Mechanical Violin and Banjo Tones (Bayernhof Muesum, Part 4)

Yesterday’s jukebox but somewhat more sophisticated? This mechanical musical instrument, the Violano Virtuoso, a Mills Novelty Company deluxe violin playing machine, would have cost folks 5 cents to use, and would have been in a hotel lobby or dining hall, said Tony Marsico, curator of the Bayernhof Museum. The instruments, generally produced between 1912 and 1929, were very expensive–three times the price of a car!

Here’s the Violano Virtuoso Ringtone. In this track, you’ll hear the mechanical violins and piano. The piano was an important addition to self-playing violin machines (so I learned on the Mills Novelty Company’s wonderful About Violanos page):

“This forerunner of the Violano Virtuoso was known as the Automatic Virtuosa. It was marketed in 1905. These very early instruments did not have pianos. It quickly became evident that a piano needed to be added to make the machine more popular and listenable. Most were returned to the factory and retro-fitted with a piano back.”

The Violano Virtuoso Ringtone is one of eight tones belonging to Locally Toned’s Bayernhof Museum Tone Series.

And now for one of my personal favorites from the Bayernhof Museum series–the Encore Automatic Banjo Tone. The track is an upbeat sample from the museum’s self-playing banjo machine.

If you’re itching to start your mechanical musical instrument collection now, you’ll be happy to hear that these machines are still produced today–the Ramey “new” Encore Automatic Banjo goes for $27,000.00, and that they’re made in America–33 miles northwest of Columbus, Ohio. Read more about the marvelous banjo’s history here.

Thanks again to my project adviser, Hyla Willis, for telling me about the Bayernhof Museum as a source for potential Pittsburgh sounds. And thanks to the museum and its curator Tony Marsico for allowing me to visit and produce this new series of tones.

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