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  • Using a keybaord as a church organ

    Hey all,

    I've been away for a while.

    I left my rural Southern Baptist church and went to the Orthodox Presbyetian church. I'm no longer an organist but I play piano once in a while. We're sort of minimalist in our music at my OPC. All of our congregational singing comes from the Trinity Hymnal.

    We don't have an organ in our church yet. At Christmas I brought my keyboard and a cheapo surround sound system for a Christmas hymnsing. It was somwhat a failure but that's another story.

    My rig consists of a Casio LK-40, a subwoofer/amp and two two way speakers mounted in the kind of small carpet covered boxes one would use in a pickup track behind the seat. It actually sounds decent and is loud enough for the auditorium.

    My question is:

    Is it possible to use a low end keyboard as a church organ? Is anyone in here doing such a thing right now? What are you playing on? Was it expensive and how portable is it? I don't have an instrument with keyboard split, layering and a transposer. I'm saving for one that does.

    I'm also curious about how to get full sound without a lower manual or pedals. I'm aware of Roland's and Visoucnt's single manual organs but the cost is prohibitive.

    Is single manual organ playing a discipline in itself?

    Thanks

  • #2
    If you connect a midi keyboard or two to a computer running jOrgan it can be done. I am using such a setup now at our church as proof of concept for converting the old analog to VPO. jOrgan allows you to set up bass couplers to couple the lowest note on a manual (below your specified cut off point) to the pedal division which works pretty well for hymns.

    mike
    If it is Caesar that you worship, then Caesar you shall serve.

    Comment


    • #3
      I use a Casio Privia (about 500.00 usd) connected to a laptop with VB3 and Kontakt software. However, at practices I use the on board organ, strings, or piano and because it has it's own speakers it sounds reasonably good. I started out with a
      Yamaha digital piano and a Bose desktop speaker system in the beginning however, and that worked well for a few years. Yes, you can do church music in this way. We have a praise band and a grand piano player, and I am still able to play a role as
      an instrumental support player.
      '60 A-100, Neo Ventilator, Kurzweil PC1x, Yamaha Clavinova, GSI/VB3, Reaper daw, Kontakt 5, 1907 Knabe upright. Formerly owned Rhodes Mark I.

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      • #4
        Our small church is in rental space. We are using a Casio keyboard for piano and two Yamaha's for organ. Both have an excellent option called theater organ. Not as sterile as the pipe organ voice. We sing out of old time Baptist hymnals and the slight trem on the voice is really good for those old tunes. When necessary we hook up to a pole type speaker system from Fender; but when attendance is below 25 we usually don't need the extra amplification.

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        • #5
          Whatever works seems the way many churches are doing. I miss a nice organ sound at church by an organ that is played adequately. I have heard some horrible music in church via the organ and piano as well.

          Church worship is changing with the new Contemporary style, and I am always thankful to learn that many still sing out of a hymnal.

          I remember when way back when many churches would have an organ fund to purchase a coveted electric organ of some kind. Now they are getting rid of them in droves.
          Baldwin Church Organ Model 48C
          Baldwin Spinet 58R
          Lowrey Spinet SCL
          Wurlitzer 4100A
          Crown Pump Organ by Geo. P. Bent, Chicago, Illinois


          Organs I hope to obtain in the future:

          Conn Tube Minuet or Caprice even a transistor Caprice with the color coded tabs
          Gulbransen H3 or G3, or V.
          Wurlitzer 44, 4410, 4420, ES Reed Models, 4300, 4500, Transistor Models

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          • #6
            We are currently using a relatively high-end Roland keyboard at the church where I am the music director. We have a Hammond BV, but it has some issues: it plays, and I think it would work out, I just have to get up the courage to try it again: the first go around with it wasn't too pleasant. We also have three accompanists at the church and I am the only organist: the others are pianists only and won't touch organ manuals with a ten foot pole. Naturally, they prefer to play on the Roland. Single manual organ playing (especially on an electronic keyboard with no split) has its quirks to say the least. Usually, you end up having to bring bass notes that are out of your reach up an octave so that you can play it, and sometimes you have to alter the chord or voice leading just a little so that it works out better for the single manual. Otherwise, its just like playing everything on one manual, no pedals, and with only one timbre (you can't change registrations on a keyboard synthesizer, which is extremely frustrating to me, especially when playing the RP and verses).
            Fishers, IN

            At School Church: Wicks III/40
            At Church Where I Am Director: Hammond BV with Leslie 122
            Summer Practice Organ: Rodgers III/47

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            • #7
              I'd sure keep my eyes and ears open for a good used organ. Perfectly good Rodgers, Allen, Baldwin organs are being given away or sold for bargain prices by some churches, and sometimes they aren't even all that old. If you want more security -- you want the organ to be repaired and serviced, tuned, voiced, delivered and set up, with some kind of warranty -- work with a dealer or tech who specializes in renovated church organs. You'll pay extra for all this, but it would be worth it if the church can afford it.

              I once used a fairly cheap Casio keyboard as a church organ for a few weeks while our organ was down. I connected it to a very high quality sound system -- a rather powerful amp and some large pro quality speakers -- and it worked well for a church seating about 250. I used the "church organ" preset for congregational singing most of the time, but used the "hammond organ" and the "reed organ" and the "theatre organ" presets for variety at times. I even used the orchestral strings sometimes and also found that voices such as the pan flute and the recorder make decent organ stops for quiet solos.

              When playing hymns, I would often use my left hand to play the bass line in the bottom octave and try to play the other three parts with my right hand. This requires some adjustment, but can be done with many hymns and gives the keyboard a more organ-like sound.

              I also had a foot-operated volume pedal for the thing, and that came in very handy. You can get one for maybe $50 or so and it goes a long way toward making the keyboard comfortable to play in church.

              Good luck!
              John
              ----------
              *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

              https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

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              • #8
                This was all very encouraging.

                My church is in rented space so there is no place to store even a spinet organ that I know of.

                My plan is to get a better amp and then a better keyboard. I've noticed that the higher up one goes in keyboards that there are more suitable organlike voices to choose from. Even my cheapo Casio LK-40 has better voices than the Yamaha PSR 180 it replaced.

                Can anyone recommend models that have split, layer, transposer and a volume pedal connection? A feature that allows for creating and saving my own combinations would also be helpful. Who has the best organ voices? Casio or Yamaha? Any other lesser known brands to consider?

                Is it possible to add bass pedals if the keyboard has MIDI ports or is it more complicated than that? I don't want anything that requires using a computer in my portable rig.

                Thanks

                Comment


                • #9
                  If the keyboard has MIDI ports, adding a MIDI pedalboard is easy enough to do. But, they are pretty expensive to buy new . You could make one up yourself with a pedalboard from an old organ, and use a kit ( several suppliers of those nowadays ) to add the MIDI encoding.

                  Or, you could do something like what I did to make a pretty nice portable organ with pedals. I chopped down a Yamaha Electone EL-25 into component sections, and use it as a portable organ for doing weddings and church services when there is no organ available ( or the organ that is available is junk ) . That way I have the portability of a keyboard, but also have a 20 note pedalboard. I just can't play church music without pedals !

                  Here is a link to the thread I made describing how I did it :

                  http://www.organforum.com/forums/sho...IDI-Controller

                  It's been working well for me, but I don't use it every week either.
                  Regards, Larry

                  At Home : Yamaha Electones : EX-42 ( X 3 !!! ), E-5AR, FX-1 ( X 2 !! ), FX-20, EL-25 ( X 2, 1 chopped, 1 not ). Allen 601D, ADC 6000D. Baldwin 626. Lowrey CH32-1. At Churches I play for : Allen Q325 ( with Vista ), Allen L123 ( with Navigator ). Rodgers 755.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by libraryguy View Post
                    This was all very encouraging.
                    Can anyone recommend models that have split, layer, transposer and a volume pedal connection? A feature that allows for creating and saving my own combinations would also be helpful. Who has the best organ voices? Casio or Yamaha? Any other lesser known brands to consider?

                    Is it possible to add bass pedals if the keyboard has MIDI ports or is it more complicated than that? I don't want anything that requires using a computer in my portable rig.

                    Thanks
                    Look for a higher end Yamaha, there are plenty out there on the used market at bargain prices. Models that will do everything you ask for, including the ability to add a set of bass pedals via MIDI, include the PSR1000, 2000, 1100, 2100 and 3000. Newer ones include the PSR-S700 and S900. Organ sounds are better than those on the Casio. As well as the usual set of classical organ sounds (you get a few more as the keyboards in that list get newer) you can also very effectively layer in drawbar organ sounds (you have a full set of virtual drawbars) and, if you eventually get into a little sound editing, it's possible to mangle some existing voices into pseudo organ stops. Not perfect, but probably more than OK for leading praise.
                    It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

                    New website now live - www.andrew-gilbert.com

                    Current instruments: Roland Atelier AT900 Platinum Edition, Yamaha PSR-S970, Kawai K1m
                    Retired Organs: Lots! Kawai SR6 x 2, Hammond L122, T402, T500 x 2, X5. Conn Martinique and 652. Gulbransen 2102 Pacemaker. Kimball Temptation.
                    Retired Leslies, 147, 145 x 2, 760 x 2, 710, 415 x 2.
                    Retired synths: Korg 700, Roland SH1000, Jen Superstringer, Kawai S100F, Kawai S100P, Kawai K1

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                    • #11
                      You can have a church service without
                      a pipe organ.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by gwizz777 View Post
                        You can have a church service without
                        a pipe organ.
                        Yes, you most certainly can...
                        Fishers, IN

                        At School Church: Wicks III/40
                        At Church Where I Am Director: Hammond BV with Leslie 122
                        Summer Practice Organ: Rodgers III/47

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          There are both historic and existing organ cultures that use one-manual organs with no pedals. Once, while my church was in between organs, we had the use of a 5-stop, single manual pipe organ (a Positiv); 8' Flute, 4' Flute, 2' Principal, 1 1/3' Quint, and Mixutre II. If I played everything an octave lower, those same stops functioned as 16' Flute, 8' Flute, 4' Principal, 2 2/3' Quint, and Mixutre II - while this involved some relocation of low bass notes, once I ran out of keys, it allowed for a very nice sound.

                          At the same time, we had a 2-manual electronic organ in the church as a demonstration instrument. It did not lead the singing nearly as well as the small pipe organ. With the 5-stopper, I could easily lead - one service, I intentionally alternated between the two instruments, and did slight tempo manipulations during the singing of the hymns. With the electronic organ, I could do no leading; with the pipe organ, I could speed up or slow down and the congregation was right with me.

                          Traditionally, the historic organ schools of England, Italy, Spain, France (to a certain extent) and South German (also to a limited extent) used no pedal. Their repertoire is rich and demonstrates how an organ without pedals can be effective.

                          ********************
                          In terms of electronic keyboards, I would use whichever sounds are most satisfying. If the organ sounds are crappy, but it makes a nice piano sound, use the piano sound. Let it do what it does best. Don't try to make it do something it can't do well.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            You can download jOrgan and set it up with one or two midi keyboards to get quite an effective sound. I am currently looking into creating an organ set which will give me an electronic positiv organ for use on retreats and such where no organ would be available.
                            Martin Hartley
                            Choral Scholar at St Patrick's Cathedral, Parramatta, Australia
                            Student at Campion College, Australia
                            Assistant Organist at St Margaret Mary's Catholic Church, Merrylands, Australia

                            The Novice Organist: http://noviceorganist.blogspot.com.au

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