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Real Pipe Organ versus Digital Samples (Reverb and Key Delay)

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  • Real Pipe Organ versus Digital Samples (Reverb and Key Delay)

    So after having my first real pipe organ lesson, and my first 1 hour
    practice session with a real instrument, my impressions are thus:

    Although the instrument I played is an excellent one, there was very
    little reverb in the congregation hall that it is located in. This was a shocking
    revelation, because I can slap any of 6 different types of digital reverb on the
    pipe organ samples on my Nord, and the "Hall 2" selection sounds very good
    to my ears. So it was an unfortunate let-down, to play the real thing, but not
    have that gorgeous, long reverb tail, that you hear on the E. Power Biggs
    records! So what we hear on the Biggs records, are not just the historic
    instruments, but also the huge stone cathedrals that they are housed in, and
    the wonderful reverb spaces that they create.

    Additionally, there is a noticeable time delay between when a key in
    pressed, and when the sound emanates from the pipes. I'm sure that's
    something organists get used to, but you don't have that in a digitally
    sampled keyboard, unless you can add it in on purpose.


  • #2
    Well, the fact that each pipe organ and each church is unique is actually part of the fun of being an organist. B-)

    One shouldn't start playing with a fixed idea how it might sound, but play and discover.

    I once sang in a modern church with no audible reverb at all and it was really hard to make the music sound good (didn't play the organ there, so don't know how this sounds) and sometimes you are in churches with so many seconds of reverb that you have to re-think your approach to a piece completely.

    Regarding the delay of sound when the key is pressed down, again, each organ is unique in this respect. Some older organs with pneumatic action seem to take ages and it feels like playing on a cushion, and others are quite fast. One gets used to this!

    Last December, we had a concert in a large church (almost a small cathedral) and we did Mendelssohn's op. 97 "There will a star from Jacob come forth" with choir and organ. I played the organ, and the choir stood at the altar while I sat on the gallery at the other end of the church. The conductor gave me the tempo and from that moment on I had the task to keep this tempo and neither look in the mirror to see him conduct the choir nor listen to the choir but concentrate on my playing. It worked because the conductor and I have been working together quite often and we can trust each other 100%, but it was very hard.

    So, please don't be disappointed by reverb, delay or any other unknown issues, but be curious and have fun. :-)

    Comment


    • #3
      Modern houses of worship are often designed to be acoustically dead and unfriendly to organs. My teacher of 50 years ago urged me to practice without reverb on electronic instruments so as not to use it as crutch.

      Despite the authenticity in the sound of electronic reverb, playing in a large naturally reverberant space is not the same and often more challenging.
      -Admin

      Allen 965
      Zuma Group Midi Keyboard Encoder
      Zuma Group DM Midi Stop Controller
      Hauptwerk 4.2

      Comment


      • #4
        Note, too, that the delay in a pipe organ may not be as much from the action as from the organist's distance from the pipes.

        Comment


        • #5
          I've never noticed any key delay effect, but then again, all the pipe organs I have played, the pipes were within 10 feet of the console, and the base of the pipes not much higher up either.

          The reverb though, had a recent experience when I was able to practice at my Mom's church, a classic gothic cathedral style with an Austin pipe organ, both of which are on a loft in the back. I was the only one there, so far as I know, and the acoustics were really live. While the organ sounded amazing with all principals and mixture running, I had to put longer than normal pauses between phrases in order to let the reverb decay, or the sound just got all 'tangled up'. Likewise, playing anything fast required closing some stops in order to have it sound good. Great experience though.
          Hammond RT-3, Boston studio upright piano, Fender Rhodes Mark I 73 stage piano.

          Comment


          • #6
            Just some observations...

            Marie-Claire Alain, a marvelous organist from a marvelously musical family, speaks about "being a musician, even on practice organs" and she notes acoustics (reverb) can hid failures in the playing: https://youtu.be/Wpq1vvYjBVM?list=PL...srIa4yR0&t=245

            As Andijah notes, churches and performance spaces vary greatly and one of the constant musical challenges is to always produce the most musical performance one can where and whenever performing. My own experience as both a wind musician, singer, and organist confirms that.

            While good or great recordings are always nice, the 2020 AGO virtual conference PipeTalk presenter Robert Knupp noted in his talk about Leipzig that a myth of his was blown away: all German churches have great acoustics. The whole talk is only about 14 minutes and is worth it: https://youtu.be/f1zMq_POlGA This is only to help think about the many real and different performance locations rather than focusing on only the optimal ones heard in recordings.

            I'll add that an "elderly" Moeller organ I played a few decades ago had two "delays": 1) the console was about 50 feet from the pipes, and 2) the electro-pneumatic action had between a 1/12 and 1/10 second delay. Although it was in the best sounding performance space for the organs in the music department, in my first year or two playing organ I avoided it. Later, with more stable skills I was able to play but as Adijah noted one just focuses on the playing and DOES NOT listen to the sound as the performance will fall apart almost instantly.

            Again, just some observations...cheers!

            Comment


            • #7
              At one time I was checking out some Rodgers instruments (back in the analog days), and found I could hear my imprecision in playing, in part because of the nice keyboards they used which gave good tactile feedback and the clarity of the sound being produced--it instantly made my playing better, as I could hear what I was doing.

              Comment


              • #8
                I'm not sure if it came from training or experience, but I never practice with Reverb. It is often used to cover mistakes, but in a dry acoustical environment, one's shortcomings in technique are laid bare. I've found it is much easier to leave larger breaks in a "live" environment than to improve technique in a "dry" acoustical environment.

                Michael

                P.S. With the music I play, it is often covered by the orchestra as well, so nuance gets lost.
                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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                • #9
                  Different technique is needed when playing in a dry room versus a more lively acoustical environment. In dry settings, you may want to tie inner notes in repeated chords, staccato should be less detached. Your ears will guide you.

                  A friend of mine once asked me to critique a piece he was playing. The last chord had a short note value. I suggested that he hold the note a bit longer, because in the dry room, it sounded to abrupt.

                  Robert Owen used to use an interesting technique at Christ Church, Bronxville, NY. The church is stone with slate floors, so it is a "friendly" acoustic. However, he would often hold the last pedal note a bit longer on a big piece to suggest the effect of low frequencies in a bigger space that take longer to fade away. It was very subtle, so most people did not realize that he did this.

                  Paul, I suggest that you spend some time using drier accoustical settings occasionally on your Nord. The goal should be to adjust your technique to the environment you are playing in. Then, when you have to play in a dry room, you will already have the technique down.
                  Bill

                  My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

                  Comment


                  • Admin
                    Admin commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Holding the last pedal note a bit longer at the end of a piece is something I recall Virgil Fox often doing

                  • myorgan
                    myorgan commented
                    Editing a comment
                    In our concert band, the low brass and bass clarinet do the same thing for the conductor.

                    Michael

                • #10
                  Thanks everyone, for the thoughtful input.

                  I would say these pipes were roughly 20-30 feet away from the
                  manuals, and raised about 6-8 feet or so.

                  I understand how reverb can hide your mistakes, just like the sustain
                  pedal can on a piano performance. And yes, piano teachers often advise
                  that you play without using the sustain pedal, to force more discipline
                  into your technique. Nevertheless, I feel for myself that good reverb
                  can inspire a great performance, which a dry signal cannot do. Although
                  I must admit, that as a recording engineer, I was sometimes told that I made
                  my mixes too "wet"! To which I say: Ask Vangelis about Reverb! :-)

                  "....one just focuses on the playing and DOES NOT listen to the sound as the
                  performance will fall apart almost instantly." So how do you ignore the
                  sound of the performance while playing? Sounds difficult. I assume you
                  mean to just use muscle memory, when playing a piece. Surely organ latency
                  can be a problem, just like latency in a digital audio workstation.

                  Comment


                  • myorgan
                    myorgan commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Other than Vangelis or, perhaps, Enya, can you think of any other artist who used loads of Reverb to sustain a career?;-)

                    Michael

                • #11
                  I'm really with you, Paul. I agree that an organ-friendly room can be a powerful source of inspiration for good playing. And an organ with so much delay (whether due to the console being far from the pipes, or to a poorly-designed action that doesn't respond quickly) that it forces you to not even listen to what you're playing -- well I'd just hate to have to play something like that on a regular basis. In fact I wouldn't play such an organ more than once!

                  Obviously, there is little or nothing that any one of us can do to change up an organ that's already installed, or to alter the reverberation of a building that's already built. But I have been on a crusade for 40 years, talking to anyone who would listen, urging churches not to built acoustical tombs in which music cannot be properly performed and enjoyed. I did successfully "force" my former church to build a music-friendly new sanctuary 20 years ago, but that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity -- the church had outgrown the old worship space and the pastor respected my opinion so much he made me chairman of the construction committee to oversee the planning and execution of the new sanctuary. I made musical sound the #1 priority in every aspect of the design.

                  But I still see appalling examples of churches going up in which NOBODY will ever sing with a joyfully blended voice because the room is designed to smother everything except the band on the "stage." So disgusting.

                  Likewise, if any of us is ever lucky enough to get to work with a church in the purchase of a new organ, whether pipe or digital, let us DETERMINE not to let them install something that will be a disappointment and a burden to whoever has to play it! There is absolutely NO EXCUSE for an organ company, pipe or digital, to put in an organ where the organist must put in ear plugs and never even hear what he's playing because the sound is so far behind the keys! This simply must not be done under any circumstances!

                  Even a modern digital can get installed so that there is far too much delay -- somebody who neither knows nor cares about playing the organ draws the plan and puts the console in such an inappropriate spot it might as well be down the street in the church annex. This must not happen! Not ever! Speak up and don't let architects or "sound system experts" tell you where the organ console goes. It goes where the organist can hear the organ!
                  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

                  Comment


                  • myorgan
                    myorgan commented
                    Editing a comment
                    John,

                    I once played a Baldwin in a Cincinnati cathedral where the speakers were at the opposite end of the church. You can imagine the result-about 1 second delay!

                    Michael

                  • jbird604
                    jbird604 commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I can imagine! That is exactly what Allen Organ called "the worst possible situation" in the installation guide. We were advised to NEVER do such a thing and to refuse to sell an organ to a church that wanted a setup like that! Baldwin was obviously shameless.

                  • daryljeffreyl
                    daryljeffreyl commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I am the Church Organist at Saint Gabriel Parish. There are two churches (building locations or campuses-Dundee (Saint Irene Church), and Ida (Saint Joseph Church), located in the State of Michigan.

                    Saint Joseph Church has a pipe organ. There is no delay, I can hear, when I play the organ.. The pipe organ also sounds very good. I believe the building acoustics are better than the acoustics at Saint Irene Church. The organ sounds particularly good after it has been serviced, It is, however, voiced a little loud-sound wise-volume level. The sound does not sound dry either.

                    Saint Irene Church has Ensoniq keyboards and modules set up in an organ figuration with two power amplified speakers (Digital sampled pipe organ sounds and other digital sampled sounds). The acoustics of this church, in my opinion, are not as good. The pipe organ sounds better, in my opinion. These Ensoniq keyboards and modules have reverb.

                    At home, I also have Ensoniq keyboards set up in an organ figuration, and a Baldwin 210D organ with a three channel Leslie speaker. The Baldwin organ has a delayed action, sound wise, I believed, to simulate
                    a pipe organ.This delayed action make the organ harder to play-take more effort to play.
                    Last edited by daryljeffreyl; 10-03-2020, 08:18 PM.

                • #12
                  Originally posted by Paul789 View Post
                  Thanks everyone, for the thoughtful input.

                  "....one just focuses on the playing and DOES NOT listen to the sound as the
                  performance will fall apart almost instantly." So how do you ignore the
                  sound of the performance while playing? Sounds difficult. I assume you
                  mean to just use muscle memory, when playing a piece. Surely organ latency
                  can be a problem, just like latency in a digital audio workstation.
                  When one has unhelpful acoustics/sound going on, it isn't muscle memory so much as counting and playing that makes the difference. When a piece is known well enough, counting to play should be enough.

                  Actually, silent practice at or away from the instrument is one of the many ways to "practice". For example, in the recent PBS "Pipe Dreams" documentary there's footage of Yuan Shen silently practicing her piece from the score while she's in the green room before a performance (sorry that the video is membership/password protected): https://www.pbs.org/independentlens/films/pipe-dreams/ Another example of practicing without producing sound is seen in the following linked video by Ulrike Theresia Wegele showing her "pedalklaviatur": https://youtu.be/aBz9FuWMjjU

                  An anecdote: As a cruise ship musician, a small wind band would often play before and just after the ship set sail. More than once the band was playing and the final ship horn blast would "bury" the sound of the ensemble but we just kept counting and playing: once the ship horn stopped we were right in time because of the counting--not the most complicated music, but the counting and playing is what made it work.

                  One more anecdote: A decade or so before my cruise ship days, I played in a marching band that was the musical "entertainment" at the opening of a new "international" airport (not a big one, just one getting international flights). Because we were playing on the runway-side of the airport (not on a runway, thankfully) there were one or two times a jet landed while the band played. The drowned-out wind players were thankful the percussion section's sound could be heard over the almost-far-enough-away jet. We could count even if we didn't hear what we played;)

                  May you never be in circumstances where the organ you're playing is sonically overwhelmed by a ship horn, jet engine, or even louder sound.

                  Comment


                  • #13
                    My experiences have conditioned me to dislike artificial reverb because it's just that - artificial. Give me reality.

                    I know there are those who love the sound, especially on their home organs. That's fine.

                    One big issue for me is churches that use maximum reverb on the organ, but unfortunately, they can't put reverb on the congregation. To my ear, that makes the organ sound even more artificial. It is too bad that some church acoustics are so dry, but even then, an appropriate stop list, and proper registration and articulation can help overcome the acoustic.

                    Eg. I find that mixtures suffer the most in a dry room (or is it my ears that suffer the most because of the mixtures? :-)) whereas lower pitches and warmer tones aren't as bad. As it is, every organist should have a menu of articulations under the fingers, anything from overlegato to various degrees of detachment, to manage most, if not all, acoustics. (Maybe not the really bad ones.)

                    Comment


                    • #14
                      Originally posted by regeron View Post
                      One big issue for me is churches that use maximum reverb on the organ, but unfortunately, they can't put reverb on the congregation. To my ear, that makes the organ sound even more artificial. It is too bad that some church acoustics are so dry, but even then, an appropriate stop list, and proper registration and articulation can help overcome the acoustic
                      I agree. It's not uncommon to learn of Hauptwerk installations going in to churches using large organ, long reverb time, sample sets. There's no way an English Cathedral set, or organ of similar size and space, is going to be an appropriate match for environment typical of medium or small churches or for congregational accompaniment regardless of size..

                      Pipe organs have traditionally been designed, specified, and built for the acoustic space in which they were housed. Electronic instruments changed that, but initially, the reverb was added to the dry signal so that a proper balance could be obtained. Virtual organs, sampled wet, turn that upside down.

                      That said, even in a bone dry environment, an appropriate amount of reverb can liven up the sound without sounding out of place.

                      I don't think there's any artificial reverb added to this clip, but it illustrates the point that swimmingly large amounts of reverb are unnecessary for good organ sound and performance.
                      https://organforum.com/forums/forum/...301#post742301


                      -Admin

                      Allen 965
                      Zuma Group Midi Keyboard Encoder
                      Zuma Group DM Midi Stop Controller
                      Hauptwerk 4.2

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