Barrel pianos were at the height of their popularity from the mid 1800’s to the 1920’s, they were commonly found on the street, often attended by the so called ‘Organ Grinder’ and his monkey (more commonly a chimp). It is arguable that the barrel piano was actually a more common sight on the streets than it’s cousin the barrel organ.
Barrel pianos are quite simple devices, although the setting up, alignment etc. is critical and should only be attempted by an experienced technician. The strung part of the piano has much in common with the standard upright piano although there are important differences. Barrel pianos are strung at a far lower tension than the modern upright piano. They are designed to have a shorter sustain, this is desirable given that these instruments have no dampers and a longer sustain could lead to a very confused and unfocused sound. Many have wooden frames, so the tensions for restringing have to be assessed carefully, taking account of the original string gauges and calculating new tension appropriately for the now aged structure.
All sizes of barrel piano, from the smaller table top to the larger cafe (penny in the slot) pianos can be restrung. Following inspection I can provide a detailed quote for work needed to bring nearly any barrel piano into good working order.
Pictured below is a later Spanish barrel piano, restrung and comprising just 23 notes.