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  • hauptwerk

    Could someone please explain what a hauptwerk/virtual organ is. I don't understand the concept.

    Allen MDC Classic 42
    Neronde Flo Tone Electric Accordion

  • #2

    Hauptwerk is basically a computer program designed to simulate pipe organ tone generation. It can run on the Windows platform or the Apple Mac. In other words, it does not use proprietary hardware, but uses the plentifully available PC, and thus is able to use it's power. And the average PC is much more powerful than what organ manufacturers use in their organs.

    Hauptwerk does it's simulation by using sample sets, available from Hauptwerk or 3rd party developers. Usually what is done is important or historically significant organs are sampled (digitally recorded) note by note, and then processed.

    What is required to get a system running, is MIDI inputs from keyboard (s), stop and piston controls, either through real units or via touch screens. This is the front end. The back end requires an DAC (usually more than 2 channels), amplifiers and speakers.

    All this requires being able to integrate everything into a system so it works.

    If done correctly, and not on the cheap, using one of the better sample sets, the results can be just amazing - can be as good as the best from what vendors can supply.

    Hauptwerk is not the only system out there using this approach. There is J-Organ and some others, but Hauptwerk is easily the best in terms of potential results. Also, with Hauptwerk, it has become a community, folks from all over the world are into it, and it is growing daily.

    Hauptwerk, I believe is the way forward into the future. It rides on technology which continues to get more stable and powerful, so the company does not have to design any hardware. It has many partners in making sample sets, so interesting organs are continually being added to the catalog. I'm not sure what manufacturers of digital organs think about the concept, but they know they are increasingly losing sales to Hauptwerk. Churches and Concert Halls are buying into the concept, and many folks who have digital organs, are adding Hauptwerk through the MIDI port.

    I hope I have helped you understand it a bit better.



    • #3
      What arie v said! Just beat me to the post.
      There is free trial version you can download and it comes with a virtual organ you can try. I am currently running it on a Dell 2 gig laptop with Roland keyboard using USB midi connection. Results are pretty impressive when connected to my stereo system. For best results I would need to convert my Allen organ to midi. Definitely a good idea with the right hardware.
      Allen ADC 1000
      Large Beagle


      • #4
        Straight from the horse's mouth - this is an extract from the Hauptwerk User Manual:

        Hauptwerk is a computer program that takes full advantage of the enormous processing power of the latest home computers to provide very complex pipe organ modeling and per-pipe sound shaping, while maintaining the enormous polyphony necessary to model a pipe organ successfully.

        At its core, Hauptwerk is a very powerful and high-performance specialist software sampler.

        The system is built around the philosophy of using at least one large sample per pipe (typically 3-10 seconds), all including release
        samples to record the decay of each pipe accurately, and recorded in CD quality or better. All samples are held in memory to achieve a
        much higher polyphony for a given hardware cost than is possible with disk-streaming, commonly used in software samplers. Unlike generic software or hardware samplers, Hauptwerk has complex physical and acoustic models specifically designed to reproduce the features and sound of a pipe organ, and is thus able to achieve much more realistic results. It is also designed for a much higher polyphony than generic samplers.

        But Hauptwerk is much more than a sampler. It also models all of the physical controls and functional details of a pipe organ. The main
        console screen shows you a photo-realistic representation of the console, and allows you full control over the virtual organ in the same way that you would control the original instrument. Everything behaves as you would expect; stops, couplers, the programmable combination system, swell pedals, crescendo pedals, ventils, theatre organ second-touch, bass and melody couplers, and so on. You can also use up to four touch-screen monitors to make the virtual controls accessible in convenient locations relative to your MIDI console or MIDI keyboards.

        What's more, in Hauptwerk every control and function can be fully controlled by MIDI, and Hauptwerk can send MIDI output to control
        moving/illuminated draw-knobs/tabs, control real external ranks of pipes or hardware expanders, and even control LCD panels to show labels for each draw-knob and piston. If you wish, Hauptwerk can be fully integrated into a MIDI organ console and operate as its 'engine', with comprehensive real-time per-pipe voicing facilities, multi-channel audio output and all of the features you would need from a high-end system.

        But perhaps the biggest appeal to many of Hauptwerk's users is that you are not restricted to a single set of organ sounds. Have a look at some of the amazing sample sets available for Hauptwerk, listed on the Hauptwerk website. Some of the greatest organs in the world can be played virtually.

        Hauptwerk is available for Apple Macs (both Intel and PowerPC Macs) as well as PCs running Windows. The Hauptwerk VST/AU Link makes it easy to connect Hauptwerk to Cubase, Logic, Silbelius and other major VST and Audio Unit hosts and MIDI sequencers.
        Because Hauptwerk is designed to give incredible performance and realism, a fairly modern, powerful computer will give best results. We think that's a small price to pay for the results you will get.

        However, you can still use Hauptwerk on older computers with excellent results and a huge polyphony by simply disabling some of the audio realism features such as interpolation and per-pipe filters. Even with only 1 GB of memory you can still use Hauptwerk very effectively with smaller sample sets, or by choosing to load only certain ranks of larger sample sets. Hauptwerk is designed to be extremely easy and intuitive to set up and use, even for people with minimal computer, MIDI or technical experience. It can automatically detect all of the necessary MIDI settings for most makes and models of MIDI organ consoles and hardware.

        We are fortunate to have a large and enthusiastic community of users who have supported Hauptwerk since the launch of version 1 in 2002.

        You can read about some of Hauptwerk's users on the Hauptwerk website forum by visiting
        There are also plenty of third-parties who produce many diverse and wonderful sample sets in Hauptwerk format, listed on the Hauptwerk website, ranging from famous historic baroque organs to romantic giants to theatre organs, harmoniums and even harpsichords.

        Hauptwerk is most often used:
        For study and practice at home by organists, organ enthusiasts and music students.
        In churches, theatres and concert halls to power digital organs and voice expanders.
        In commercial and home recording studios to provide the ultimate pipe organ sound.
        For music composition and arrangement.
        For historical organ and music study and research.
        For making playable documentary recordings of endangered or valuable pipe organs.
        As an instrument on which to learn the organ in schools, music colleges, etc.
        To upgrade old digital/electronic organs to the latest audio technology and realism.

        We aim to bring the pipe organ, king of instruments, to as many people as we can with the
        highest degree of realism possible on current home computer hardware.

        However, we believe that, no matter how realistic or advanced, no model or imitation can ever
        equal a real pipe organ. We sincerely hope that Hauptwerk should never replace, or be
        considered as an alternative to, a real organ if space and finances permit.

        There are many videos posted on youtube of people demonstrating their Hauptwerk setups.


        • #5
          In shortest form: Hauptwerk is like a digital organ, but all you get are the sounds, and the software to run them.

          You must supply:
          - Your own computer,
          - Your own way to control it (MIDI equipped organ console, or cobbled together pedalboard/keyboard stacks, however you feel like doing it)
          - Your own amplification and speakers.


          • #6
            Not to hijack this thread too badly, but I've always wondered if you can mix and match individual voices from different organ sample sets. For instance, if I had a Flentrop sample set and a Casavant sample set, could I, say, use the Flutes from the Flentrop and the Diapasons from the Casavant to "build" a 3rd organ?



            • #7
              It depends on the sample set. Some sample sets permit re-use such as this, while others do not. The publisher of the sample set determines policy.

              Even if you have the ability to do this, you face the challenge of matching spatial environments as many of the Hauptwerk sample are 'wet' (having a reverb tail) to some degree. Nevertheless, there are Hauptwerk organs that are created in this manner.

              Allen 965
              Zuma Group Midi Keyboard Encoder
              Zuma Group DM Midi Stop Controller
              Hauptwerk 4.2


              • #8
                Thanks for the explanations. In short, it is an organ running off a computer program and Midi?
                Allen MDC Classic 42
                Neronde Flo Tone Electric Accordion


                • #9
                  Yep, great stuff. If you want to build your own mix and match VPO the open source programs like jOrgan and Grandorgue are the easiest way to go as there are many free sample sets out there (esp for jOrgan). It is a pretty steep learning curve though but very rewarding.

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


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by edhorgan View Post
                    Thanks for the explanations. In short, it is an organ running off a computer program and Midi?
                    Yes - it is a computer program driven by MIDI controller(s)/MIDI capable organs/repurposed MIDIfied organ consoles.

                    The PC needs to meet the required spec (see the Hauptwerk site for details) particularly for the amount of memory required to hold the entire sample set and it needs to have a suitable 'professional standard' audio/sound card running ASIO drivers. Other than that, it's up to you how you set it up.

                    As suggested above, download the free version and give it a go.


                    • #11
                      Great discussions here. Thanks all.


                      • #12
                        Has anyone set up a virtual organ to work with the console and all (or nearly all) of the pistons and knobs/switches, so that it appears as if it's only the console doing the work? It seems to me that if a virtual organ worked seamlessly with an organ console's hardware that would be very useful, especially in terms of upgrading the sound of an older organ. I'm assuming in order to accomplish this one would have to manually setup midi hardware on every drawknob/switch/piston in addition to the keys? My organ has some midi control but not nearly comprehensive enough to be able to simply use the console, and having to use a computer screen for more than basic interaction with the organ would really put me off.

                        I think if Hauptwerk made a small standalone box (using Windows or Linux) with advanced midi hardware and capabilities, so that one could seamlessly incorporate it into an existing console, that could be a cost effective way of upgrading older organs to have top notch sounds.

                        Maybe all of that has been done though... :)
                        Viscount C400 3-manual
                        8 channels + 2 reverb channels (w/ Lexicon MX200)
                        Klipsch RSX-3 speakers and Klipsch Ultra 5.1 subwoofers


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by rjsilva View Post
                          I think if Hauptwerk made a small standalone box (using Windows or Linux) with advanced midi hardware and capabilities, so that one could seamlessly incorporate it into an existing console, that could be a cost effective way of upgrading older organs to have top notch sounds.
                          At a certain point, if you want your console to work with Hauptwerk, it will be necessary to get inside it and wire the pistons, keys, stop-tabs etc. to a MIDI encoder. There are indeed external MIDI control centers that can assign MIDI channels and provide other aspects of the administration of all the various components of the VPO but there isn't any off the shelf hardware sold that will make it effortless to connect the wider world of organ consoles to VPO software. Even consoles using touch screens for much of the functionality still need at least the keys, and possibly the pistons and expression shoes wired to a MIDI encoder. At the website can be seen many, many examples of purpose built Hauptwerk interfaces and older pipe organ consoles wired for Hauptwerk and every degree of functionality in-between. Start there.