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  • Which Keyboard?

    Last edited by Admin; 11-03-2018, 07:51 AM. Reason: Fixed title

  • #2
    I haven't had to order new keyboards for any project or for a customer, as we have a fairly ready supply of excellent older electronic organ consoles here in the US, which can be bought for next to nothing and gutted for conversion to MIDI. However, I do know people who have used brand new keyboards, and one popular source here is the Canadian company Classic MIDI Works.

    They seem to cost anywhere from around 600 dollars (Canadian) per manual up to well over 2000 per manual, depending on whether or not there is a wooden core, whether or not pistons are included on the rail, and so on. I can't see any mention of who builds these for CMW though. I've known of people building rather high-end VPO sets with these keyboards, so I assume they are of very high quality. I don't know the exchange rate, but I'd guess that a Canadian dollar might be about 75 or 80 pence nowadays.

    Note that these units are fully MIDI-equipped and do not require further equipment or encoders. They have USB jacks and can be daisy chained as well, so you can stack as many as you like and take the output directly to your computer. So perhaps the price isn't as high as it looks at first.

    Maybe someone who is really into the VPO world will chime in with more info than I can offer. Just thought I'd get the ball rolling for you. Good luck!

    The Hereford Willis is one that I'd love to hear. I have been to the UK several times, but my travels have not taken me to Hereford yet.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Actually, today the Canadian dollar can be purchased for just 59 pence! That makes these 2000 dollar keyboards cost you just about 1200 pounds. Of course there's shipping cost to add to that.
    John
    ----------
    Church: Allen MDS-45 with Allen MIDI-DIVISION-II expander
    Home: Allen Renaissance R-230 with expanded four-channel audio and MIDI-DIVISION-II
    Shop: Bunch of organs in varying conditions, some good, some not...
    Half of an incredible two-man organ service team -- servicing all the major digitals in Arkansas churches
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

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    • #3
      So, if I was (and I am) building a VPO to replicate a classic English instrument I would (but didn't) get on the RA Colby website and look for a nice 4 manual console to gut and furnish with the VPO hardware and software. A piecemeal assembly of disparate pedalboard/keyboard/keydesk etc will look awful. Since this beast will likely repose in your living room I should think the aesthetics matter. I bought a 3M Eminent from a church. It was playing when I bought it and I hoped that it could be a nice practice instrument as is. It didn't play as well as I had hoped and in trying to make it better I killed it. So I am reluctantly converting it to VPO so my wife will stop reminding me of all the money already invested in obtaining it (not all that much) transporting it (quite a bit) and moving it into a 2nd floor apartment (quite a bit). The keyboards of the Eminent console are not the nicest in feel. The matrix in which they are encoded is non-standard. I have been advised by the maker of my MIDI encoder to bypass the native matrix and wire each key to the encoder. Times 3 manuals ... urgh. I am VERY tempted to use M-Audio 61 note Keystation MIDI controllers. These keyboards have a semi-weighted action that is veloxity sensitive and they retail for less than $200USD new. They need to be removed from their cases and the keys modified but they would connect to the encoder via MIDI or perhaps right into the PC via USB which is their OEM termination. FWIW.

      Edit: just went on the Colby site to get a link and don't see any used consoles for sale. That is a major loss. They used to have many. Still there are classifieds and such and either a digital or pipe console can be gutted for use as a VPO.
      http://www.organworks.co.uk/m-audio.html

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      • #4
        I see almost nothing but Fatar keyboards in my service work. Almost every part in them is plastic or rubber except for the springs. Pivots for the keys are plastic-on-plastic and will eventually wear. The contacts use bubble switches, which occasionally need cleaning or replacement. Models intended for classical organs include a second rubber strip with collapsing domes that impart a slight tracker touch; the domes sometimes develop splits that make a prominent and annoying pop when the key is released. The contact and tracker touch strips are available, but changing them is not for the faint-hearted.

        A Fatar keyboard in new or excellent used condition has a nice action and will please almost anyone. However, when played frequently and vigorously they typically will not show the longevity of traditional designs based on metal beds and guide pins, wood keysticks, and felt bushings.

        Fatar keyboards have allowed large builders to save several hundred to several thousand dollars per unit, a significant improvement to the bottom line that lets them sell real classical organs at better prices than the military-grade instruments of yore. But someone building his own organ as a once-in-a-lifetime investment would be better off spending the money for a traditional keyboards that will last for decades rather than years.

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        • #5
          Organ keyboards of high quality are available from Organ Supply Industries, Klann Organ, August Laukhuff (in Germany), P&S Organ Supply (in UK), and Peterson Electro-Musical Products. Except for the Peterson, they are all wooden core keyboards. Peterson uses a metal keyboard, with plastic key tops but are weighted to feel like wooden core keys. Arndt Organ may also sell keyboards.

          Organ Supply Industries is notorious for only selling to organ builders or repair shops--Klann, Peterson, and Arndt are more friendly to the do-it-yourself crowd.

          Note that all of these provide a relatively expensive keyboard.

          Used Allen and Rodgers keyboards are sometimes available. Daffer has a 3-manual Laukhuff set, used, for $700. See: https://www.dafferorgans.com/product...gers-encoders/

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          • #6

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            • #7
              I glad you found something that will work for you. The Laukhuff keyboards are quite nice.

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              • #8
                The keyboards sold by Classic MIDI Works are made by Fatar. The ones from Peterson these days are also Fatar. Arndt used to sell Fatar, but no longer stocks them.
                Congratulations on your purchase...those should be nice keyboards.
                Another source for anyone looking is Schwindler. Although the name sounds German, it is another Italian company. He builds custom wood keys that look and play beautifully. They look as good as any I've seen anywhere, and cost only a little more than the wood Fatars. Also, there are several magnets in each note that can be adjusted to change the feel.
                Bryan
                =================
                Magnus Europa, 4 manuals, 112 stops - church sanctuary
                Hauptwerk 3 manual, converted from Rodgers 330 - home
                Rodgers Allegiant 677- church chapel

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                • #9
                  Arndt used to sell LoDuca keyboards, and Peterson's used the LoDuca keyboard structure with different keytops. The current Peterson website shows their Master Touch II keyboards which looks like they have Fatar keyboards. Perhaps LoDuca no longer manufactures keyboards?

                  LoDuca keyboards are metal with plastic keytops. They are well designed and well constructed. Rodgers used them for a long time, though some of their earlier metal/plastic keyboards were Pratt Read.

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                  • #10
                    So the keyboards have been purchased, and I now have six manuals being shipped to my house in Florida. Seeing as the project is being built in London, I am going to have to ship them to the UK, but as long as they are well packed, it shouldn't be an issue. The pedalboard turned up yesterday along with a huge bench which I didn't know was included. If anyone needs a bench, then please feel free to contact me. Free to whoever wants it. So the next issue will be the pedalboard. I plan to mostly replace the case parts with new American maple wood, the pedals look as if they are either oak or possibly ramin, and at the moment I plan to keep them as they are, unless the colors don't blend. The unit isn't MIDI converted, so I have been looking at various options. Based on what I have found, the most suitable system I have seen is from MIDI Boutiques, who sell a Hall effect kit for the purpose of doing just that. The model number is MPC32MQH, does anyone have any experience or opinion on this kit? It's reasonably priced, and comes pretty much ready to be installed. I thought I would finish the pedalboard and new bench completely, before moving on the the console, partly as I don't have all the components yet, and I want to make sure the "standard" sizes are adhered to. Once the console frame is cut and welded, it's a lot more difficult to modify than doing it right the first time.

                    Further to the above, I have been looking on the Laukhuff website and they do a complete MIDI system called Espressivo. This looks to be a very high quality product that is completely adjustable and includes velocity sensitivity. In my nativity, I have never played a pipe organ with such a function, so not really seeing the benefit here. I'm sure one of you knows much more about the subject than I do, please enlighten!! So, it seems to me, that seeing as the keyboards are made by Laukhuff, and they have a system to suit which is also adaptable to any pedalboard, perhaps this is a better way to go. Does anyone have any experience with Espressivo? would be very interested to learn as much as I can about it, it may make life a lot easier in the end.
                    Last edited by Mickypee; 11-03-2018, 12:28 AM.

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                    • #11
                      I have had a reply back from Laukhuff regarding the Espressivo system, including the installation manual. I must say that it is very impressive, and covers every aspect of a VPO/MIDI setup. It's not the cheapest, that's for sure, but when you look at the quality of the components, and how it's designed, you begin to understand why it costs more. The pedalboard design is quite unique, and compatible for virtually any make or type of pedalboard. It is certainly worth looking at it on their website. I wanted to download the manual and put it up here, but the file size is a little larger than is allowed, which is a shame.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Mickypee View Post
                        Further to the above, I have been looking on the Laukhuff website and they do a complete MIDI system called Espressivo. This looks to be a very high quality product that is completely adjustable and includes velocity sensitivity. In my nativity, I have never played a pipe organ with such a function, so not really seeing the benefit here. I'm sure one of you knows much more about the subject than I do, please enlighten!! So, it seems to me, that seeing as the keyboards are made by Laukhuff, and they have a system to suit which is also adaptable to any pedalboard, perhaps this is a better way to go. Does anyone have any experience with Espressivo? would be very interested to learn as much as I can about it, it may make life a lot easier in the end.
                        Velocity sensitivity only becomes of benefit when the MIDI encoder and the VPO software can use the extra information in non pipe organ specific ways. For example: the commercial digital instrument that I play has MIDI access to hundreds of non-classical sounds and percussions (including piano) that are velocity sensitive. If the organ's keyboards did not have the capability these sounds could not be used realistically even though the native instrument sounds could care less. As another example: in my own VPO project I would like to create a kind of ersatz 'second touch' like is used in Theater Organs. True second touch keyboards are MUCH harder to find and are MUCH more expensive than velocity sensitive keyboards which are ubiquitous and available at all price points. Instead of a second set of contacts triggering the coupler to the alternate voice, it would be a threshold velocity level above which the alternate voice is triggered. But, TL;DR velocity sensitivity is not at all necessary for a straight classical VPO, but these days it might be harder to find keyboards that do not have it than to find those that do.

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                        • #13
                          So far I have the manuals, pistons, pedalboard and today some of the metal arrived. I think I will do a build thread, showing the machining of all the framework and the different aspects of the woodwork. The pedalboard is to be rebuilt using American Maple which will match the rest of the instrument. The frame is 304 stainless and will be polished before welding, so it leaves only the visible welds to be addressed. I will start machining the parts tomorrow, beginning with the seat assembly.

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