Doctor Who Theme, On Player Piano

This video capture a cover version of Ron Grainer + Delia Derbyshire’s iconic Dr. Who theme, arranged for computer-controlled player piano.

via Keeper1st:

I made this arrangement 20 years ago for computer-controlled piano, but this is the first time I’ve been able to hear it on an actual computer-controlled piano instead of a MIDI synthesizer.

Back around 1989, a friend sent me a four-hand piano arrangement of the 1980 version of the Doctor Who theme. It was by a couple of guys whose surnames were Balga and Hosek, as I recall. However, it was lacking in some areas, and they had misheard the chords as being dissonant (probably mistaking the grating sawtooth waveform of the original as being dissonance). So I essentially re-transcribed the entire piece from the recording, fixing rhythmic differences, the chords, adding notes that they had missed, and adding the “twinklies” as I call them. They’re not exactly the same as in the original recording (back then I had no means to slow down the original recording to aid in transcription), but at least they’re there now.

Some of their original arrangement is still present (e.g. the “echo” of the melody and some grace notes), so I can’t take full credit, though it’s mostly mine.

Anyway, with all the changes I made, it really was no longer a four-hand piano arrangement, though I suppose two people technically could play it if they really worked at it. The dynamics of the “twinklies” coming in and out while passing through other notes also makes it probably incapable of being done on a reproducing piano roll (admittedly I don’t know exactly how their dynamics systems work), thus I don’t call this a piano-roll arrangement; I’ve always thought of it as an arrangement for computer-controlled piano (though I think on my web site I do list it as four-hand).

9 thoughts on “Doctor Who Theme, On Player Piano

  1. In one word, sorry for my harsh verdict, but still: horrible.

    Obviously created by someone who thinks who knows some basics about synth styled computing but has no idea how the piano is (“should be”) played.

    Its a common issue though; people have a good feeling for a keyboard and the way it sounds. Then all of a sudden think that they can approach, for example, a brass section of worse; string section in a same manner as they did their “keyboard” tune.

    1. Actually, I compose piano music, and have a fairly large collection of player-piano rolls as well, so I don't know where you're coming from there. I'm quite familiar with the piano as an instrument — more so than any other instrument — and how to arrange for it (for both human performers and automatic pianos).

    2. Actually, I compose piano music, and have a fairly large collection of player-piano rolls as well, so I don't know where you're coming from there. I'm quite familiar with the piano as an instrument — more so than any other instrument — and how to arrange for it (for both human performers and automatic pianos).

  2. Amazing! This is one of the best and definitely the most detailed arrangements of this great theme that I've ever hear! 5/5, especially for the middle eight part

Leave a Reply