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Tracker Touch on Electronic Organ

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  • Tracker Touch on Electronic Organ



    I'm a relatively new organist and have experience with only one electronic instrument, a Rodgers 530. In another forum, the topic of tracker touch keyboards came up. I know that electronic organs try very hard to be like pipe organs and this area piqued my interest. Can someone please explain what exactly IS a tracker touch and how effectively this is emulated in an electronic organ? Finally, WHY would one choose this over a conventional keyboard feel (I assume for practice purposes)?</p>

     </p>

    Thanks, and sorry if this is too basic.</p>

    On another note: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays &amp; Happy New Year for everyone on this list. </p>

     </p>

  • #2
    Re: Tracker Touch on Electronic Organ



    I have only played one tracker and that is a three-manual Martin Ott of about 50 ranks in San Diego. It has a nice touch butstiffens up when the couplers are employed. I have played several "tracker touch" electric action organs and the authenticity of the touch varies. I like the tracker touch even when it is obviously simulated. It adds a positive feel that I appreciate.</P>


    At church our Schantz loft console has top-quality standard-touch manuals that are comfortable and satisfying to play. We chose new Klann tracker-touch manuals for our chancel console. Part of the reason for doing so was "just because" and part of the reason was we figured that the manuals would retain a more positive feel even after they aged for several years rather than getting softer in the middle octaves. We shall see how this goes in future years. The Klann manuals are also satisfying to play. Nobody has ever expressed a strong preference one way or another between the two consoles.</P>


    What is tracker touch? Well, I am not completely certain how the simulation is implemented. I have heard that one method is with a special kind of spring that "toggles" as you press the keys and provides a snap to the downward action but not in the upward action. I have heard that another method is to use permanent magnets that actually cause the key to stick a bit and then break free as you push harder, thus simulating the pluck of tracker touch.</P>


    Hope this helps!</P>


    [:)]</P>

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Tracker Touch on Electronic Organ



      Tracker touch can be simulated by magnets or springs, as MS has noted. On some inexpensive keyboards, tracker touch is simulated by a rubber bubble button underneath each key that presents considerable resistance at the top of the keystroke, but once the button is "dimpled" the resistance is overcome and the key goes down quickly.</P>


      I've rather enjoyed playing such a keyboard at times, though I've not owned one or played on one regularly. As I understand it, a TT keyboard may produce crisper playing, providing a kind of mechanical discipline for the fingers.</P>


      However, just having TT on the keys does not make a digital or electric-action pipe console perform like a tracker pipe organ, where, as many claim, one can influence the attack and cutoff of the pipe in subtle ways through direct mechanical linkage to the valves.</P>


      John</P>
      <P mce_keep="true"></P>
      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

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      • #4
        Re: Tracker Touch on Electronic Organ

        Everyone REALLY needs to play a tracker touch organ. I love 'em. I have more positive control of the keys and that helps me to play with fewer mistakes.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Tracker Touch on Electronic Organ



          I've played on two Makin organs with a tracker touch, and I only noticed it after about 6 years of playing those organs because it was only ever so slight! I think it's only worth getting it if it is made stiff enough like on a real tracker, in my opinion.</P>


          Jezza</P>

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          • #6
            Re: Tracker Touch on Electronic Organ



            There are various methods of delivering tracker touch to a set of organ keys.  The idea is to simulate the feeling of the key/pallet break-point on a mechanical action organ.  </p>

             One of the more complex systems was employed by Skinner: in addition to the traditional rear coil spring, each key had a captive toggle pin under the key close to the head.  These can be difficult to adjust for the uninitiated, and over time the pins have been known to fall out.  More than one organist I know of has deliberately had the touch weakened on their A-S manuals, as they found it too unforgiving. A common misconception is that all  Aeolian-Skinner consoles had tracker-touch manuals.</p>

            Other builders have used permanent magnets placed midway along the lever or "omega" shaped secondary springs under the key heads to facilitate tracker touch. The latter is most widely used to my knowledge. </p>

            Another common misconception: Austin manuals do not have true tracker touch, but rather get their "toggle" feel because of their unique construction.  Austin keys (actually made at the Gibson/Baldwin plant in Juarez, Mexico) have a short lever with the fulcrum in the middle.  The return spring is a phosphor-bronze wire lever built into the rear of the contact assembly.</p>

            The key (forgive the pun) to a solid feel and good long-term performance in any keyboard requires high quality components. The best organ keys are cut from a single slab of basswood, and have a long lever (18" from tail to head) with a fulcrum in the rear. Plywood and sugarpine are also used for key blanks, though the latter less so these days as commercially grown and kiln-dried sugarpine has proved to be somewhat unstable. Frames are made of hard maple and reinforced with steel.</p>

             In contrast, most electronic organ keyboards  have aluminum frames and the keys are a one or two piece plastic mold, though some manufacturers do use wooden levers. "Premium" electronic organs typically have manuals from pipe organ suppliers.</p>

             </p>

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            • #7
              Re: Tracker Touch on Electronic Organ

              Wow, thanks everyone. For me, this is a fascinating topic and I appreciate everyone taking the time to fill in the blanks for me. Organs are amazing instruments--so much more than mechanical couplings of keyboard to wind chests and pipes. Here I am preachin' to the choir.... 

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Tracker Touch on Electronic Organ



                The Johannus digital installation that just went into my church was ordered with optional "tracker touch." To be honest, I don't think it'sa very good simulation of actual tracker action. The keys are stiffer than standard (at least stiffer than the Conn Rhapsody I have at home) but it doesn't have the "click" in the key travel as described above. It is a nice feel to it, and does aid in fewer transient mistakes (ie: "bumping" a key in between two that you are playing in succession). I've never had the priviledge of playing a real mechanical action pipe organ (much to my dismay), but if I ever do I'll be sure to compare the key action with the digital.</P>


                Regards,
                Gary</P>
                -Gary

                If it's not baroque, don't fix it.
                YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/thevande...?feature=guide
                Web Site (with sheet music): http://www.garyvanderploeg.com

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Tracker Touch on Electronic Organ



                  I've never had the opportunity to try a true tracker touch keyboard. </P>


                  Our Viscount has a simulated tracker touch keyboard and I absolutly hate it. The keys are far too stiffly sprung and require a considerable amount of pressure to be applied before thekey moves -I don't like the initial heavy resistance which then "gives" way with a certain amount of pressureleading tosmooth action all the way down to full depression with lesser resistance.</P>


                  I find quick passages so difficult to play as you really have to press each note quite hard to make sure it plays and this slows me down. With chords each finger must press with the equal pressure otherwise you end up getting an arpeggio because some fingers had applied enough pressure to overcome the initial "click" and others haven't - maybe its my technique, not the keyboard at fault? Though I must say that the chord problem has been overcome know - initially it felt quite odd.</P>


                  Unfortunatly, the keyboard stiffness is non-adjustable onthe Viscount and comes the tracker action comes as standard. It really spoils the instrument for me totally, I think that this "tracker action" should be offered as an option. </P>


                  I prefer the piano keyboard like action found on non-tracker Rodgers and Allens where the pressure applied to a key is steady all the way through its travel.</P>
                  1971 Allen Organ TC-3S (#42904) w/sequential capture system.
                  Speakers: x1 Model 100 Gyro, x1 Model 105 & x3 Model 108.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Tracker Touch on Electronic Organ

                    [quote user="nullogik"]


                    I find quick passages so difficult to play as you really have to press each note quite hard to make sure it plays and this slows me down. </P>


                    [/quote]</P>


                    Exercises will solve that. Your finger muscles have atrophied from playing on those Rodgers keyboards :)</P>


                    </P>


                    I prefer the piano keyboard like action found on non-tracker Rodgers and Allens where the pressure applied to a key is steady all the way through its travel.</P>

                    </P>


                    When Irent my Rodgersinstrument asunder to turn it into a midi console for Hauptwerk, the keyboards (reliable and well built as they are) were the first chunks to be replaced with better tracker touch boards. Yes, ok, I have started with the Fatar el cheapo version (andmay eventually, finances permitting, replace those with Klann flip-spring wooden keyboards IF they can be made velocity sensitive), but the Fater boards have far superior touch than the Rodgers' originals. The difference is subtle, but I've found ithas made asignificant improvementin articulation and accuracy.</P>


                    Many Hauptwerk sample sets use keyboard velocity sensitivity to deliver 2-3 variants in pipe attack to add realism for tracker emulation. It isn't perfect, obviously, but you do end up withsome level of control. Quite nice, actually.</P>

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Tracker Touch on Electronic Organ



                      Tracker touch and a mechanical action are two completely different things. I don't think tracker touch feelslike a mechanical action organ at all. However, I do appreciate a bit of resistance to the touch - I believe it encourages cleaner playing.</P>


                      Just about everyone knows how a piano feels - that is an entirely mechanical action. Some of the early electric keyboards (the ones without weighted keys) feel flimsy and cheap in comparison.</P>


                      As has been mentioned,tracker touchcan be over-done. I'm not fond of an action that is too stiff, or has too many "events" (which can be distracting).</P>


                      The primary goal is to assist in clean playing and articulation. To do this, theaction itself must be clean (simple) and subtly articulate. Beyond that, it is up to the organist's technique.</P>

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Tracker Touch on Electronic Organ



                        [quote user="Grant_Youngman"]</P>


                        Exercises will solve that. Your finger muscles have atrophied from playing on those Rodgers keyboards :)[/quote]</P>


                        Totally agree. I've now been using "tracker action" keyboards on my Viscount for about three months, and I can play pretty quickly now with good accuracy. I still find sustained bouts of speed tiring, but I'm sure that will be overcome as I practice more.</P>


                        As for the Fatar keyboards. I did try an Allen QLF which came with Fatar keyboards andit just felt very synthetic, "plasticky" and cheap to me - totally ruined the instrument IMO.</P>
                        1971 Allen Organ TC-3S (#42904) w/sequential capture system.
                        Speakers: x1 Model 100 Gyro, x1 Model 105 & x3 Model 108.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Tracker Touch on Electronic Organ

                          [quote user="nullogik"]


                          As for the Fatar keyboards. I did try an Allen QLF which came with Fatar keyboards andit just felt very synthetic, "plasticky" and cheap to me - totally ruined the instrument IMO.</P>


                          [/quote]</P>
                          <P mce_keep="true"></P>


                          Whatever, but my instrument hasn't been ruined, and they're certainly better than the Rodgers's originals, which are plasticy and have virtually no feel whatsoever :)</P>

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Tracker Touch on Electronic Organ

                            The key action on our Viscount does not resemble any other keyboard I have ever encountered. The manualsare indeed too tightly sprung and they are hingedright behind the back of the keys so there is a pronounced difference in depth of travel from the front to the back of the keys; almost none at the back and deeper than normal at the front edge. I'd swear the keys are shorter than normal as well. The attempt at tracker-touch does not aid articulation because unlike a true mechanical action, the note does not begin immediately beyond the break point but at some unpredictablemoment farther down in the key travel. I tend to compensate by playing with more weight and tension in the hands and arms which induces more muscle and jointfatigue. I am always amazed how much more precise my playing becomes (with less effort!) when I sit down to any number of other organs around town, be they pipe or digital.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Tracker Touch on Electronic Organ



                              I must agree and disagree with some of the comments given on this topic. I have played several mechanical/tracker instruments (Hook &amp; Hastings being the majority--can't remember the others) of 1, 2, and 3 manual construction.</P>


                              Tracker touch (in electronic instruments) usually refers to a method of replicating the mechanical action of a tracker instrument. However, not all mechanical actions are on tracker instruments. A case in point could be a tubular pneumatic instrument such as Estey used in their pipe organs.</P>


                              I have found my playing on tracker instruments to be more accurate, with less accidental keying of other notes. I found I built up finger strength as necessary. I miss that on my Allen. That said, however, I have noticed that by switching back to an Allen after a couple years on a tracker, I've had to pay much more attention to technique.</P>


                              Some purists swear that they can control the manner in which the wind is introduced into the pipes on a tracker instrument. Generally, I'm too busy worrying about the right notes to be concerned with that![;)]</P>


                              Some characteristics of a tracker instrument:</P>
                              <UL>
                              <LI>As stops are added, more weight is necessary to actuate the key. Full organ can be a chore!</LI>
                              <LI>When manuals are coupled, even more weight is added.</LI>
                              <LI>It is, indeed, possible to slowly depress the key and gradually allow wind into the pipes.</LI>
                              <LI>Because of fluctuations in moisture, temperature, and climate in general, the levers between a key and a pipe on a tracker instrument change over time. Where the key actuated the tone one day may change the next.</LI>[/list]


                              All in all, I probably wouldn't go out of my way to get tracker touch on a new electronic instrument, but if it came on the instrument, I wouldn't fight it.</P>


                              We can discuss this topic "'till the cows come home," but there's no substitute for actually finding a tracker instrument and experiencing it for yourself. It is quite a newexperience for an organist--veteran or not!</P>


                              Hope this helps.</P>


                              Michael</P>
                              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

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