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Creating an electronic portative organ for continuo in small ensembles

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  • Creating an electronic portative organ for continuo in small ensembles

    My first post here, so I hope I'm posting in the right place.

    I'm involved in a group where somebody brought to our attention the Roland C-230, but we only need the equivalent of a portative organ with 8' flutes and maybe a 4' at most. I also am simply not that impressed with what I've heard of the sound of the C-230.

    So, I'm thinking about putting something together with an electronic keyboard and Hauptwerk, or something like that.

    Has anyone done that on this small scale?

    Any advice on how to do it?

    Can it be done without a computer involved? That is, is there a way to load the Hauptwerk samples (or their equivalent) directly into a keyboard?

    And what about speakers? This seems almost the most difficult problem, since however good the source sound, what the effect will be will depend on the venue.

    It would be nice to put something together for $500, but maybe that's way too optimistic.

    Also, does anybody know if you can get a 5-octave keyboard anywhere that is F-to-F instead of C-to-C?

    Sorry for the flurry of questions,, but any help is greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    Since you aren't talking about simulating a regular pipe organ, you might find the "organ" patches on some fairly cheap Roland or Yamaha keyboard suitable. Combine that with a couple of $100 guitar amps and you'd have an instrument suitable for accompanying a small ensemble, certainly as interesting as a single rank of flutes, if not more so!

    Not sure you can do all this for less than $500, unless you find some used stuff somewhere. Roland has some decent low-cost keyboards below $500, Yamaha has some for even less, if you can be happy with somewhat cheapish plastic cases and keyboards. I don't think you'll find one that is F-to-F though. You might locate a keyboard with 72 or 76 keys, if that would help you out.

    John
    John
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    *** 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!

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    • #3
      Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
      Since you aren't talking about simulating a regular pipe organ, you might find the "organ" patches on some fairly cheap Roland or Yamaha keyboard suitable.
      I have never encountered any that are suitable for continuo work. That is, they are almost always plenum stops, with 2 or 3 ranks (8/4/2), sometimes with "mixture".

      This is likely for rehearsal only -- I shudder to think we'd end up in performance.

      And, of course, I guess it's relevant that it's 3-5 viols and solo voices. In other words, there's no real room for anything too far from reality.

      The Hauptwerk sampls seem awfully usable to me, and vastly better than I've heard for a keyboard's built-in organ patches.

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      • #4
        David,

        I suspect you know what you are asking for doesn't exist. And it won't exist commercially. So, there is nothing stopping you from making one yourself. You may find that a $500 will limit your style and quality, but hey, $500 is mucho money these days.
        I would suggest that if you are underwhelmed by the Roland C-230, you will be less than satisfied with most anything under $5,000.
        There are small organ sample sets available for Hauptwerk, but you will need a computer to run it. A relatively good MIDI keyboard that is designed for organ players will set you back about $1,000. Figure on $1,000 for a computer. Another few hundred for a decent outboard D/A converter. You can get a free version of Hauptwerk which works - it is just limited or a little crippled if you will. Leave the audio at 2 channels, so get a 2 channel audio system. Another $1,000. Oops, we are already at $3,500. I am not sure that for your purposes, this is a better solution than a Roland C-230. To me the Roland sounds pretty good, as long as you limit yourself to playing only 1 or 2 stops at a time - which does make it a continuo instrument. To get really high quality throughout you will need to spend over $5,000.

        Small scale organ projects are commercially not viable. Those that are interested in that kind of organ want low price and high quality in terms of sound, performance and response. And to boot there is almost no market for that.

        Oh yes, there is always that $450 Yamaha keyboard with the ubiquitous pipe organ stop (or is it "church organ").

        AV

        P.S. You cannot just load sample sets designed for Hauptwerk into a keyboard.
        P.P.S. regarding the F-F keyboard, you can get them custom made - at a price of course, like over $2,000 - again unless you want to make one yourself.

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        • #5
          I haven't heard the C-230 live -- all I've had the opportunity to hear are the demos -- but what I have heard doesn't sound very impressive as organ sound qua organ, and is overkill for this project in terms of number of stops.

          Are there no keyboards that can load VSTI samples? The Hauptwerk help files allude to something like this, at least (so far as I'm understanding them since I don't really know what VSTI means!).

          A computer is not a $1,000 investment at all. Dual core 64-bit machines with 8GBs of RAM are not that hard to come by in the $500 range, and I would not consider that part of the cost of building this system, since it's usable for other things (i.e., it wouldn't be dedicated to only serving this system).

          The Hauptwerk software is $250 for the basic version, so that blows a hole in the budget, but I'd also likely use it for my own purposes outside of this rehearsal keyboard (sequencing in Finale). As to samples, I've tried a shareware sample for a one-manual organ that sounds pretty good to me listening through my Bose computer speakers (i.e., better than most computer speakers, but not audiphile quality), and that's $20. I don't know if it would be suitable in real life, but it at least raises the possiblity that I wouldn't have to spend a fortune on an expensive sample set.

          Last of all, I'm not convinced there's much point in spending money on a quality keyboard as the difference between a cheapo electronic keyboard and an expensive electronic keyboard is less than the difference between either of them and a real tracker organ keyboard. In other words, even the best electronic keyboard is a poor substitute for the real thing, so I'm not sure there's much point in spending much money to get marginal improvements in quality.

          But, you're right, it would take more than $500 to put this together if I don't use one of the PCs I already have available.

          Comment


          • #6
            Phoenix Organs makes a keyboard that sounds similar to what you are looking for:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_XCX90sE8s

            Since Phoenix stuff is all custom made, you can have it configured as simple or complex as you need to match your objective.

            http://phoenixorgans.com/installatio...stallation=139
            2008: Phoenix III/44

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            • #7
              I hooked a $100 MIDI keyboard to my PC and ran the free version of Hauptwerk. I can play it as one manual division of the organ and that enables me to enjoy pipe organ sound on my keyboard. there is only one manual playable, but that would meet your needs. The software comes with an organ sample set that includes a huge Great division There is an 8' Gedeckt, 8' string, two 8' diapasons a 4' octave and 4' flute, 2' Fifteenth, a Mixture IV and a 8' and 4' reed. Any Pentium 4 or better computer with a GB or more of memory will do the job. You can take any computer made within the last five years and invest lass than $200 on a basic MIDI keyboard with a stand and bench.

              Also, you can load samples on the $99 Casio model I saw at Radio Shack. you could load a sample of any pipe organ sound, I am assuming that might work.

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              • #8
                A small reed organ perhaps?

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                • #9
                  Clarion,

                  What is the price of this Phoenix keyboard? Looks to me like it is just a MIDI keyboard, nothing more. I suspect it is probably just a Fatar keyboard with some wood bits around it, few pistons, and a MIDI scanner mounted on the back.How much would it cost so this keyboard actually makes some organ sounds?
                  Can it be had in a complete package for less than $500, like the original poster was asking for?
                  A really fine organ stop keyboard with lovely sounds, and a built-in audio does have a market for $500, but any vendor would lose their shirt on each one they sell.


                  AV

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                  • #10
                    why not find, or build a small continuo organ? You can get sets of Gedeckt pipes from a number of places and build a small organ.

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                    • #11
                      Have a look at www.virtualorgancompany.com for a free two-stop (nice sounds) VST plugin. Despite what the site says, you don't even have to have an ASIO soundcard on your computer (as long as you install the free ASIO4ALL program).
                      All you need is a laptop, a MIDI keyboard, a MIDI to USB cable (but good quality), and a stereo amplifier/speakers.

                      j reimer

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Clarion View Post
                        Phoenix Organs makes a keyboard that sounds similar to what you are looking for:

                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_XCX90sE8s

                        Since Phoenix stuff is all custom made, you can have it configured as simple or complex as you need to match your objective.

                        http://phoenixorgans.com/installatio...stallation=139
                        I wonder what the prices are.

                        I note it's a C-to-C keyboard, though, not F-to-F. I guess that's the way it's going to be, and of course, it's better than the short octave we have to deal with on the portative in disrepair that we can't use.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Havoc View Post
                          A small reed organ perhaps?
                          I can't see how that could possibly work with viols.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by cantornikolaos View Post
                            why not find, or build a small continuo organ? You can get sets of Gedeckt pipes from a number of places and build a small organ.
                            I've not seen anything much below $10K. That's insanely out of scale.

                            Certainly if somebody wanted to give us one as a gift (or loan it indefinitely!) we'd certainly be delighted to have it, but it's not a realistic possibility (hence considering the clearly inferior electronic alternative).

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                            • #15
                              I understand.

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