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New Member Virtual Organ Interest

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  • New Member Virtual Organ Interest

    I'm sorry for being off-topic, but I'm a newbie at this site, and really just a pianist. However, being a Bach enthusiast particularly, and having reached an age where growing neurons is an important health item, I've formed the wish to develop some organ technique and explore the literature, even beyond JSB. . My question is how to realize this ambition at home. I'm posting here because my quest would seem to intersect with the activities of those of you who are working on virtual organsAre there any small instruments with pedal boards that would have a pleasant baroque-relevant set of sounds, that would serve the purpose. I have enough space for something of the dimensions of a second piano. I actually would prefer to be able to feed the sound into headphones, rather than regaling my entire family with music. Eventually, of course, I'll want to practice and play real organs I might gain admission to at some local church. Where should I begin looking? Is there a more relevant thread or group here at organforum.com? I saw an ad today for a "Classical Baldwin" from 1956, which is in my price range, but quite possibly needs repairs. Any advice will be welcome; many thanks!

  • #2

    Welcome to the Forum! Let me see if I can sum up your interest.

    You are interested in:
    1. Learning Classical music (Bach was mentioned),
    2. Developing organ technique.
    3. A small instrument (preferably small) which can be virtual OR a traditional organ, but with headphone jack.
    Regarding the "Classical Baldwin" from 1956, I would hold out for a newer instrument, which will not need as much attention. Unless I miss my guess, you'd rather be learning to play rather than constantly repairing.

    If you can provide a geographical area where you are located (i.e. Sacramento area OR San Diego area, etc.), that will help us help you locate an organ nearer you that might meet your needs. Also, if you can provide a price range, that will help as well.

    I hope this gets you started, and I look forward to your contributions here on the Forum. Again, welcome!

    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


    • #3
      There may not be a quick and easy way to meet all your requirements, but you will certainly find willing helpers here. Welcome aboard!

      As Michael mentions, some info as to your location and your budget would help folks to help you. Some members regularly comb the online ads and keep informed as to what models and brands are out there on the used market.

      While the VPO path is certainly popular these days, it might require more tinkering and technological futzing than you want. And buying a used organ can be a minefield. But on this forum you can read about the VPO projects of several of us (myself included) and perhaps find some good info. You will also read about the various used organs that members have been able to obtain, sometimes for little or no money, and their experiences getting them repaired.

      The easiest and surest way to get exactly what you need is to buy a new organ, and indeed there are new models available from several makers that are quite compact, have very authentic sounds suited to the playing of Bach (or any other composer), and have headphone capability built right in. If you feel like investing $10K to $15K in one of the "studio" models from Johannus or Viscount you can probably get exactly what you are looking for with minimal fuss. Here's a link to the smallest Johannus model:

      Another good-sounding new organ at low cost is the Viscount Cantorum Duo, which only needs a properly sized "desk" on which to sit and a bench of suitable height. They can sell you a pedal board as well that plugs right in. I think I've seen a "package" deal on this item somewhere that included the basic two-manual organ plus a desk, bench, and pedal board, all priced as one. Maybe around $8,000 or so, as I recall, which is about as low a price as one can imagine for a brand new organ. Here's a link to it:

      Good luck and happy playing!
      *** 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!



      • #4
        Thanks, Michael and John. I'm a fairly accomplished pianist, and can sight-read Bach's piano works decently. What I want to learn is how to add my feet into the mix, while familiarizing myself with classical organ works, principally those of JSB. Michael: you're right that I'm not thrilled with the idea of becoming an organ-repair person!! I have no idea how much repair, refurbishing, etc old organs need, but basically I don't care about the vintage, just about the sound, which I'd like to be appropriate for Bach and his era (18th century, basically). So if only one register worked, but did so with all notes, I'd still be able to accomplish a lot. The "Classical Baldwin" for which I saw an ad today was being played fairly recently, and still makes decent noises, according to the daughter of its (late) original owner. I'm in the San Francisco area, and have a music room with some unused space available. John: those prices you mention are quite a bit out of my range, since my needs are for private technical study only. I was hoping for $500 max (not including the move). N|IN other words a well-used transplant. A brand new item is not destined for my shopping cart, I'm afraid - - I'm actually a (retired) professional classical musician, and thus my discretionary budget is limited. Organforum is a fascinating site, and I'm grateful for your warm welcome! - Jonathan


        • #5
          You are probably in a good area for finding a nice used organ. We see some great bargains advertised in that part of the country now and then.

          Even that old Baldwin might actually serve your modest needs, but of course the older an organ the more likely it is to have problems, and the bulkier and heavier it is likely to be. The old tube-type Baldwins in particular tend to develop certain problems that essentially cannot be fixed, as the last living tech who fully understood these old organs passed away last year, and literally nobody alive now knows how to do what he did to keep them going. Those things were incredibly heavy as well, and their sound was greatly inferior to the Rodgers and Allen organs that were being built in the 60's and 70's and are likely to be just as cheap on the used market.

          You need a vintage organ for not much money, that will still be reliable and not terribly big and heavy, I'd recommend an Allen MOS-1 model of the 100 series. There were thousands of them sold by Allen back in the 70's, and these days they are available for free or very little money. They are surely the most repairable of all organs, since (1) Allen builds organs to last forever, and the old MOS organs are the sturdiest ones they ever made, and (2) parts are readily available should you need them, even on the internet from a myriad of sellers, for not much money. While the old MOS organs don't match the tone quality of today's digitals, the stops actually sound quite authentic and pleasant.

          Old MOS organs don't have headphone jacks, but there have been several recent threads about adding a small $100 mixer to provide headphone output, mixing and panning controls, and digital reverb. I can testify that this sweetens up the sound of an old MOS tremendously, and I had one in my living room just a year ago, which I had connected to such a mixer, and found it quite suitable.
          *** 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!



          • #6
            I can sympathise with your perspective Jonathan. I am a professional classical pianist who wanted an organ at home to practise on, and I had a very limited budget.

            I had actually developed decent foot technique pretty quickly but doing something like reading a hymn (with hands and feet) was mentally painful. I was practising 2-4 hours a day and it took a few months to get over the mental hurdle of using both hands and feet to play notes and be able to easily sight read hymns.

            I was fortunate in that a church down the road from me was coincidentally days away from trashing their 3 manual organ. I sold the speakers that came with it (except for one subwoofer) to pay for a smaller speaker setup. Over time I’ve put money into it, including getting a computer to setup a VPO (when Organteq started beta testing I knew that I’d want to use it once it was developed enough).

            I’ve found a few cheap or free decent organs for friends, including a free digital 2 manual Rodgers of a small size. Recently a friend bought that Viscount Cantorum Duo which Jbird mentioned (it actually cost them around $6000 for everything). Extremely small footprint and sounds great with an external speaker system—personally I think the reverb settings make it sound somewhat unrealistic with direct recordings or through internal speakers.

            So I’d recommend you scan Craigslist or wherever else for organs. 2 or 3 manual with full pedalboard. They come up here and there for cheap or free, but you need to snag it quickly if one comes up. Perhaps even investigate churches who have an organ but seem to be moving to ‘contemporary’ music—they won’t necessarily advertise that they don’t need their organ (where I got mine wasn’t advertising).
            Viscount C400 3-manual
            8 channels + 2 reverb channels (w/ Lexicon MX200)
            Klipsch RSX-3 speakers and Klipsch Ultra 5.1 subwoofers


            • #7
              The American Guild of Organists has a group of instructional videos to help an individual transitioning from piano to organ here.