The Anatomy of a Piano Roll


A piano roll consists of a number of parts…

The perforated paper itself, 11 inches wide and as long as the music calls for, typically 25 feet for a dance roll and up to 90 feet for the longest rolls.

The paper used is a 60 gsm plain white Kraft, a high-quality paper which is virtually identical to original roll paper in terms of stiffness and thickness. Like virtually all piano roll papers it is not waxed. Modern acid-free production means it should easily outperform original paper in terms of strength and lifetime. 

The roll tab, used to mount the roll hook and strengthen the end of the roll.

This is a bespoke long-life self-adhesive vinyl shape, mounted directly onto the trimmed end of the perforated paper. The gummed cloth tape that was traditionally used seems not be be available any longer.

The roll hook, used to attach the roll to the take-up spool.

This is a standard D-ring, made of vat-nickeled steel, sourced from the shoe and clothing trimmings trade. D-rings are the traditional European style of attaching the roll to the take-up spool in the player piano, rather than the punched-out eyelet used in some American brands.

The core, around which the paper is wound.

The core is  inch internal diameter traditional spiral-wound-cardboard.

Spool ends, to form the roll spool.

These are specially made for piano rolls, and come in two diameters, for smaller rolls up to 40 feet and larger rolls up to a maximum of 100 feet. Some over-length rolls are offered, and are noted in the catalogue. The ends are glued into the core: the right-hand end used to drive the roll in rewind is glued rigidly in position, while the left-hand end is mounted flexibly to permit adjustment to the paper width, but firmly enough to stay in its set position while in use.

The roll box, to protect the rolls while they are not being played.

These are top-quality traditional two-piece box-and-lid combinations, complete with thumb-notch, made from robust 1.2mm cardboard (unlike the light-weight boxes used on some modern rolls). Two sizes are used, matching the roll spools. They are covered with traditional embossed cover paper, a dark red ‘Crocodile’ pattern: nothing remotely close to the original UK Duo-Art beige canvas-patterned paper is available.

The label, to identify the music.

Duo-Art rolls are supplied with new full-colour labels based on an Aeolian original, or soetimes with a copy of the origial label. 

When all of these are brought together you have a piano roll ready to bring musical pleasure for the next 100 years or so!

If you are not sure whether these rolls will work on your player piano, please see the compatibility page.