player piano, an upright piano incorporating a mechanical system that automatically plays the encoded contents of a paper strip. This strip, perforated with holes whose position and length determine pitch and duration, is drawn over a pneumatic device that shoots streams of air through the holes. The air is guided through a tube to the corresponding hammer, which strikes the string. The pieces used in player pianos often reproduced performances by famous pianists. Although popular during the late 19th and early 20th cent., the player piano was eclipsed by phonographs and radios.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.