borderline, in my opinion, since they don't really have a music producer which you could operate to create musical notes.


"To have MM the instrument is the source of the sound you hear, and the media merely turns that sound on or off. Gramophones are simply devices for transferring whatever is on the record into the air, and are not the source of the sound. There is no obligation to have music on a gramophone - it could be speech, or birdsong, or steam engines!" (Julian Dyer - PPG).