The Pianolette


The Pianolette was invented in the 1930’s by Henry C. Marx. His company produced these instruments in Mount Pleasant, Iowa and New Troy, Michigan. The Pianolette has two sets of strings, one that’s played with a bow or hammer and a smaller set of strings that is strummed. Marx, a concert violinist and music teacher, sold these musical instruments door to door. Over the years, Henry and his son, Charles, invented several unusual instruments, including the Pianolette, the Pianolin, Banjolin, Hawaii-Phone, Mandolin-Uke, Marx Piano Harp and the Violin Uke.

The concept of the Henry Marx instruments was that anyone could play them. The door to door salesman would play the instrument for the prospective customer demonstrating how easy it was to make music with the Pianolette. One of the selling points was the owner of the Pianolette did not have to learn how to read music. With each string being numbered, Marx converted standard music notation into a numbering system. His sheet music consisted of 2 sets of numbers, divided by a line. The numbers above the line are the melody notes and played on the individual strings. The numbers below the line are the bass notes and played on the chord string sets. Below are some sheet music examples of the Henry Marx numbering system.