Pianoroll Scanner 2.0

A new scanner with color camera

SISAR is a project, supported by the Italian Mechanical Music Association (AMMI), devoted to the conception and development of systems for scanning, listening and recording various types of music storage media for mechanical music instruments. According to the specific characteristics of the supports proper hardware and software architectures have been developed.

The Perforated Music storage media Scanner (PMS) is based on a modular architecture properly conceived to be easily adapted to various types of perforated music storage media.

Images of the linear ones are obtained by a scanner equipped with a new color linear camera (Teledyne Dalsa) and whose traction control system is implemented in the Arduino microcontroller board. A new traction system is dedicated to scan paper rolls.

The obtained images can be successively elaborated by a proper computer program to convert images into MIDI file format. Notes, dynamics, tempo changes (not necessarily perforated but also printed), mechanical music peculiarities as themodist and other customizable music effects are digitally recorded and can be successively faithfully reproduced.

Post date: 6-mar-2019

A new color scanner for old music pianoroll is being tested...

We will keep you updated on developments.

Soon it will be delivered to the university of Pavia (Dipartimento di Musicologia e Beni Culturali, Cremona ) where it will be used in the digitalization of the rollers in their possession.

Post date: 8-mar-2019

The new pianoroll scanner 2.0 has arrived on the University!!!

australian bulletin giugno 2022.pdf

Post date: 19-ott-2020

A new description for our pianoroll scanner 2.0

  • Our scanning system is composed by two main parts. The scanner itself, dedicated to acquire the image, and a software aiming to decode pieces of music and to encode them into MIDI files.

  • The scanning unit embeds a color linear camera with 2048 pixels, synchronized with a feeding unit. The acquisition software is developed in C#.

  • The scanning unit was initially developed as a modular element, to be plug&played with two different mechanical units: for paper rolls and for cardboards, respectively. Currently we have two standalone scanners, one for cardboard and one for paper rolls.

  • The machine unwinds and rewinds paper rolls, keeping the paper tension constant. It can scan rolls up to 330mm wide (Welte red). We have also realized a scanner able to scan rolls up to 500mm, for DEA rolls, but they're quite rare.

  • The paper can be illuminated either from ahead or behind. To illuminate the paper from ahead allows to scan the complete image of the roll, including written and printed annotations, as the ones related to time indications and volume changes, useful for archive and image preservation purposes. The complete lightened image can be useful for musicologists in their studies. For some type of rolls, especially if annotations are very dark, it is preferable to illuminate the roll from behind.

  • Once the image is acquired (and stored) it is processed by another piece of software. It is written in Python and exploits numerical and image libraries as Numpy, Scipy and PyQt. Python is free and multiplatform, in order to facilitate its distribution.

  • This software allows to create a virtual trackerbar. Each trackerbar can be configured as required by the particular piano roll or cardboard. It can be configured with notes, effects as Themodist, Sustain pedal effects and other MIDI contoller codes. This will allow almost straightforwardly the possibility to scan and MIDIfy reproducing rolls.

  • Besides configuring notes, the complete and lightened image of the medium allows to see tempo changes and dynamics indications written on the medium. In order to facilitate the MIDIfication not only of notes but also of dynamics and tempo changes, a tool is given to the user, who can virtually draw on the paper the (poly)lines defining these parameters, following the indications written and printed on the scanned image. During the MIDIfication phase, these polylines are processed together with the holes information and contextually encoded in MIDI format.

  • The "virtual trackerbar" can be moreover configured to decode information about organ stops. In this case, the generated MIDI file embeds peculiar organ information and, with the support of Grandorgue (https://sourceforge.net/projects/ourorgan/) can faithfully reproduce also organ sounds together with stop changes.

  • During the decoding phase, the "virtual" trackerbar continuosly adjusts its position on the processed image, in order to compensate slight lateral oscillations which can commonly happen during the image acquisition process, especially if piano rolls are not well preserved and their boundaries can have irregularities, leading to have acquired holes not constantly aligned throughout all the image.

  • The decoding algorithm takes into account a minimum (settable) distance between holes since often long notes were encoded on paper rolls not as continuous long holes (which would have excessively weakened the paper) but as dotted lines.

  • In addition, a dedicated tool allows to "straighten" images of discs (as Ariston discs), exploiting quite simple image techniques, and elaborate them as "rectangular" images. This allowed us to scan and to duplicate ancient discs without requiring to develop a dedicated scanner for discs, exploiting images obtained by off-the-shelf cameras.

  • It is our intention to add a plugin to process reproducing rolls. Currently, it is almost ready a functionality to decode Duo-Art rolls. Afterwards, it will be possible to interpret Welte Green, Welte Red, Ampico, and others.

  • Obtaining a video of the scanned roll it is not currently available, but it is a functionality that we could develop.

You can probably find some more details at this link. It is a description of the first version of the scanner.


You can see the new version of the scanner in the image at the end of this document.

You can download a presentation of the scanner project at the following link. Actually, this presentation is quite old and is not really update, but it can be useful for a general overview of the project



If you are curious about other activities that AMMILAB does, you can have a look also here


...and AMMILAB is part of the outstanding Italian Mechanical Music Association


In conclusion, if you are interested in our activities or solutions we would be glad to understand how we could support and collaborate with you.

The scanning system is currently installed at the Musicology University of Cremona, where the scanner is currently installed and used to scan the university collection.