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Classical Organ Music on Home Organ

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  • Classical Organ Music on Home Organ

    In the 80s I never got to the point in my home organ classes to play classical organ music. Were there arrangements of Bach's et al music readily available? I imagine it must have been heavily adapted to be playable on 44 keys manuals and standard 13 notes bass pedals.

    If all you had was a typical home organ and music for full-fledged manuals and pedal board, how would you go about playing/arranging it?

    Where would you sacrifice originality over playability? Pedal/bass notes seem the necessary sacrifice if outside the range. How would you compensate? Play every note within range, no pedals at all unless they could be emulated on the manual, etc.?

    Thanks for your insights.




  • #2
    A good question? thats why your better off with a 61 note organ rather than the 44 note versions as organs are so cheap now

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    • #3
      But back in the day many organs were sold just sporting 44 notes per manual.

      And 61 notes still won't remedy the spinet pedal limitations.

      I was signed up for classes back then and given a brand new Yamaha FE organ with the parents being hopeful I was going to play „real“ organ music one fine day. Again, I never made it that far on the Yamaha, but I can imagine people also bought home organs to learn classical literature.

      So, my interest is in understanding how popular classical organ music was arranged for 44 notes plus 13 notes bass pedal.


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      • #4
        I find guitar zither arrangements work very well on spinet organs. Accordion arrangements probably work even better.


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        • #5
          There were some books published back in the 50s and 60s era...they were called "Everybody's Favorite" books. I had a couple of advanced piano players who bought spinet version organs, that I coached along for their "free 12 lessons" they got with a new organ purchase. Not any "barn burners" in those collected arrangements, but
          some nice, romantic pieces, along with a few "Sinfonias" and Sonatas by Bach.

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          • #6
            Hi all,

            There is an out-of-print book in the Hal Leonard Organ Adventure Series entitled 50 Famous Classical Themes. It is arranged by Bill Irwin for home organ and copyrighted in 1980. All of the arrangements were written for organs with 44-note manuals and a 13-note pedal board. It has some simplified Bach organ pieces. Many are simplified transcriptions of piano or orchestral works. For example, it has a couple of themes from The Nutcracker and a transcription of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But it also has simplified versions of Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in Dm" and "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." Here is a link to new (US$19.95) and used copies on Amazon.

            I hope this helps.

            Allen
            Currently own: Roland Atelier AT-90, Yamaha 115D, Roland DP-90SE, Yamaha PSR-S910

            YouTube Channel

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            • #7
              Kenneth Baker's "50 Favourite Classics Everyone Loves to Hear" were two books in a series of 15 books from 'our Ken'. Yes, they were simplified. Yes, they were truncated. But they did work and they did sound as good as most home players wanted them to be. As orchestral home organs became the norm, you could play some very reasonable orchestral versions of the pieces.

              Allen's already given you the details on Bill Irwin's book. There are some other 'classic' books for home organ around, many of them pretty dire, with terribly over simplified versions.

              However, for classical organ music, if you're going to do it properly you'll need 2x61 and at least 25 pedals, and 32 for the more advanced pieces (unless you do what many of us do and re-arrange the pedal part to fit on 25 notes). If you want to re-arrange the pieces for 2x44 plus 13 pedals, then you have some work to do - and you'll need some very good musical skills to do so!

              And, as we're in the Home Organs section rather than the Classical Organ section, there's nothing to stop you from taking that piece of Bach, or whatever, and playing it as written, but using orchestral sounds. Hector Olivera did a great version of Bach's 'Fugue alla Gigue' (spell that how you wish) on Atelier, doing just that.
              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 - www.andrew-gilbert.com

              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

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              • #8
                andyg In regard to Hector Olivera, I'm thinking of a comment made by my first organ teacher. She said in selecting an organ always depend on your playing not the sales people. A good professional can make anything sound good. And I sure think Hector can make anything sound well by his pure skill.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by andyg View Post
                  ...there's nothing to stop you from taking that piece of Bach, or whatever, and playing it as written, but using orchestral sounds. Hector Olivera did a great version of Bach's 'Fugue alla Gigue' (spell that how you wish) on Atelier, doing just that.
                  Brilliantly played but I've heard more convincing orchestral sounds.
                  Previous: Elka Crescendo 303, Technics G7, Yamaha EL-90
                  Current: Yamaha AR-100

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Lousy audio quality on the video - it was just posted as an example of what you could do! Why not try one live and then see what you think!
                    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 - www.andrew-gilbert.com

                    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

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by andyg View Post
                      ...it was just posted as an example of what you could do!
                      Oh yes! Talk about feelings of inadequacy 😒 But it does sound to me as if it was played on an organ.
                      Why not try one live and then see what you think!
                      Yes, I probably should.
                      Previous: Elka Crescendo 303, Technics G7, Yamaha EL-90
                      Current: Yamaha AR-100

                      Comment


                      • andyg
                        andyg commented
                        Editing a comment
                        I think we all have that feeling when listening to Hector. I remember one evening 'after hours' when he was playing to us, his friends and colleagues, purely for the joy of it. He played the Widor Toccata and when he'd finished, one wag at the back of the room said "OK clever clogs, now play it in G!" Hector smiled, turned around and duly obliged! I think most of us were threatening to 'just give up' after that!

                    • #12
                      Hello!
                      What do you think of the Roland AT-900 as a home organ to also play some easier classical organ. To me the organ sound seems to be very good for the little of them I heard on Youtube for a home organ. But how about the missing lowest octave on upper keyboard?
                      I have some easier organ music but haven't bothered on a spinet. The only piece I have that I noticed was beyond the 25 pedals was the organ transcription of Bach Air were you need the D but that would in the category very difficult for me. However if playing as suggested in the music sheets there are quite some pieces that should be using the missing keys.
                      I noticed that used AT-900 now perhaps can be found in a stretchad budget range. A new Böhm for sure not. So the option for a console would be to try finding something older and much cheaper. I otherwise see other consoles, as Hammond XH-200, show up sometimes.
                      Any thoughts on the 56 keys upper would be appreciated.

                      Comment


                      • andyg
                        andyg commented
                        Editing a comment
                        The missing lower octave can be awkward for some classical repertoire but, given that you can shift octaves up or down, and place any voice on either manual, there are ways around it. The missing top 7 pedals can't be replicated, though.

                        And the AT900 makes some very good classical sounds, the Platinum version even more so.

                    • #13
                      Thanks for all the responses.

                      AndyG‘s comment about easy enough renderings that the home organ crowd was going to be happy with made me wonder if home organ, by design, was meant to be „easy“. I always thought of it as it's own art form. But definitely, „missing“ keys can't be compensated for unless played in a different octave or with different footages.

                      I had a look at the Toccata in D minor. I would play the solo pedal part on the manual. Not sure how to proceed when it gets busy on manuals and pedals.

                      Why did they ever come up with a limit of one octave on pedals? Space? Price? Both?

                      Comment


                      • andyg
                        andyg commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Home organ was always promoted as being 'easy to learn'. And that's way back before the days of things like automatic accompaniment and one finger chords. Perhaps they should have been a little more honest and said that it was 'easy to start to learn'. Like all instruments, it can be as easy or as difficult as you like.

                        As such, it is, as you say, an art form in its own right. And when you start moving into the realms of the orchestral home organ, it takes another step.

                        It's usually said that the pedal compass on a spinet was determined by Hammond when they produced the first spinet model M in 1948. 1) Space - the new instrument needed to be smaller. So he looked at what people were actually using at home, chopped off an octave and a half from the bottom of the upper manual, the top and bottom extremes of the lower manual, and half the pedals. 2) Price. To save money, he decided that you only needed one of each note on the pedals, so 12 was sufficient. Most other makers went for 13 almost immediately and Hammond followed suit, but not until the M100 in the early 1960s! It wasn't long before we saw 18 and 20 note spinet pedals, or even 25 on some Thomas organs. 18 and 20 became the 'norm' for spinets in the 80s and 90s.

                        But I was once shown some images of older reed organs with spinet style pedals! Should have saved them....

                    • #14
                      I have seen a YouTube video where the organist is playing a Yamaha Electone, and is switching registrations rapidly, to change the footage on the pedal sounds for each note as appropriate, and thereby get the required range of pedal notes.

                      In terms of traditional repertoire - don't forget that many Church organs were originally built with a wide range of pedal options, including some having none. Some used short pedals not dissimilar to 'modern' spinet organs. Consequently much music can be directly played within the limitations of a spinet. But equally I recall being told that classical organists prepared their repertoire for concerts based upon the organ they were going to play, with some pieces being unsuitable on certain organs due to the range of stops, the sound of the pipes, and so on.

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                      • #15
                        I too have played two-octave bass with my single-octave Lowrey spinet by rapidly switching the 8'/16' toggle. Hardly good for classical music but it works.

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