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  • Help our organ committee!

    Hello. I'm so happy to have found this site. Thank you in advance for helping us out. I'm a pianist who often plays the organ for church. So...of course, I know very little about organs. (I have taken some lessons so I'm slowly learning correct technique). Our church is in need of a new organ. We currently have a Baldwin 600 series that was purchased used about 20 years ago. The last time we had a repairman come look at it he suggested replacing it.

    We've formed an organ committee and have started looking. We are a Lutheran church (liturgical) on the gulf coast. Our building seats about 200 members and we are growing, slowly. We are considering a new Allen for around $15-20,000, but we're also considering used instruments. My questions are as follows:

    1. There is a big difference in the sound quality between the used and the new instruments. Is there a year in which the sound quality at Allen changed significantly? For example, if we found an instrument built in the 90's would it's be comparable to a new organ? (How about the 2000's?)

    2. Phoenix organs can take our current console and essentially rebuild our current organ for about the same price. In theory, we would have a new digital organ on the inside with the same cabinet on the outside. Our current organ was actually a very nice organ and would probably cost around 80,000 to buy a new one that is comparable (so I am told). Does anyone have any experience with this company? What do you think of rebuilding an organ. What kind of problems would you anticipate?

    3. Many of our members feel that a digital piano with organ sounds will be enough. I'm struggling to convince them that the keyboard is not a substitute for an organ. Does anybody have suggestion to help me convince the congregation to buy a real organ?

    Thank you

  • #2
    You raise several interesting issues that will elicit many diverse opinions from our members.

    First, I will say that $15,000 is a very modest budget for a new church organ. An Allen at this price will not be like the traditional Allen products; it will have cheap Fatar keyboards, a light-duty console, and lighted rather than moving stop switches. On the other hand, $15,000 will buy you a very capable used Allen with Allen-made keyboards, built-like-a tank console, and moving drawknobs or stop tabs. Many nice used organs are looking for homes these days, and you should be able to find something nice without a years-long search.

    Allen technology through most of the 90s was called "MDS" (Master Design Series); although it was a big improvement over earlier generations, it was still a primitive method for repeatedly playing back a single stored cycle of a pipe waveform. Additional tricks such as wind-noise generators and attack/release transient generators were used to improve upon the basic sound, and most of us think that MDS organs when properly installed sound very nice indeed. I would pick one for my own organ if I had my preference.

    In the late 90s, Allen introduced the Renaissance line, which has endured with modest improvements to the present day. Renaissance is a true sample-playback platform, with the waveforms covering several tenths to several seconds in length and including all of the transients and wind noise as part of the samples themselves. Purists here will argue the subtle nuances of the original Renaissance versus the later Quantum Renaissance, etc., etc., but fundamentally it is all the same technology and is really just a hardware implementation of what is nowadays being done in software such as Hauptwerk.

    The latest Renaissance-series organs, now called Bravura, are going to sound more realistic than the MDS or early Renaissance, but in a large reverberant room one will be hard-pressed to discern the differences. We here on the forum mostly agree among ourselves that the dealer and the installation are more important than the details of the technology in getting a realistic organ sound.

    Phoenix elicits a very strong positive reaction from one of our members who owns one. I have not heard one in person and have not dealt with the company, but most who have give them high marks for sound and for attention to the customer. All of their instruments are custom jobs, although they have standard models to use as a starting point. They are very close with information about their sound-generation technology. It is apparently a proprietary system based on off-the-shelf computer hardware, but it is not a real software system such as Hauptwerk is. The closest equivalent in the market seems to be Walker and Marshall & Ogeltree, both of which occupy higher price points (the latter a stratospheric price point).

    If you have a very high-quality console, any custom builder including Allen and Phoenix will use it as the starting point for a new organ. But you have to think about the appointments such as the stop controls and keyboards--are they in near-perfect condition and suitable for another 40 years of services, or will they need to be replaced? By the time you fit new keyboards, stop controls, etc, into a vintage console, you might do better financially and musically just to start over with a console that actually was built to hold the new parts.

    Have you considered other makers such as Johannus and Viscount? They are making some nice organs these days, too.

    All I can say is that anyone who thinks a digital piano with an organ stop is an acceptable substitute for a real organ is not qualified to render an opinion. Real organs have pedalboards, multiple manuals, and a full stoplist in each division. A digital piano might be marginally acceptable for playing hymns or soft background music, but it would never allow any serious organ literature to be performed. And forget about attracting a serious organist to play a digital piano. You might as well get a boom box and a CD of organ hymns and save some money.
    Last edited by don60; 06-30-2013, 07:41 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      To answer #3 first . . . You may honestly tell the church that a musician trained to play the organ requires a real organ on which to play organ music. A real organ has (usually) more than one manual (keyboard for the hands) as well as a pedalboard (keyboard for the feet). Attempting to play organ music on a digital piano or keyboard requires more compromises and handicaps than most organists are willing to deal with. Most of the best and most interesting organ music simply cannot be played without a proper console. Of course many churches get by with just a piano, and that may be a good interim solution, but it is unrealistic to expect to get organ music out of an instrument that is not an organ.

      Besides the console issues, a real organ has "stops" that give the organist the ability to change the tone quality of each organ division across an incredible range, from very soft and mellow to brilliant and room-shaking and across a remarkable range of colors. A digital piano or keyboard often will have two or three (or sometimes more) "organ sounds" accessible by pressing a button on the control panel, but these are simply someone's idea of the general tone quality of different types of organs, and are nearly useless to a real organist needing to set up a specific registration or tone color for a musical piece or for accompanying a hymn or portion of the liturgy.

      Furthermore, a real organ is an instrument all by itself with its own audio system that speaks into the room in a very specific manner. A digital piano or keyboard is usually amplified by connecting to the church's house sound system, which may be fine for making it "louder" but which does nothing to help it produce the glorious room-filling effect that the organ is meant to give. Worse yet, the volume level of the piano or keyboard becomes controllable by the sound system operator, who may or may not be a musician (usually not) and may abruptly change the dynamic level at the wrong time, ruining the musical and artistic effect that the organist may be trying to portray.

      So if the church does away with the organ and gets a keyboard, there is no chance that a qualified organist will want to play for the services. If the church values music and aspires to a growing music program, a better choir, better congregational singing, and generally good music, there is no shortcut and getting a digital piano or keyboard is a bad way to spend money, unless, as I said earlier, they are content to use a piano until an organ can be found.

      To answer the other questions generally . . . If you will peruse the forum you will discover that we have often discussed the pros and cons and various qualities of different eras in the Allen, Rodgers, and other companies' histories. The general consensus among several of us who work with a great variety of electronic organs is that the era from which an organ comes is much less important than how carefully it is installed. So, IMHO, it is much more vital for you get a properly designed installation -- adequate amp power, proper number of speakers, correct placement of speakers, knowledgeable voicing and finishing -- than to zero in on a specific model or age of organ.

      I sometimes hear and play Allen and Rodgers organs more than 40 years old that still sound marvelous, very much like pipes, very colorful and interesting and serving the needs of a church -- and these are of course organs that got very good and artistic installations. And I have heard organs installed in just the past year from these and other companies that simply fall flat, completely uninspiring, not pipelike at all, dead and lifeless. These are not bad instruments themselves, but organs that were poorly chosen for the acoustic environment, equipped with too few speakers, poorly voiced and finished.

      I know these are somewhat nebulous answers, and perhaps some other forum members will add to them. I wish you the best in finding the proper solution for your church. You are on the right track!
      John
      ----------
      *** 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!

      https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

      Comment


      • #4
        here is my .02 cents worth. Why not look at Craigslist for Hammond M-3's, B-3's or C-3's or A-100's with a Leslie. That can be a simple solution and you can save a lot of money. You would need to find someone that knows about Hammonds to go with you and look at what might pop up on Craigslist, but in the long run, a 50 or 60 yr. old Hammond is going to last longer than anything new on the market and Hammond oil is cheap. I know our members will offer other suggestions but the current organ market is filled with good vintage solutions.
        This is exactly what I am talking about. http://memphis.craigslist.org/msg/3850469349.html It's currently in a Church.
        Another fine example http://jonesboro.craigslist.org/msg/3904392329.html
        Last edited by winelover1961; 06-30-2013, 05:08 PM. Reason: add more info.
        1965 Model A-102, "lovingly referred to as Althea" 1967 M-143, 1995 Gibson B. B. King Lucille in Cherry, 1983 Fender Strat in Olympic White faded to a Butterscotch color, 1983 Fender Strat in Siennaburst, 1972 Fender Tele Thinline in Natural, 1980 Epiphone Sheraton (made in Japan), 2000 Fender Custom Shop Buddy Guy Strat, 1951 Gibson GA-20 amp, 1964 Gibson GA-45 RV, 1957 Magnatone 213 amp, 1964 Magnatone M-10 amp.

        Comment


        • #5
          I'm no expert by any means, but unless your church is primarily interested in Gospel music, I wouldn't recommend a Hammond. If you have any desire to play music by the old organ masters (Bach, Buxtehude, Widor, Vierne, Mendelssohn Clarke, Purcell, etc.) a Hammond is not the right instrument. MHO, YMMV.

          David

          Comment


          • #6
            Agreed, David--a Hammond is not the right instrument for playing classical literature.

            Bf098, where are you located? Jbird or I might be able to help you find something.

            Comment


            • #7
              Wow, Don, you and I were typing at the same time and thinking exactly the same thing! We both must be geniuses!
              John
              ----------
              *** 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!

              https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

              Comment


              • #8
                John, I have known for some time that we are geniuses!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Hmmm while I love the Hammond for Gospel music ...I'd rather take the keyboard over the M3 for classical music

                  Originally posted by winelover1961 View Post
                  here is my .02 cents worth. Why not look at Craigslist for Hammond M-3's, B-3's or C-3's or A-100's with a Leslie. That can be a simple solution and you can save a lot of money. You would need to find someone that knows about Hammonds to go with you and look at what might pop up on Craigslist, but in the long run, a 50 or 60 yr. old Hammond is going to last longer than anything new on the market and Hammond oil is cheap. I know our members will offer other suggestions but the current organ market is filled with good vintage solutions.
                  This is exactly what I am talking about. http://memphis.craigslist.org/msg/3850469349.html It's currently in a Church.
                  Another fine example http://jonesboro.craigslist.org/msg/3904392329.html

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Another thing your committee might consider is visiting other churches and hearing and seeing their organs and speaking with their organists. See churches with digital as well as pipe organs. One thing I would stress, is not to aim for size and number of stops, but rather to finding the best SOUND for your room. I think it is very important for the organist as well as the congregation to have an organ of appropriate size. A room that seats only a couple of hundred people does not need a big Bombarde division and a collection of chamade reeds, 32s, etc. The organ needs to be appropriate to the size and acoustics of the room, as well as to the kind of music your parish wants.
                    As well, don't expect one instrument to be able to do everything. If you want piano sounds, buy a piano. If you want "contemporary" sounds, by all means get a keyboard. But don't expect the keyboard OR the musician to be able to do everything perfectly. Be considerate of the musicians (present and future) as well as of the congregation and the instrument. Be REASONABLE! Best of luck. Please keep us posted.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      If one absolutely HAD to go the keyboard route, my Kurzweil PC3x has a raft of classical organ sounds in its soundset. Here is a complete list:

                      795 16' Open Flute
                      796 16' Stop Flute
                      797 16' Diapason
                      798 16' Ped Bourdon
                      799 16' Ped Diapason
                      800 16' Ped Reed
                      801 16' Reed A
                      802 16' Reed B
                      803 16' Gamba
                      804 16' DiaCeleste
                      805 16' Ballpark Sto
                      806 16' Viol
                      807 8' Open Flute
                      808 8' Stop Flute
                      809 8' Diapason
                      810 8' Ped Bourdon
                      811 8' Reed
                      812 8' Gamba
                      813 8' DiaCeleste
                      814 8' Ballpark Stop
                      815 8' Viol
                      816 5 1/3' Ped Bourd.
                      817 4' Open Flute
                      818 4' Stop Flute
                      819 4' Diapason
                      820 4' Ped Bourdon
                      821 4' Reed
                      822 4' Gamba
                      823 4' DiaCeleste
                      824 4' Ballpark Stop
                      825 4' Viol
                      826 2 2/3' OpenFlute
                      827 2 2/3' StopFl 12
                      828 2 2/3' Diapason
                      829 2 2/3' Reed
                      830 22/3' Gamba
                      831 2 2/3' DiaCelest
                      832 2 2/3' Ballpark S
                      833 2 2/3' Viol
                      834 2' Open Flute
                      835 2' Stop Flute
                      836 2' Diapason
                      837 2' Reed
                      838 2' Gamba
                      839 2' DiaCeleste
                      840 2' Ballpark Stop
                      841 2' Viol

                      Now there are no mixtures and I suspect that the way that the sounds are created results in something similar to unification, in that the same sample is probably used at the different footages, although same pitches would sound twice. These are probably made from using non-pipe samples, as they came out in a software upgrade to the original keyboard (no new wave files were added, just the new programs - sort of like Roland has done on the Atelier upgrades). Still, that's way ahead of most keyboards. It will also have the standard MIDI files, PIPE ORGAN 1, PIPE ORGAN 2, CHAPEL ORGAN, REED ORGAN, etc. Here are some I found but have not listened to:

                      207 Vox Orgel
                      486 Pipe Stops
                      487 Soft Stops
                      488 All Stops
                      489 Chapel Organ
                      490 All Stops All Vox
                      491 Pipes & Voices
                      492 Orch Timpani

                      I threw that last one in. Those would provide a couple or more ensemble sounds, rather than making up a diapason chorus, for instance. Mine is a PC3x which means 88 note weighted (piano like). They go for about a grand to $1500. It can also be bought as a 76 note (PC3) which feels more organ like. Newer models may have the same sounds and be available in a 61 note. One could split the 88 note keyboard into two ranges. It can do up to 8 zones, which means you can combine those stops, up to eight of them if you don't do a split. One can also connect a second (or even third) MIDI keyboard and a set of MIDI pedals but these each take at least one of the 8 zones. Anyway, this might be a more palatable choice than the Hammond and could be thrown together for a couple of grand with spinet pedals. Needless to say, a "keyboard" that provides that many organ sounds is extremely comprehensive in all other sounds, including all orchestral instruments. This is exactly how folk put together a Hauptwerk setup on the cheap but you'd be using the internal sounds instead of a computer. Kurzweil has a ten key pad that you can assign your resets to (like pistons), ten setups with up to eight zones each. Then you can save dozens of ten key sets of multi zone combinations. The registration changes would be very organ like, although not ergonomically located. Pedal units generally provide MIDI merging, to combine the keyboards into one data stream for a computer interface for such as Hauptwerk, which admittedly goes even deeper where setting stuff up is concerned. The Kurzweil could be configured in one weekend with most of the needed combinations and simply played thereafter. Of course none of this beats a solid used organ in the proper dimensions and scope.
                      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

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Bf098 View Post
                        3. Many of our members feel that a digital piano with organ sounds will be enough. I'm struggling to convince them that the keyboard is not a substitute for an organ. Does anybody have suggestion to help me convince the congregation to buy a real organ?
                        Bf098,

                        I have a perfectly do-able suggestion. Make a deal with the committee/membership: If any of your members can play the keyboard AND accurately play the bass notes with both feet, agree to purchase a keyboard. Otherwise, the discussion is about a good digital instrument or pipe organ (if you can get one from Organ Clearing House).

                        Just my 2 cents.

                        Michael
                        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

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          If you buy a used organ, I would strongly recommend an Allen MDS or new organ. There may be some good Rodgers digital organs out there but you should avoid any of their organs produced in Italy. Phoenix has a good reputation. Johannus has some good sounding instruments but I have heard horror stories about their quality. The same for Viscount. I have personal experience with Artisan custom work and could not recommend them. Hope that helps.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by don60 View Post
                            Agreed, David--a Hammond is not the right instrument for playing classical literature.

                            Bf098, where are you located? Jbird or I might be able to help you find something.
                            Do you feel that way about the Hammond 935 also?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I was responding to the suggest that a 50- or 60-year-old tonewheel Hammond would make a good church organ. Evidently the 935 is a modern digital organ with a set of classical voices as well as the drawbars. It would probably be a fun instrument for churches that need modern reliability and support for a variety of musical styles.

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