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How many manuals would be good for a home organ?

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  • How many manuals would be good for a home organ?

    I am just wondering. I really like four-manual organs, but would that be too big? Are organs with five+ manuals uncommon?

    __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________

    Who says a 14-year-old can't play organ?

  • #2
    My organ has 2 manuals and AGO pedals. I don't have statistics, but I'd bet many if not most home organs are similarly equipped (except "Home Organs"--a lot of that category will have 2 abbreviated manuals and 13 or 18 "stick" pedals). Serious home practice organs for classics may have 3 manuals, but I doubt there are very many home instruments with 4 or more.



    • #3
      I wanted 3 manuals and 25 pedals, so I made my own, out of 2 home organs. So yes I have abbreviated keyboards and "stick" pedals, but at least I have 3 manuals. Just a bit of woodwork, and so on.

      Here in the UK there are people who can supply keyboards, pedalboards, consoles, and so on, so you could build a 4-manual, I suppose.

      What's the quote about 14-year-olds? I think Mary Ann Wootton was about 11 when I saw her playing the Blackpool Tower Wurlitzer on TV. Don't know how long she'd be playing if she was already good enough (a) to be allowed to play that, (b) to do it on TV!


      • #4
        It depends to an extent on what type of organ you mean.

        Classical/church: Three is great, four is wonderful, but there are plenty of small churches with a single manual
        Theatre: Two will suffice, three is great, four is fantastic, five is extravagant, any more is getting silly! I've only ever played one 5 decker and that only had couplers to the 5th manual, no stops of its own.
        'Home' Electronic/orchestral/digital etc: Two is the norm, three will add a synth keyboard of some sort. Four? I've only ever played one. More than that? How about ten, the Kawai T50. Played that one too.

        These days, with couplers. split manuals and preset pistons/registration memories (call them what you will, depending on the instrument) you can do almost anything with two. But that third deck still takes a lot of beating.

        14? I was semi pro by then!
        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 -

        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


        • #5
          I have a classical pipe/digital organ at home. It started with an AGO 2MP console, however, I found with 48 speaking stops, the resources couldn't be fully utilized. The organ now plays from an AGO 3MP console and it's significantly more enjoyable to play. I recommend buying as much as your budget and space for the organ allows.


          • #6
            In my limited experience (classical and church) three would be about perfect two a minimum. With a two manual (which is what I have mostly played my entire life) in most situations the pistons get can get you by but having a third manual would make things much easier and smoother. For example I have an arrangement of "Rejoice the Lord is King" that uses call and response between two reed choruses of differing character in several places throughout interposed with normal ensemble settings. Having the reeds on say the great and the choir I could use the swell for the other settings and couple in one of the reed manuals for the finale without having to use presets over and over again to switch one of the reed chorus in and out as I have to do with two manuals. It also could come in handy sometimes for having percussion at the ready.

            More than three seems like gravy to me. A large cathedral organ would probably have four but coupling and presets should suffice for the few instances where you are going back and forth between all four divisions. There are quite a few four manual VPO dispositions out there of course so I wouldn't turn down a four decker. :) More than four seems ungainly and a bit of a reach for me.

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


            • #7
              I absolutely love my 3 manual organ! It's the perfect fit for me; and I don't wan't either more nor less than three manuals.

              Over the past 40 years, I've always had 2 manual organs; and the primary reason for that had a whole lot to do with $$$$! But times and technology have changed since the days when the enormous bundles $$$ of wiring were needed for a third manual. But these days, you need to do little more than simply insert the plug from the third manual into the digital hardware-interface. So instead of adding 30-50% to the cost of an organ, with digital technology, a third keyboard can now be added at such insignificant cost, as to be a non-issue.

              So . . . at my age (70), I figured this would be my last chance to enjoy a 3 manual organ; and for the few extra $$$ it cost, I am certainly glad I opted for a 3 manual; and can't imagine ever having to go back to a 2 manual.

              But there is more to a good organ design, than a third manual:

              1. Toe Studs!! I almost made a big time MAJOR mistake, figuring I could save a lot of $$$ by eliminating toe studs! But when I heard the minimal cost, I gave a definite two thumbs up to the idea! I really love toe studs!! Although I have a whole bunch of buttons under each manual, I have used them so seldom, that I'm not sure what they all do! I use the toe studs for about everything!

              2. Crescendo Pedal!! Absolutely totally useless on any organ I have ever played over the years; and consequently, with limited expectations, I pretty much ignored the crescendo pedal on my new organ for a long time, until one day I started fiddling with it. Wow!!! What a difference it makes when the crescendo is set up by a real organist/engineer, i.e., set up by an artist instead a mere engineer!!! ;-) With something like 21 crescendo steps, everything, stops and couplers are engaged flawlessly, step-by-step in perfect order. for the first time in forty years, I finally have a crescendo pedal which is actually useful; and I use it on a regular basis. Nothwitstanding, that as usual, you can totally reconfigure better digital organs at will, there is nothing that can be improved upon beyond the initial artistic design and configuration! :-)

              Of course there are physical considerations which prevent larger organs from entering many a front door.
              2008: Phoenix III/44


              • #8
                No fewer than this:Click image for larger version

Name:	Wanamaker Organ Console.jpg
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                Allen 965
                Zuma Group Midi Keyboard Encoder
                Zuma Group DM Midi Stop Controller
                Hauptwerk 4.2


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Admin View Post
                  No fewer than this:
                  Just looking at it, is enough to make my aged neck, back and shoulders ache!!! :->
                  2008: Phoenix III/44


                  • #10
                    I love my Allen Quantum 345 3 manual organ. I would not want anything less for home or church. I also have the midi expander. I bought this as if it were for a church with adjustable bench, back rest, smart recorder, and two tone wood. It has 7 large speaker cabinets which are on shelving in the living room except for the pedal 32' Contre Violone which is on a separate wooden stand (to keep it and the others away from the cats). The console is in the dining room.


                    • #11
                      I think he might have trouble fitting the 28,000 pipes that go with that 6 manual display! Ouch!


                      • #12
                        Mr. Catlover 1989,

                        Depends on how large your home is. If your home is the size of the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville, NC, or the organ at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, then you probably can't go too large.

                        A minimum, however, has already been stated--2 manuals (56 or 61 notes each), and at least 1 full set of pedals (25 or 32). Of course, the larger number is preferred, but much literature can be played on the smaller instruments (smaller numbers above).

                        Welcome to the Forum, and I hope your find your time here rewarding!

                        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


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Clarion View Post
                          Just looking at it, is enough to make my aged neck, back and shoulders ache!!! :->
                          My thoughts exactly! Whenever I see a picture of the Wanamaker console, my first thought is: how do you reach all the way up (and over!) to reach that top keyboard?



                          • #14
                            Originally posted by NoTalent View Post
                            My thoughts exactly! Whenever I see a picture of the Wanamaker console, my first thought is: how do you reach all the way up (and over!) to reach that top keyboard?

                            Maybe the answer is to make curved manuals, arrayed in pairs side by side, and only 3 levels?



                            • #15
                              The recent technology home organs, such as Atelier, have something called SOLO SPLIT which enables you to take the over range (76 note) lower manual and split it wherever you wish. The upper range can have any SINGLE stop you wish but some of the stops are ensembles, such as a diapason or a tibia chorus, or piano with strings layered. You can save that setup on a registration button, enabling such facilities to be used and turned off at will. This type thinking goes a long way to make a two manual instrument have much of the flexibility of a three. I'm not as familiar with modern classical instruments but I believe I saw a straight Allen (classical, that is) being played at Octave Hall, a piece by Barry Holben, in which it appeared that the pedal had been split between bass notes at the left and a percussion sound on the right (maybe a crash cymbal). It's really simply a matter of software and couple of buttons today.

                              I saw one seven manual console in which the top manual was essentially vertical. Atlantic City Municipal Auditorium, I believe.
                              Roland Atelier AT-90s, AT-80s, AT-70, 30, and 15. Roland VR-760 combo
                              Yamaha S-90, Kurzweil PC-3x, Casio Privia PX-330, Roland E-80, G-70, BK-5, Leslie 760, 820
                              Moved on:
                              Allen 3MT/Hauptwerk, Technics GA1, Yamaha HX1, AR80, numerous Hammonds, including 2 M's, an L, 2 A-100's, XP-2, XM-1/1c, & an XK-3. Roland Atelier AT-30, 60r, 80, & 20r(2 units), and a slew of Leslies (147, 142, 760, 900, 330).
                              Korg Triton Le-61, Casio Privia PX-310 & 110, and Kurzweils: PC-2x, SP-88, Pro-III, K1000