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  • Advice on organ for a pianist

    Hello. This is my first post and I am here because I am interested in organs. I have a grand piano and can play, but I would like to get an organ sound. I used to own a Yamaha CLP electric piano that had limited organ sounds. Rather regret selling that.

    Really I am looking for two things. I would like to be able to replicate the organ sounds from 70's and 80's rock bands, for example the organ intro to Highway Star (Deep Purple) played by Jon Lord. Plus the organ part in Whiter Shade of Pale. Some ELP stuff. Just as examples.

    Secondly I would like to be able to play some of the classical rep, such as Bach Toccata and Fugue, Handel, Widor etc.

    This is just for my own amusement. Not stage use. Happy to buy a second hand old Hammond of some sort, or something modern, but I am a complete ignoramus on what I can get for home use. I should probably add that I have played multi manual and pedalboard church organs in the past, but no longer have ready access to one.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated. I ideally would like to spend under £1500 but am open minded. Thanks, AJ

  • #2
    Welcome to the forum, from a relatively new member. There's an amazing collection of advice and lore here, so I would suggest browsing the topics in the "Electronic Organs and MIDI" section https://organforum.com/forums/forum/...ic-organs-midi.

    I particularly recommend this thread: https://organforum.com/forums/forum/...-theatre-organ

    It's about buying a used theatre organ, but a lot of the advice applies to any used organ. The bottom line is that there are a lot of old organs out there and depending on where you live you can often get one for cheap or free. However, you do need to consider that an old organ could break at any time and you need to budget time and expenses for repairs, and consider the difficulty getting parts. If you can do repairs yourself and it's pretty much a hobby, an old analog is a good bet if it's mostly standard electronic components that are still available. A newer digital may have custom chips and require swapping a board when something goes wrong, and it may be difficult and/or expensive to get that board.

    In some cases your best bet is VPO - Virtual Pipe Organ. In this case you get an old organ where the key and stop switches still work, remove all the old electronics, and add boards to generate a MIDI stream. Then you can use any synthesizer you like, including a standard PC. Those can generate amazingly realistic pipe organ sound. The theatre organ thread I reference above talks about that option.

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    • #3
      May be too expensive but the Hammond SKX is probably your best bet. (You can choose what pedalboard and stand you want) as it does all that you want. (You could also have a look round for a used one as well)

      https://www.hammondorgan.co.uk/product-page/hammond-skx

      Bill

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      • #4
        Thank you. That's helpful both. FYI I am in the UK. I have seen an M100 on eBay for about £500 and an SK2 from a dealer for around £1300. Are these any good? (I am not querying prices just sound). The SKX is affordable for me but I am not sure what else I need. I am also a guitarist and I have a selection of high quality stage valve amps and speaker cabinets that I presume would work, as well as a small 12 channel mixer desk, a sub and and stage monitor. But I am trying to keep it simple and elegant. My music room contains a 16th Century table (odd I know) and a tier 1 7ft grand piano, and I would like this set up to go in the same space. I am very much mainly a classical pianist but my youthful rock obsession lingers as does an affliction or affection for ancient ecclesiastical music.

        I am not an electronics expert at all. It's all about the sound for me.

        AJ

        Comment


        • #5
          AJ,

          For the Whiter Shade of Pale, you will definitely wish to have a Hammond organ with appropriate Leslie speaker, but for classical literature, you will probably want a classical organ. The next question is whether there is an organ now sold in the UK which can perform both literature acceptably.

          I'm going to recommend you wait until AndyG (another moderator) weighs in on this thread. He has been involved in the design of major brand organs, and has performed throughout the UK as well. His knowledge is encyclopedic, and you would do well to heed his advice.

          Welcome to the Forum!

          Michael
          Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
          • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
          • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
          • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos

          Comment


          • #6
            I've owned for many years a pro (no internal speakers) keyboard by Alesis. Model QS8.1. It has a hammer weighted full 88key action. What distinguishes it from keyboards like it is the internal library of 2400+ sounds. It has dozens of legacy analog and digital keyboards as well as all the Steinway and Bosendorfer pianos. It has several Hammond sounds and various acoustic and electric guitars, orchestral and percussion sounds etc. There are also memory modules with even more sounds if the internal sounds aren't enough. It's perfect for the o.p.'s needs. Mine was refurbished and cost a little over $1000. in 2001! Similar instruments today should not cost much more.

            I've never seriously explored the classic organ sounds but it has some. Since I am an organist who plays piano vs a pianist who plays the organ the authenticity of the physical interface of a 'real' pipe organ is important to me. Playing Toccata and Fugue in D minor simply would not be possible for me on a single 'manual' and no pedal. I wouldn't even bother trying. I have messed around with the Hammond sounds and of course I have tried 'Whiter Shade of Pale' on them. I'm easily fooled. It works for me. Incidentally the unique sound of the Leslie speaker is sampled along with the Hammond's and you can even do a very passable speed up and slow down of the Leslie with the modulation wheel.

            Keyboardists no longer perform surrounded by stacks of keyboards at all four compass points. Most just use two these days. Some just one! Jonathan Rudess does amazing things with one keyboard loaded with every sound under the rainbow. Sounds ideal for our o.p. Cheers.

            Comment


            • #7
              The SK 2 is the forerunner to the SKX which has more real time controls and flexibility but the SK series are basically all the same in sound.
              The SK has genuine Hammond sound and a Leslie simulation (Fully covering the songs you mention) as well as a pipe organ section and orchestral voices with many more downloadable from the Hammond site. (If you want to add a Leslie then a Leslie connector is included, however for 99% of users the simulation will be all that's needed)
              There are many YouTube demos of the Hammond SK series on YouTube so pop over to there to see if it suits.

              Bill



              This video shows you how things work and what you need. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKShjUK4tqk


              Comment


              • #8
                Thanks. The videos were very helpful. I think I need to research this a bit more. Having had quite a bit of experience with digital guitar amp emulators, I have yet to find one that I think is convincing against the original valve amps (which I typically have) that they claim to emulate. I am wondering if organ emulation (eg B3) is similar? The second video spent a fair bit of time on piano emulation. And did not sound great to my ears. Not of that much interest to me though as I have a concert grade piano.

                There seem to be a number of cheap A100's around, which the sellers usually say are the same as a B3 but with built in speaker. Is an SKX a better bet though? Clearly a pedal board is essential and presumably the electronic equivalent of a swell pedal.

                Having thought more about what I want / need having watched the videos, my instinct is I am much more interested in good pipe organ simulation, for classical repertoire, than I am in rock simulation, and so would compromise in that direction. Having the ability to simulate deep pipes is quite important.

                I was a bit confused from the videos, whether the SK series has just a pre-amp, has an amp and just needs passive speakers plugging in, or needs a proper power amp and speakers.

                Comment


                • #9
                  If you only want Hammond sounds, then fine, the Hammond SK's will be great. The extra sounds aren't bad either, but if you want organ sounds to tackle the Widor, it won't cut the mustard. The SK will need a good keyboard amp, preferably stereo, to take advantage of the leslie simulation.

                  A100 is a B3 with internal speakers and reverb. However, you'd blow your budget completely on the Leslie that you'd need to go with it to get 'the' sound.

                  You could look around for a Technics GA3, if you're happy with 49 note keyboards and 13 pedals. Its full size brother is the much rarer FA1 and that will blow your budget most likely. Or perhaps a Roland Atelier from the AT80S onwards, and preferably the 80S rather than the straight S model (it has on screen drawbars). Longer keyboards and more pedals, but still not enough for the Widor! The Roland will give you the pipe organ sound you're after, plus a decent enough Hammond and Leslie emulation and tons of orchestral voicings.

                  If you buy privately there are some great bargains to be had in home organs, and there are freebies out there too.
                  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 Genos, 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

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    That is so helpful Andy. There are are few Ateliers around, including an AT80 SL that is listed as immaculate. My budget is flexible really - I was just trying to be sensible to keep my wife happy. Given that I have 35 guitars and maybe 20 amplifiers she knows what I like.

                    A short keyboard will annoy me. I am not overly bothered with things like glissando effects (which organ you tube videos always seem to do) but the deep bass of some church music and the Widor as you say is fundamental really. My problem with this is in my youth I was an organ scholar and so that sound is embedded in me.

                    The Roland videos I have skimmed through sounded good. The instrument seems to have a lot of scope.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      All organs have a Low C, the Widor (and orther works) requires a High F. This is why the 25 note pedalboards can't authentically pull it off. The 'depth' of the bass is dependent on the amplifiers/speakers. I think AndyG's suggestion of the Roland Atelier instruments is as good as it gets for someone wanting something biased towards classical style playing but does not want to be strictly limited to that. Anything else is going to force a player to choose sides. Plenty of churches have both a Hammond B3 and a Pipe Organ. They are such unique instruments that neither one can do what the other does as well. A Yamaha Clavinova and a Pipe Organ is a regular find in lots of churches for the same reason. The church organ I play (large Rodgers) has several 32' stops and the speakers and amplifiers to deliver it at floor shaking volumes. It also has a sound module with several Hammond instruments in it. I haven't tried these but I have used the strings and tympani. One of these would work too but of course the price ... ... so ... there you are.

                      Comment


                      • davidecasteel
                        davidecasteel commented
                        Editing a comment
                        The church I sing at has a wonderful Klais pipe organ and some years back was given a Hammond (not sure which model--may be a B3). It is brought in and used in services where a Black Gospel sound is needed (infrequently).

                    • #12
                      After hunting around it is surprisingly difficult to find decent Hammonds or Rolands to play. There are lots of organs on eBay sites, but mostly ancient models of Kawai or Yamaha, its no draw bars. Often You Tube demos do what I call "lift music" and it is hard to find classical or rock demos. This is going to be a long haul I fear.

                      Comment


                      • #13
                        The Ateliers are out there, as are some Hammonds. But the number of dealers where you can try them out is small. Privately, you just have to wait until something turns up and then be prepared to travel a bit to try them out. Well worth it in the end and once it's sitting in your lounge and you're playing it, all that will be forgotten!

                        As for 'lift music' or 'lounge music', I love it - it helped pay the bills for 30+ years! :) Most Roland organ youtube vids are from amateur home players and they don't go in for rock as a rule, and few of them do classical. Have a listen to David Marsh, Jon Stafford, Hector Olivera, Tony Fenelon and George Fleury to hear the Ateliers tackle all sorts of different genres of music.
                        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 Genos, 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

                        Comment

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