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Organ succession planning

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  • Organ succession planning

    I check my local CL every week and marvel at the ever decreasing number of organs for sale. A 32 note AGO spec pedalboard turned up on CL nearby. It has no electronics with and the make is unknown. The organ succession planning part is about gathering up parts for my next rig. I lack the advanced electronic knowledge needed to build a VPO. In fact the whole MIDI thing just baffles me.

    I was thinking about going to get the pedalboard and storing it away. The ready made MIDI organs I've seen have pedalboards available but they are really expensive in comparison to the other parts. I have a keyboard amp and a bench so I'm getting there.

    Here's the question: Is it possible to have a keyboard shop convert the pedalboard into something that could be plugged into an organ like a Hammond SK that has an input for a pedalboard? Does it cost as much as a decent used car to do so? Can it be done with some kind of kit?

    I'm considering placing my Electone in a nearby church where I know organ playing is missed and appreciated. I would put the VPO upstairs and my wife will be happy because she'll get her living room back.

  • #2
    You might do well to pick up a good AGO pedalboard, but you'd want to be sure it's a good one. Allen and Rodgers organs, even old ones going back to the 60's have good pedals that are probably still in good shape, or they might need new felt, which isn't too hard to do. But some old organs, like certain old Baldwin organs, have pretty lousy pedal boards, as do some of the European organs, even relatively modern ones. And you may or may not get any contacts or wiring with a pedal board. So it's not a slam dunk to get just any AGO pedal board out there.

    There is a certain amount of engineering and customizing that will go into fitting up a pedal board to use with a VPO or a Hammond SK, etc. So unless you're able and willing to do the research and properly configure the unit (correct MIDI channels, note number ranges, velocity info, and so much more) -- the cost of a ready-made unit may not seem unreasonable. I'd think a tech would have to charge many hundreds of dollars, perhaps a thousand or more, to transform a garden variety pedal board into a ready-made unit for an SK or other modern keyboard. Even then, much of the work would be a "labor of love."

    OTOH, if you're handy and knowledgeable, you can probably get a MIDI encoder for less than $100. Maybe a lot less. There's a current thread here on the forum about using some common hobby computer parts (Arduino, I think) to build a custom MIDI encoder that should do the trick. And there are encoder kits out there that are surprisingly cheap. The cost comes from the need to build and solder together the 32 individual switches, place them on some kind of framework so they are correctly related to the pedal sticks themselves. It's not brain surgery, but it does take some doing.

    It is great to hear that you're thinking of donating your Electone to a church that needs it. I hope they will appreciate and enjoy it. But it could admittedly be a little hard for you to find exactly what you want as a replacement.

    I'm actually in a similar boat at the present time. I have been blogging about my experience in trying to get along with a freeby Allen MOS organ, and my eventual decision to add MIDI, and now I'm in the process of moving to a VPO, though I'm currently using a couple of old sound modules as the tone generators. There are indeed a great many ways to build an organ these days, so keep looking into things and don't give up!

    *** 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!



    • #3
      For the same price as an AGO pedalboard (free) a patient person can find a complete (and possibly fully functional) legacy (old) digital organ by a respected manufacturer. That is what I would advise the o.p. to do. It is even easier to find things like Hammond SK's and the Yamaha equivalents. If that's what the o.p. wants that's what they should find used and buy. There is no point in trying to make a VPO using home electronic (versus AGO spec) type consoles. They simply don't play like church organs. So first thing is to decide if a 'classic' (church type) organ is what is wanted or not. If a church type VPO is wanted then a church type console must be the basis, if a 'home electronic' type, then a home electronic type console. Either type can be found for free with some patience or for <$1000.


      • #4
        I worry about organ succession planning... What are my family going to do with all my organs when I'm dead and gone? Who is going to want them?
        -- I'm Lamar -- Allen TC-4 Classic project, 1899 Kimball project
        -- Rodgers W5000C, Roland RD300NX, DS-61/88, FA-06 - Conn 643 Theater - Hammond M3
        -- Public domain hymn search: https://songselect.ccli.com/search/r...t=publicdomain


        • jbird604
          jbird604 commented
          Editing a comment
          I feel your pain, Lamar! My kids are inclined to send the whole kit and kaboodle to the dump!
          Last edited by jbird604; 04-25-2020, 11:29 AM.