My Homemade "O" Roll Orchestrion
by Steve Bentley (020908 MMDigest)

bentley_d.jpg (29 kb)
I built the orchestrion in 1983.  I have a new Snare drum, not the wood one shown.

Original Coinolas are nice because they are original and have history, but how many are still playing as they should be?  And the homemade instruments also fall into disrepair.

Can someone tell me the ratio of glockenspiels to xylophones fitted in Coinola "X's and others?  Personally, those metal bars dinging away spoils the whole machine, as it is difficult to hear the melody in true form.  Drums and other percussion cannot be heard as should be whilst this solo instrument is on.  After 80 years, old drums in old instruments can have warped frames, and the skins are not in good shape and can sound dead.

My homemade orchestrion does not have the drum expression but I have taken pains to get all the instruments in balance.  I have just bought a new Picollo snare drum costing around $200.00.  The single beater on this travels only 1/4" on a vacuum of 22"; any more travel just sounds too loud.

There is a reiterating xylophone, an accordion, and, in place of the wood block, there are castanets.  I replaced the wood block as it appeared to spoil the music.  The castanets are very suitable when playing Latin American music and can be operated a long time throughout the tune without becoming irritable.  Musically my orchestrion would be on par with a Coinola CO but in a regular size piano.

The homemade orchestrions can sound as good if not better than the originals if time, patience, skill and engineering are put into them.

Steve Bentley
Vancouver BC
08 Sep 2002 15:33:11 -0700

bentley_c.jpg (30 kb)
The orchestrion instruments include an accordion, snare & bass drums, triangle,
castanets, tambourine, reiterating xylophone (behind the tambourine).  The
accordion is powered by a pressure pump behind the piano soundboard.

28 February 2003