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How do you choose an AGO organ?

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  • How do you choose an AGO organ?

    I've been a digital Hammond B3 and Technics organ owner for a long while and only recently caught the classical organ fever. Until now I've been just noodling around jazz and pop songs.

    I'm perfectly happy with the classical registrations on my late 90's Technics organ, even for classical music ... and my digital Hammond can always midi out to the Technics ... but my teacher is strongly encouraging me to do something about practicing on AGO pedals so I can go deeper with this classical and sacred music direction.

    I bought both my digital Hammond and Technics organs for pennies on the dollar, (the Technics I got free, actually), so I know even very good organs are out there for very low cost if a guy has enough patience and persistence.

    I thought I might just get midi AGO pedals and put them under my digital Hammond, but they cost a whopping $1700. I'm willing to bet I can find an entire AGO organ for a fraction of that.

    I have no idea what to search for ... brands, models, etc. I know nothing, zippo, about non-pop organs. I'm pretty sure I want an electronic organ, not pipes, and it has to sound rather convincing ... so probably late 80's and onward. I could settle for a theater organ, but they look so weird so they're a distant second choice for me.

    Can anyone get me started on how to start looking at AGO organs, preferably something made in the last 25 years or so? How you distinguish brands and features and what are the amazingly great models that everyone seems to have forgotten so they sell rather inexpensively ... or even free if you search long enough? (And I suppose are there any notorious lemons to stay away from?)

    The only absolutes are AGO pedals and at least two manuals.


  • #2
    Check out Baldwin Organs with the AGO Pedals, and the Conn Artist if they are in good shape. I am sure many others will soon add their opinions of what for you to select. I like the old analog organs much better than any of the digital age organs when it comes to electronics.

    Many of the digital organs are expensive even passed the price of a small pipe organ with a few ranks. I understand you are wanting a nice electronic organ, and as you said with time as well as patience you will fine one.
    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


    • #3
      There's really an organ out there with the name Conn Artist?

      Your puttin' me on, right?


      • #4
        Rogers and Allen were the rage in the nineties and ought-ohs, and Rogers here are still holding their value. Rogers are typically $5000 to $15000, although one rubber contact keyboard model from the 80's recently went on craigslist for $500. Allens require factory service due to their copyrighted schematics and part numbers, so I have been ignoring them even when they are free. I've recently seen a Hamilton by Baldwin for $150 at Salvation Army, probably a rebranded Italian organ of some reputation. It was too big to fit through my door, however, so I didn't try it or pull it out to see the model. A Baldwin 5 fell from $500 to $50 recently in my county on craigslist, but it is a fifties organ with vile reputation, something about unreliable contacts, so I let it pass. Hammond RT3, RT2, and R124 have the 32 pedal board and are as repairable by amateurs as any tonewheel Hammond, but they have the classic B3 sound, nothing like a classical organ for any time after 1940. These sometimes go for $100 to $500 because B3 fans hate the huge case for gigging and are overwhelmed by too many pedals, and classical people hate the B3 sound.
        Support for Baldwins would have to be, or a European aftermarket company, Baldwin itself was merged into nothing and the name was sold to the far east. One bargain is a lowrey C42, it is really an early Rogers in a Lowrey case. Transistor oscillator organ. I tend to stay away from 80's to 90's products myself, because they have proprietary IC's. One organforum member recently tried to get his 90's Yamaha repaired, the dealer serviceman told him to buy another organ because the factory wasn't selling the power transformers anymore. Transistor oscillator organs, or tonewheel organs like the hammond, most of the parts that burn up come from electronic distributors like or Organs from the late 60's,and seventies, though repairable by amateurs with standard parts, have many electrolytic capacitors that expire and leak in 20 years. I replaced 70 electroltyics in my 1966 H182, later organs may have more. They are not expensive for transistors organs, $.06 to $.33 each, with maybe 4 at $4 each in the power amp, but for reliability they have to be changed, like mowing the lawn.
        Conns can also be repairable and cheap, before 1980, same service arrangement as Baldwin. Conn is also out of business.
        Arie can suggest a lot of more serious brands sold to churches, but these often come used without the speakers or amps, so getting the installation working is a bit of a challenge with nothing to repair but an empty socket. These usually are not $100, either.
        city Hammond H-182 organ (2 ea),A100,10-82 TC, Wurlitzer 4500, Schober Recital Organ, Steinway 40" console , Sohmer 39" pianos, Ensoniq EPS, ; country Hammond H112


        • #5
          Originally posted by Neumie View Post
          There's really an organ out there with the name Conn Artist?

          Your puttin' me on, right?
          Nope! :-B


          • #6

            For a good churchy AGO console on the cheap...Look around for Baldwin C-630, c-630t, C-720t, C811, 625, 626, 636, 645C

            There are a lot of other pretty good Units out there that have an AGO board. Most Allens, a few Lowrys, and even some Wurlys and Hammonds. The Hammonds with AGO boards are kinda pricey though and I have heard they are not really AGO specification...something about spacing and height of the sharps....

            If you can find a dead organ, (and those are CHEAP) you can grab the Bench and AGO board to MIDIfy it and feed it into something. LOTS cheaper than buying midi pedals. Fabricating 32 contacts into an organ built for less? Not as much fun as you would think.

            My plan is to find a dead AGO unit and rig the pedals to some cheap casio midi synth keyboard.

            Generally the AGO board is 32 pedals and dished, there are some spacing considerations that you might want to double check.
            Lots of options! you can find a dead as a doornail AGO organ and Hauptwerke the whole thing! Or even make your own organ out of a midi board and two midi keyboards.

            You can even build a board out of scratch if you are good with wood and stuff.

            Anyhow, AGO is just fancy speak for American Organist Guild specification pedals. This is so a visiting organist doesn't get messed up on non standard pedals. Two 61 manuals and an AGO board. Minimal for being a church organist.


            • #7
              Some of the Allen 32-note pedalboards on their smaller instruments were not AGO spec, so be careful if you come across one. Besides the Conns, Hammonds (besides the RT3 I think there was a Model D concert and Model E concert model, and the G100 - correct me if I am mistaken), and Baldwins already mentioned, the Gulbransen Model D (and the much rarer models F and CP) is AGO as well. I have seen some Gulbransen Ds go really cheap.
              Jimmy Williams
              Hobbyist (organist/technician)
              Gulbransen Model D with Leslie 204


              • #8
                Okay ... Conn Artist ... thank you for that. That gives me somewhere to begin.

                Dr. Spectratone, thanks for the list of Baldwins. A local organist coincidentally suggested a certain large Baldwin and I saw one on eBay for $500. It's also funny that you shared all that about MIDI'ing and Hauptwerk because I stumbled across the pictures at this weekend and it gave me a whole new vision for this thing. But still, gotta have that AGO pedalboard. The MIDI keyboards I already have. Making my own AGO MIDI pedalboard ... sounds like a lot of work and a lot of mistakes to be made. But still better than spending upwards of $2,000 for a ready-made one.

                Jimmy - thanks for the heads up that not all concert organs are AGO. I would have just eyeballed it and assumed. I'll keep an eye out for that.



                • #9
                  Indianajo, I had to chuckle at your reference to the "nineties and ought-ohs".

                  Ought-ohs ... I hadn't heard that yet.

                  I know in England, sometimes zero is referred to as "naught". As in "James Bond ... double naught seven."

                  With that in mind, I've been referring to the first decade of the millenium as "the naughties".


                  • #10
                    I'll be darned ... a Conn Artist ... AGO pedals ... $250.

                    Sad to say, it's not in my backyard.




                    • #11
                      More AGO

                      In speaking with friends recently... (yes, i do have friends...;)) The almost AGO "princess" pedal board Found on some Rogers was highly recommended. The Organist is, not surprisingly a smaller woman and contends that for her, the Layout of the "princess" on her Trio 321 was far superior. when it came time to heel-toe and jig around. Now, If you are an orangutan with clown feet like would want to go with a larger board... Baldwin, Lowry, and Wurly boards are great for us Wookies.....And yes, good shoes make a difference.

                      Seek and ye shall find...give it time and a good board will crop up. And don't forget that you can mod a board with a bit of carpentry should you want to... 25 or 28 can go to 32 faster than building from scratch and different players like deeper or shallower dishes. Yea, I saw that guy who built his board from Once you get the board we will discuss cheap MIDI options. Don't believe the is all just Contacts and circuits...

                      Last decade was the "naughty" decade...Oh great! NOW you tell me!


                      • #12
                        The Naughties! Now that is a new one. Although with my ex-military ears, I thought J Bond was saying "double ought seven". I try to be funny sometimes, but that time it was quite unintentional.
                        The Conn Artist is a medium distance from me, actually. As a Midi donor, I would be suspicious. One Conn we looked at had plastic bars as pedal contacts. Of course that was a tube model, but really conductive plastic would not be suitable at all for DC keying on a midi-encoder. I would be more tempted by a $200 Allen in Greenwood (80 miles) however useless Allen electronics are. At least the contacts are some kind of metal, usually. Some models Allen have reed switches in the pedals, I read. Unreliable devices, shunned in factories since the eighties for proximity switches by pepperell and fuchs, but organ people still swear by them. There was some other conn on electronics sub-forum that had keyboard encoding that used a MOS circuit to turn the key contacts into a serial data stream. Also totally unrepairable by people not having $10000 in instrumentation, I am afraid.
                        If you want to see more midi stuff, change the "display" control on the midi forum to 1 year or something. That one only shows 1 month for some reason. John Kikennon offered some free midi encoding software for some standard PIC board, I believe. I never quite figured out where you bought the board, but it was supposed to be a lot cheaper than the midi-boutique ones or the midi-project ones.
                        The "princess" AGO pedal board. Now that sounds cool to me. I had given up on tracking down an AGO case/pedal because my legs are so short. I'm taller than short women but it is all in my back, not my legs & arms. Siberian/Native Am. I'll probably never get to playing JSB P&F in F anyway, the only JSB piece I know that requires 32 pedals.
                        BTW I'm learning JSB Passacaglia & Fugue on 25 pedals. I had an AGO dean teacher in once, he didn't obsess about 32 pedals. He thought Hammonds sounds are primitive except for Christmas carols, and I think listening to the solenoids bang in the pipe organ at the Church is funny, so we are never going to agree on that. One thing I am sure of, I can't afford a Rogers.
                        Last edited by indianajo; 10-09-2011, 08:21 PM.
                        city Hammond H-182 organ (2 ea),A100,10-82 TC, Wurlitzer 4500, Schober Recital Organ, Steinway 40" console , Sohmer 39" pianos, Ensoniq EPS, ; country Hammond H112


                        • #13

                          Maybe you can answer the question I posted elsewhere tonight about how much I even really do need AGO pedals. I posted the question here:


                          In a nutshell, this AGO thing is really only coming up because I have a teacher who is classically trained and not fond of Hammonds, especially not having AGO pedals.

                          My Hammond has MIDI, so I can easily have access to pipe organ sounds, but I'm skeptical of his belief that I "must have" AGO pedals.

                          1. Are they really that different? They look essentially identical to me except that the AGOs have more notes - and you say you've not encountered many songs that need the extra notes. It seems to me I could push my (freestanding MIDI) console Hammond pedals to the left a couple of inches and pretty much duplicate the position of AGO pedals, no?

                          2. Is it easy to switch back and forth between the two? If I put in a couple of years doing all the classical drills on my Hammond, is it then a huge deal to acclimate to an AGO church pedalboard?

                          Is this teacher just being purist with me over these pedals and exaggerating the need? Am I in fact just fine with my digital B3? Or is it really important that I start out with AGO pedals if I want to eventually master classical organ?



                          • #14
                            long time AGO

                            The whole AGO thing comes down to being a professional church organist. Showing up on site to do a couple of weddings and a funeral. As MOST organists don't travel with their own organ, It helps if the organs conform to some standard. The AGO established this in America.

                            Do you need all 32 pedals for all songs...Hec NO! 13 pedals on a spinet can do a lot, 25 pedal boards do MOST of what you need, 28 pedal boards do ALMOST everything, and 32 pedal boards...well...that is pretty much it.

                            If you learn on a 32 pedal AGO like board you can adapt to the subtle differences on other AGO like boards. The AGO is not IMHO a strict set of rules, but rather guidelines. For example...If you learned on an AGO and walked into a church with Princess, you could get by and play the tunes. However...If you were used to a 25 pedal board, or even a 28 board, you might have issues adapting to a 32 pedal board. It is like learning to park with a Cadillac. Once you have mastered that, parking a Toyota is a snap. Besides...AGO is a term that is just thrown around to make people sound smart. In truth I have heard that Most so called AGO board have the wrong sharps height or curvature, spacing, or something even more trivial.

                            Yes, you could midi shift the pedals all over the place. HOW you would do this is up to you...but Let me just snidely say "oh great! ANOTHER control to deal with amongst all the presets, pistons, and tabs...Thank you!" just as an aside...and along the lines of the midi interface...Did you know that there is a gaming keyboard that shifts octaves exactly like what you are thinking of? I was actually considering it for a footboard myself.

                            You don't NEED AGO pedals, but a 32 pedal board that is close to AGO will be good in the long run if you expect to show up at a church and play. Besides...once you get used to them, they are pretty cool.


                            • #15
                              Thanks, Dr. S.

                              Your Cadillac/Toyota metaphor makes sense. Sounds like it would be easier to go from AGO to Hammond than vice-versa.