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  • Best and worst keyboards

    This is a little bit of a follow up to the "favorite stop controls", which seemed pretty well received...

    what are the best and worst keyboards/pedalboards you have played?


    For me, the best would probably be the Allen 123-C in my house. The Allen keyboards are still buttery smooth, and while it has taken me awhile to get accustomed to them, after about 6 months I quite like them as they are just so smooth. I also like the light touch...I know some do not care for the light touch on some Allen keyboards, I prefer a lighter action. Any Allen pedalboard would make #1 in that department too.

    The worst keyboard (and pedalboard for that matter) would be on a Baldwin D912 that is about 2 hours from me. The "tracker touch" keyboards flex while you are playing them, and require so much force to press the keys it is ridiculous. The pedalboard is a piece of garbage as well (the pedals are very narrow, feels like a bunch of toothpicks when you are trying to play it). The only thing I like about that organ is the sound. A very close second for the pedalboard would be the pedalboard on Casavant opus 1588 (this organ: https://pipeorgandatabase.org/organ/5394). The reason I don't like it is because when a natural is fully depressed, it sits almost perfectly level with the recessed part of the sharps/flats. This makes it extremely easy to catch a sharp or flat.


    I will add one more: I think the strangest keyboard I have ever played is on a little Casavant that is currently being moved to the church I attend. As the organist at the church, I had a hand in selecting this organ, and I got a chance to play it. The keyboards are... bizarre. It is the original console from 1958, and the keyboards have some very early, primitive form of what feels like tracker touch. However, the key travel from neutral to fully depressed is maybe half of the travel of the Allen keyboards on my 123-C. It is interesting to play.

  • #2
    Best: Old Casavants with Ivory naturals and Ebony sharps; smooth pedals, too
    Worst: Hammonds

    Comment


    • #3
      I think Hammonds would probably be tied with #1 for the worst...

      Comment


      • #4
        I have limited experience, but I will add my thoughts. My first organ console was my digital piano, which had Midi out. It is fully weighted, which was nice, but I found the touch a bit too heavy for organ. I graduated from that to the plastic keyboards with springs at the end from my Yamaha Electone E3R. They were very light, which was nice for fast passages and trills, but it was a bit too easy to activate them accidentally, and I prefer a deeper point of contact. My current Allen keyboards have wooden cores, and I think the touch is just right, the weight, as is the point of activation. I've played on modern Roland/Rodgers organs with what I assume are the fatar keyboards, and while the feel is nice, I wouldn't want to have to deal with replacing the capacitive bubbles in 10 years. Rodgers manuals from the analog era are very nice, but I find the keyboards they used in the early-mid 90's too springy, and the touch too light and stiff on onset. The Nord C2D has good key feel, but the keys feel a bit hollow, and the travel a bit fast for my tastes. The modern Hammond keyboards are very very light, which would be good for glissando, but not much else. They have practically no touch resistance, and even less than the Yamaha E3R, so the slightest touch will activate them. They don't wiggle a left and right as much as the Yamaha did though.

        All that being said, however, I think the best keyboard is the one you already have, or can afford! I found that over time I have adjusted to almost any kind of touch, and often you don't have a choice of what instrument you will have to play on! So it's a good idea I think to be familiar with and know how to adjust to almost any kind of keying weight and depth. Also, the Yamaha helped me be much more precise with my playing.

        In my organ daydreaming, I have thought that the best keyboards would be fully wooden core with lead weights and wood or bone key tops. However I have never played on these, and unless I can make them myself, I'm unlikely ever to!

        Current: Allen 225 RTC, W. Bell reed organ, Lowrey TGS, Singer upright grand
        Former: Yamaha E3R
        https://www.exercisesincatholicmythology.com

        Comment


        • jbird604
          jbird604 commented
          Editing a comment
          I think you're very right about "the one you already have or can afford." Most of us adapt to whatever we play regularly, and come to enjoy and appreciate the distinctive feel and features.

        • Larrytow
          Larrytow commented
          Editing a comment
          I'm pretty sure the older Yamaha E-3R would have had their Touch Vibrato system on the upper keyboard. To make that work, the keys need to be able to move side to side some. So that is designed in as a Feature; it's not a defect. It's a pretty neat and well designed system too.

      • #5
        Great discussion! Over the past 50+ years of playing, I've seen a lot of keyboards/pedal boards, though I wasn't always as discerning as I should have been. And until I became somewhat more proficient and began to understand what makes for a helpful touch or feel, I didn't necessarily know how to tell a good keyboard from a bad one.

        In general, most of today's typical organ keyboards -- the Fatar units found in the majority of organs of every brand -- are perfectly tolerable yet unremarkable. At least as long as they are relatively new and not worn or damaged, they have a smooth and consistent feel, totally even from key to key, neither too stiff nor too soft. Those that have the nicer key surfaces with a sort of "ivory feel" are actually a treat to play. With the optional "tracker feel" they are rather snappy.

        But going beyond that decent typical keyboard, there are and have been a lot of strikingly different keyboards used in organs. I'll say a word or two about some that have made an impression on me, either good or bad or indifferent.

        Early on I learned to dislike the feel of Baldwin analogs from the late 60's/early 70's. This was the day when Baldwin organs had those "elastomer" gradual contact key switches, and the whole sensation of playing it was just mushy. Nobody these days would seriously consider using keys like that for a VPO, for example. These might well be the worst keyboards I ever played, though of course they "worked" for those particular organs and many folks weren't aware of anything wrong with them.

        Ironically, some of the BEST keyboards I have ever played were also on Baldwins -- Loduca keyboards that Baldwin used on their Silent Touch organs in the 80's and also used for the superb D400 series of digital organs they built in the USA before throwing in the towel and importing Italian organs to slap their nameplate on. Even before I made the decision almost a year ago to use a pair of those keyboards for my VPO project I had always enjoyed playing Baldwins of that era. So VASTLY different from the sloppy/flimsy Baldwin keyboards on their earlier models.

        As to the very best, Allen's genuine made-in-house wooden keystick keyboards are in many ways my favorites. Incredibly adjustable -- they can be easily leveled, adjusted for tension, adjusted for "make" point of the switch, adjusted for proper spacing and tilt just like piano keys, and key dip changed if necessary. And infinitely repairable, each stick can be replaced, the felt bushings can be renewed, plastic covers can be replaced. So there's really nothing else like them in the digital organ field. Silky smooth yet firm feel, but no "tracker touch" or other gimmickry added. Their drawback is that they CAN be regulated so extensively, and sometimes they NEED some regulation. (As opposed to those typical Fatar keyboards, which cannot be regulated, but don't feel like they need any regulation anyway.)

        Another interesting and excellent keyboard: While servicing a large Johannus custom organ, I noticed the key action was amazing. Opening it up, I found that the keys were unlike anything else I'd ever seen. Instead of springs, there was some sort of magnetic attraction/repulsion thing going on that gave the keys the smoothest feel I've ever experienced. The magnets were arranged to provide some sort of top-resistant touch, but far more sophisticated than the plastic domes used to provide "tracker touch" in ordinary Fatar keys. I suppose these were some kind of expensive European keys, and I've not seen them in any other organ since.

        Pedalboards -- I have "almost" never played an Allen pedal board that wasn't awesome. "Almost" because once or twice I've run across one that strangely had a gooey foam for upstop/downstop instead of the heavy and dense genuine pipe organ pedal felt that Allen has, I think, used from the very start up to the present time. The pedalboard unit is made entirely of solid wood, no metal struts or other parts underneath to cut your fingers when you try to lift up the pedals. Easily adjustable for tension, they always have just the right travel, just the right firmness. I've only seen a half dozen in all these years that had been affected by dampness or water and become warped or otherwise out of whack. This is the way pedal boards SHOULD be made by everybody.

        Rodgers pedal boards are just one notch lower, and that is simply because they have used that foam rubber for upstop/downstop bumpers since adopting that stuff in place of real felt some decades ago. I don't know exactly when the change was made, as I've seen old Rodgers organs from the 60's with real felt in the pedals that was still firm and intact, but almost any Rodgers from the 80's, 90's, or later will have the foam in there, and it nearly always gets soft, gets gooey, thins out, comes loose, or otherwise makes trouble. We routinely remove that stuff and replace it with real felt, and then a Rodgers pedal board is just as good as an Allen. (In just the past few years, Rodgers changed to an entirely different pedal board, and the current models are probably totally unlike the ones used in the 80's and 90's and up through Masterpiece/Allegiant. So I can't speak as to their reliability or sturdiness.)
        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


        • Larrytow
          Larrytow commented
          Editing a comment
          A "thunking" Allen pedalboard is Very Rare ! I've only ever seen / played one that thunks or rattles, and that is on an organ that had been played quite a bit every day in a church school since the early 70s, were the students also practiced daily on it. It was used for church services as well on the weekends. I own that organ now, but have not got around to repairing the pedalboard as of yet. But, like John, I'm certain that it can be made good as new.

          My opinion of the quality of those Allen pedalboards is so high, that a year or so ago I retrofitted one on a 100 year old Wangerin that needed an AGO spec board. When I sold that job, I told the church that I would only get them an Allen board for it, as I think they are the best in the biz. I played it this morning, and still love it !

        • you795a
          you795a commented
          Editing a comment
          Larrytow, You mention that your pedals rattle. It could be that you have the "2piece" maples, it is an oak pedal stick with a maple crown. It could be that the crown is loose on the oak stick or the oak stick is loose where it is attached to the pedal spring on the underside of the back of the pedalboard.

        • Larrytow
          Larrytow commented
          Editing a comment
          you795a, That will be something to look at for sure. It has been here since late winter of last year ( or the year before ? ! ), and I have not even started looking at what works right and what needs fixing. It came from a church that was getting a brand new pipe organ, and so I just unhooked it so they could install the new console in the same location, and hauled it home. It's probably a 1972 or so 601D. I'm likely not going to be moving it from storage to my shop till sometime this summer - lots of other projects going on.

      • #6
        I concur that Allen makes probably the best pedalboard in the electronic organ industry.

        As for manual keyboards:

        A. Laukhuff makes lovely wooden core keyboards, and offers various coverings.
        Herburger Brooks used to make nice keyboards--Rodgers used to use them--until they went out of business.
        For metal & plastic keys, I always like the LoDuca Brothers keyboards used by several manufacturers: Baldwin, as JBird mentioned, Rodgers, Gulbransen (I believe), and Rodgers.

        I suspect that the OSI keboards are very nice, but I have no experience with them; Petersen used LoDuca Brothers keyboards with some special modifications (including additional weight in the front of the keys) for a more traditional pipe organ feel--I've not played those, but suspect they are very good, too.

        Comment


        • #7
          I believe that a perfectly regulated Casavant ivory manual is perfection, with its top resistant spring action providing just enough resistance to make for clean playing without any sponginess whatsoever. The pedals when regulated are outstanding as well. For tracker organs, Rieger is simply the best consistently. Bad-technique players, like myself, need keyboards that minimize 'accidentally bumped notes.'
          I hate to say this, but the keyboards on this huge Custom ADC 9000 are a disappointment. Far from being the worst keyboards, for sure, but I cannot believe that this 1986 $200,000 instrument--I found the sales receipt inside--was not fitted with keyboards worthy of the otherwise glorious console that even has divisional cancels as a luxury touch. I haven't looked, really, but they feel like hollow plastic....not as nice as the Rodgers it replaced for sure.
          I chose my Ensoniq VFX synth 30 years ago specifically because the keyboard outclassed all others, with a long-hinged top-heavy touch as well....still my favorite controller for that reason. Sort of like a Hammond on steroids.
          Last edited by otispit; 01-04-2021, 01:15 AM.

          Comment


          • #8
            Originally posted by otispit View Post
            I believe that a perfectly regulated Casavant ivory manual is perfection, with its top resistant spring action providing just enough resistance to make for clean playing without any sponginess whatsoever. The pedals when regulated are outstanding as well. For tracker organs, Rieger is simply the best consistently. Bad-technique players, like myself, need keyboards that minimize 'accidentally bumped notes.'
            I hate to say this, but the keyboards on this huge Custom ADC 9000 are a disappointment. Far from being the worst keyboards, for sure, but I cannot believe that this 1986 $200,000 instrument--I found the sales receipt inside--was not fitted with keyboards worthy of the otherwise glorious console that even has divisional cancels as a luxury touch. I haven't looked, really, but they feel like hollow plastic....not as nice as the Rodgers it replaced for sure.
            I chose my Ensoniq VFX synth 30 years ago specifically because the keyboard outclassed all others, with a long-hinged top-heavy touch as well....still my favorite controller for that reason. Sort of like a Hammond on steroids.
            I think that is one of my very few complaints with Allen keyboards... the hollow plastic tops/fronts just feel, well... hollow. The 683-D I picked up recently is a very early model and has the sold plastic tops/fronts, and while it does feel a bit more solid the my 123-C with the hollow fronts, the felt needs to be replaced (even the lanolin trick didn't totally fix it...), so it feels terrible. The feel is very inconsistent from key to key. I have not had time (and don't know if I will) to totally disassemble both manuals and fix them.

            The Casavant keyboards I mentioned in my first post feel wonderful to play, they just take some getting used to. They are very sensitive to 'accidentally bumped notes' so you can really hear if your playing is good or not...

            Comment


            • #9
              Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
              ... Pedalboards -- I have "almost" never played an Allen pedal board that wasn't awesome. "Almost" because once or twice I've run across one that strangely had a gooey foam for upstop/downstop instead of the heavy and dense genuine pipe organ pedal felt that Allen has, I think, used from the very start up to the present time. The pedalboard unit is made entirely of solid wood, no metal struts or other parts underneath to cut your fingers when you try to lift up the pedals. Easily adjustable for tension, they always have just the right travel, just the right firmness. I've only seen a half dozen in all these years that had been affected by dampness or water and become warped or otherwise out of whack. This is the way pedal boards SHOULD be made by everybody.
              how do you adjust and Allen pedalboard for tension? the E in the middle of my pedalboard at home has a significantly lighter touch then any of the other pedals. It does not bother me when playing, but it drives me crazy when just screwing around with it.
              Last edited by AMDguy; 01-04-2021, 05:35 PM.

              Comment


              • SchnarrHorn
                SchnarrHorn commented
                Editing a comment
                Unscrew the top board at the rear of the pedalboard (i.e. the side opposite the little magnet thingys). It exposes the leaf springs and there's a screw for each that can be tightened or loosened. Easy peasy.

                George

              • Admin
                Admin commented
                Editing a comment
                Please avoid quoting long posts in their entirety. It's unnecessary and makes it inconvenient for those on mobile devices. More on how to use quotes can be found in the FAQ: https://organforum.com/forums/forum/...tes#post648888

                Also, some users have been under the mistaken impression that you need use the Quote button in order to reply to a post. This is not so. Simply type your response in the editor and Save

              • AMDguy
                AMDguy commented
                Editing a comment
                sorry! all fixed :)

                and thanks SchnarrHorn, got it even with the others...

            • #10
              Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
              Early on I learned to dislike the feel of Baldwin analogs from the late 60's/early 70's. This was the day when Baldwin organs had those "elastomer" gradual contact key switches, and the whole sensation of playing it was just mushy. Nobody these days would seriously consider using keys like that for a VPO, for example. These might well be the worst keyboards I ever played, though of course they "worked" for those particular organs and many folks weren't aware of anything wrong with them.
              I'll definitely second that. The first church I played at had a Baldwin organ from the late 1950's. The spongy keys were pretty bad. The organ was not up against a wall and had the back exposed which was covered with a speaker cloth type material (not a wood back). When it was on, one could see the rows of glowing tubes. Keeping in mind the era it was made and the associated technology, it didn't sound half bad.

              George
              My instrument: Allen MDS-65 with a New Century Zimbelstern
              Former instruments (RIP): Allen ADC 420; Conn Minuet 542

              Comment


              • #11
                The Möller Artiste pedalboard for the II/9 in my former church was absolutely delightful ... my other favorite pedalboards were on Reuter pipe organs.

                The AOB at my present church is pretty good and it does use IR technology instead of physical key contacts. Some keys are starting to clack as are some pedals ... time for a fix on those.

                Comment


                • #12
                  The Moller organ at my church has a terrible pedalboard. It technically is perfectly normal (according to a professional organist) but every few weeks I have to adjust the weight because they either become super tight (so I have to kick the pedals, literally) or so loose that they spring up immediately after any contact. The keys on the keyboards are very nice except that they are all weighted differently (Great, Swell, Choir). I don't know if that's a normal organ thing, but I don't like it.

                  Now, the best pedalboard I've ever played was at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, SC where my brother is the organist/music director. It is a flat pedalboard from an 1800's French organ and I'd never played a non-AGO pedalboard, but I loved it. Not sure why but I think I'd take it over AGO with some extra practice. The keys from the manuals on that organ are very interesting. You have to slam your fingers on them because of the mechanical action. They make so much noise that if you're using some light-medium registration, you hear more of the mechanical action than the notes being played!

                  I agree about Allen pedalboards being the best commonly available to us American organists, but I cannot stand the keys from 70's/80's organs. They just.. ugh, it's hard to explain. It almost as if I may get a different feel from each key and a different point vertically of the key (if that makes any sense at all). I do like German-style keys (the ones that are usually black and white not white and black). I don't know if there's a specific term for them, but all the German-style organs I've plated (only 3) have had them and they're very distinctive (to me at least).

                  "I play the notes as they are written (well, I try), but it is God who makes the music." - Johann Sebastian Bach
                  Organs I Play:
                  - Home: VPO Compiled from Allen 2110 parts
                  - Church: M.P. Moller 1951 (Relocated 2015) 3 manual, 56 stop, 38 ranks (Opus 8152)

                  Comment


                  • #13
                    Originally posted by Philip Powell View Post

                    I agree about Allen pedalboards being the best commonly available to us American organists, but I cannot stand the keys from 70's/80's organs. They just.. ugh, it's hard to explain. It almost as if I may get a different feel from each key and a different point vertically of the key (if that makes any sense at all). I do like German-style keys (the ones that are usually black and white not white and black). I don't know if there's a specific term for them, but all the German-style organs I've plated (only 3) have had them and they're very distinctive (to me at least).
                    I'm not sure why you would have problems with that generation of Allen keyboards, unless you are talking about one of the bottom of the line models perhaps. The keys on most Allens from that era are the nice, built by Allen, wooden keyboards, and I find them very comfortable to play.

                    In my view, the stark Black naturals with White sharps are butt a#* Ugly ! I'm familiar with an Allen 1203 that has that setup, and I think it is jarring to look at / play. At the time the organ was ordered new, the organist there insisted that he "Absolutely Had To Have" them. It seems to me that for that extra cost option you please the organist, and then you land up with a console that looks kinda silly. That is not to say that I think all reverse colored keyboards are not cool - far from it. The ones I really think are nice looking are the ones made with two shades of wood. Like rosewood naturals with maple sharps, for one instance.

                    Attached photo is not "that" organist. Not me either.

                    You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 1 photos.
                    Regards, Larry

                    At Home : Yamaha Electones : EX-42 ( X 3 !!! ), E-5AR, FX-1 ( X 2 !! ), US-1, EL-25 ( Chopped ). Allen 601D, ADC 6000D. Lowrey CH32-1. At Churches I play for : Allen Q325 ( with Vista ), Allen L123 ( with Navigator ). Rodgers 755. 1919 Wangerin 2/7 pipe organ.

                    Comment


                    • SchnarrHorn
                      SchnarrHorn commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Well, as the saying goes, a place for everything and everything in its place, eh? Reverse color keyboards on a stop tab organ - hmmmm.

                      George

                    • Philip Powell
                      Philip Powell commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Larry,

                      Well on that console, of course, they look terrible! I was thinking of a German-style console with that almost yellow wood and the cool combination action things above the stops.

                  • #14
                    Originally posted by Larrytow View Post

                    In my view, the stark Black naturals with White sharps are butt a#* Ugly ! I'm familiar with an Allen 1203 that has that setup, and I think it is jarring to look at / play. At the time the organ was ordered new, the organist there insisted that he "Absolutely Had To Have" them. It seems to me that for that extra cost option you please the organist, and then you land up with a console that looks kinda silly. That is not to say that I think all reverse colored keyboards are not cool - far from it. The ones I really think are nice looking are the ones made with two shades of wood. Like rosewood naturals with maple sharps, for one instance.

                    Attached photo is not "that" organist. Not me either.
                    Here are few organs from Fraser Gartshore's videos that display my idea of nice inverted key colors.
                    Click image for larger version

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                    "I play the notes as they are written (well, I try), but it is God who makes the music." - Johann Sebastian Bach
                    Organs I Play:
                    - Home: VPO Compiled from Allen 2110 parts
                    - Church: M.P. Moller 1951 (Relocated 2015) 3 manual, 56 stop, 38 ranks (Opus 8152)

                    Comment


                    • #15
                      Hello everyone,
                      New member here from The Netherlands (living in the USA). As a Dutchie I've got a bias for the heavier wooden keyboards; Like Toodles I'm a big fan of Laukhuff material, especially the long keys. Besides Laukhuff (expensive!) I really like the Kimber Allen (long keys) too!
                      As far as the pedals go; I grew up with the ones from Johannus; not the best nor the worst.

                      Other than that I'm a really (REALLY) big Hinsz organ fan (search youtube for Hinsz Harlingen/Bolsward/Kampen!); which means mechanical tracture, straight pedalboard (can't get used to AGO yet, but concave works pretty well too).

                      Comment

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