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MIDI for a 1920's Carillon

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  • MIDI for a 1920's Carillon

    Has anyone found a MIDI kit for retrofitting a c.1920's Carillon?

    I have 2 such instruments: both have 25-note keyboards (G-G), are self-contained instruments in stand-alone cabinets, and which I want to connect up to an external MIDI-equipped keyboard. Both instruments are currently undergoing total restoration and I want to install the MIDI circuit boards while the Carillons are still in the workshop.

    Being of an all-original (i.e. unmodified) 1920's vintage, the only way this would work would be installing the circuit board on the floor inside of each Carillon and hand-wiring it up to each of the 25 actuators at one end (output). The other end would, of course, be powered by a single MIDI IN connection. (I try to keep the instrument looking as original as possible from the outside whilst subtly modernizing it to meet current requirements ...) There won't be a MIDI THRU or MIDI OUT sockets as these are not needed.

    I looked up a Company called Highly Liquid on the internet, who seems to have something close to what I'm looking for. But they never returned any of my inquiries. (Have they ceased trading?)

    So is there an alternative Company out there who would - and could - provide the solution (and means) for this?

    Thanks if anyone can assist.
    Last edited by Charles Dubois; 01-09-2018, 06:58 AM.

  • #2
    Your description doesn't quite make sense--1920's vintage carillon would have to have real bells and would end up weighing many tons and so not be portable. Reliable electronic amplification is what lead to movies with sound, and that didn't happen until the late 1920's. Schulmerich made a Chime-A-Tron and Maas-Rowe made some carillon-like products using small metal rods which were amplified, but that is much later than the 1920's.

    If it's a real carillon with cast bells, they would have to have electrically operated strikers to operate via MIDI.

    The best option to operate any such system via MIDI would probably be to add relays, one for each note; the relays could be driven by a MIDI decoder. If the striking voltage is low voltage DC, then you might be able to directly switch that voltage with a decoder. Artisan Organs makes MIDI devices, and one of their MIDI output boards could drive relays or a low voltage DC output.

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    • #3
      OK - maybe I should clarify this: The 2 instruments I'm restoring are a Schulmerich and a Deagan; and these have metal rods which are struck by actuators. I'm not sure of their dates of manufacture; but some people have told me they were probably made in the 1920's. And having no prior knowledge, I simply accepted their findings.

      Yes, the Schulmerich is probably a Chime-A-Tron as you said; and the Deagan is most likely their equivalent of the Schulmerich. Whatever the reason, their operation (and appearance) are practically identical. I will try to find Artisan Organs' webpage and take it from there.

      That aside, I first became aware of this [MIDI upgrade] on YouTube by one of Highly Liquid's printed circuits [connected to the actuators' relays] and playing the Chimes; and this had prompted me to look further into retrofitting MIDI to my own Chimes. Also on another YouTube clip, there is someone actually demonstrating how the actuators for each chime bar can be made to operate by touching each of their connections with a low (5V?) voltage. So with that in mind, the idea of MIDI operation became increasingly convincing.

      I'll see what Artisan Organs have to offer in the meantime.

      BTW, you're right in saying that [in the old days], the term "Carillon" would mean a series of bells in a tower. But in today's usage, the same word is used interchangeably with "Chimes". You can find references to this in several books; and two come directly to mind: Singing Bronze: A History of Carillon Music by Luc Rombouts, and England's Child by Jill Johnson to name but two! :-)
      Last edited by Charles Dubois; 01-10-2018, 07:55 AM.

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      • #4
        To bell manufacturers Carillon and Chimes are two very different things, and their exact meanings are different, too, even if the average person hasn't a clue. Cast carillons are still manufactured. Check out: http://www.verdin.com/

        You'll need to know the operating voltage of the solenoids, but Artisan should have a MIDI output board which could drive them if they operate on DC.

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        • #5
          Why not just use a MIDI to parallel output device? You can buy decoder units with voltage outputs and build your own small perf board with 25 reed relays or buy pre-made units with relays already on the board. (MIDI Boutique, Orgautomatech and J-omega come to mind for such devices.) Either way, once you have dry contacts you can wire them in parallel with the keyboard switches and not worry about matching any native voltages in the unit.
          Last edited by AllenAnalog; 01-10-2018, 11:49 AM.
          Larry is my name; Allen is an organ brand. Allen RMWTHEA.3 with RMI Electra-Piano; Allen 423-C+Gyro; Britson Opus OEM38; Saville Series IV Opus 209; Steinway AR Duo-Art, Mills Violano Virtuoso with MIDI; Hammond 9812H with roll player; Gulbransen Rialto; Roland E-200; Mason&Hamlin AR Ampico piano, Allen ADC-5300-D with MIDI.

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          • #6
            Hi toodles.

            Re bell manufacturers, yes, Carillons and Chimes represent two different things, I agree. I won't even attempt to debate that with someone who is more in the know than myself!

            I have already made inquiries with Artisan regarding retrofitting MIDI to the Chimes, and I'm currently awaiting their reply.

            - - - Updated - - -

            Hello AllenAnalog.

            Thanks for your tip! Right now, I'm awaiting a reply from Artisan, who (so I'm suitably advised) already have circuit boards available for this upgrade.

            But I will look up those you've mentioned: MIDI Boutique, Orgautomatech and J-omega to check them out.... :-)

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            • #7
              Hi to anyone out there who's following my progress on the restoration and upgrades to my instruments. Here's an update of what's happening:

              1. The Schulmerich is doing just fine; and I'm waiting for a MIDI kit from Artisan for that. Does anyone out there [in cyberspace] know where I can get a 240V mains transformer to replace the existing 110V one? I have to keep using an external mains step-down transformer which is getting very inconvenient.

              2. The [similar-looking] Deagon, I'm afraid, is another story altogether! That one, like the Schulmerich, is also waiting for an identical MIDI kit as well as a 240V transformer. BUT .... the chime bars don't align with the G-G keyboard! Those chime bars are actually F-F , which means I've "lost" 2 notes from the keyboard.

              Does anyone know where [in Australia] I can get those bars refurbished and retuned/recalibrated to G-G to match the keyboard?

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              • #8
                If your Chime-A-Tron is one of the models with a wooden case, there should be room inside to mount your step-down transformer. If it is the metal-case version, there might not be enough room to do that. In either case, there is the possibility that the primary transformer has 120/240 V windings. You might check.

                The Deagan change from F-F compass to G-G is unlikely since I think that the manufacturers who used the F-F compass did not make any units with a G-G compass. It sounds like you have the wrong keyboard for the Chimes unit. Maas-Rowe also made units with the F-F compass, and it might be easier to find a replacement keyboard.

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                • #9
                  Hi Fortissimo. Thanks very much for your very helpful advice!

                  Yes, the [Schulmerich] Chime-A-Tron has a wooden case and there is space inside! I will check the primary (mains) transformer for a 240VAC winding; and if there is one, it would certainly save me a lot of hassle in trying to find a dedicated PSU!

                  Regarding the Deagan, you could well be right! I bought the instrument in a rather poor condition with the intention of restoring it to its former glory. But it was only at the restorers [when he finally got it working] that he discovered this discrepancy! I was thinking about "retuning" those bars for the G-G keyboard; but on further consideration, I think trying to get hold of an F-F keyboard might be the solution. Would you know of one such keyboard which is available? I could disconnect my G-G keyboard and do a straight one-to-one exchange with someone who has one with an F-F compass; and like a mirror image to my own predicament, wants/needs a G-G unit for his set of chime bars! (Sounds fair to me!).

                  I will take a few images of my [G-G] unit if required. It's in pretty good overall condition and all the keys are working!

                  The chime bars look like a Maas-Rowe product installed in a Deagan instrument (are they similar/identical?); but I think the keyboard was from another manufacturer (and it's not Schulmerich). So if anything, maybe a Maas-Rowe keyboard could work as well if I can't get hold of an original Deagan. But whatever the case, I want to keep the instrument looking as original as possible [from the outside] whilst upgrading it from the inside, such as adding MIDI capability with a discreetly-placed MIDI IN 5-pin DIN socket on the outside.
                  Last edited by Charles Dubois; 01-20-2018, 12:21 AM.

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                  • #10
                    Are you midifying the original keyboard?

                    If not, just buy a 32 note MIDI controller keyboard and dont use the extra keys.
                    My MIDI controlled, module and software driven virtual 'organ' thread is here: http://www.organforum.com/forums/sho...l=1#post427320

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                    • #11
                      Would mounting a rotary "Transpose" switch permanently fixed to -2 solve the problem of F-F bars being played by the G-G keyboard? Yeah, probably not. Sorry for the distraction.

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                      • #12
                        Hi Mombok.

                        Wouldn't be a bad idea; but that would not make the instrument original. :) Besides, the space where the keyboard is situated, is very narrow! This is why the front-to-back measurement of the keys are much shorter than usual whilst being of the "standard" width. I can send you a couple of images [of that keyboard] to prove my point ....

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                        • #13
                          Hi Cinnamon. The trouble with a transposing switch is that as I have perfect pitch, doing that would throw me out completely! So for example, if my eyes sees a note of G played, my ears would expect that pitch of G as well. Hearing another pitch would confuse me, if you see what I mean. Hope this makes sense. :)

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                          • #14
                            Do an ebay search for "chimes keyboard" and you can see some samples of various manufacturer's approach. Also, a google image search should show up some of them, too.

                            I've never seen a real Deagan unit of this sort, nor heard of them--I just suspect they probably made them because their competition did. I have a Schulmerich unit, and seen photos of the Maas-Rowe unit. I believe a few others made this sort of device, too.

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                            • #15
                              Hi Toodles.

                              Yep - I did [a search on eBay] earlier today and found a Schulmerich 25-note G-G keyboard, exactly the same as what I already have on my own ChimeAtron! What I really need now is a 25-note F-F keyboard as the chime bars on the Deagan are F-F! As it stands, the G-G unit I have hooked up to the chime bars means that I've lost 2 notes/semitones up the top end! I'm loathe to alter the tuning of the bars; and have finally decided to leave them be to preserve originality!

                              The Deagan instrument, BTW, is almost identical in appearance to the ChimeAtron except for the [non-Deagan] keyboard which came with it. This incorrect keyboard however resembles the Schulmerich's in many ways; although it isn't! I can send you a couple of images of that keyboard if you want ....

                              If a Deagan [F-F] keyboard is not available anywhere, do you know whether Maas-Rowe has produced one? I would of course want a Deagan unit to keep the instrument as original as possible; but failing that, I suppose I will have to [reluctantly] make do with the Maas-Rowe; but that would mean that the [Deagan] instrument would not be all-original as I had intended.

                              Where do you suggest I could begin my search? Could you push me in the right direction? As mentioned earlier on in this thread, ideally I would do a straight swap for a F-F keyboard in exchange for my G-G keyboard. (I've already tested the G-G keyboard and it all works just fine!)

                              Thanks in anticipation ....

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