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Best keyboard for learning classical organ

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  • Best keyboard for learning classical organ

    Hello I’m a classical singer harvesting flutist. I sing a lot Churches and have fallen in love with the organ. A pianist hired to accompany was my gateway drug: I ended up helping him make sense of the organ by trial and error and with a very light bourdon & principle and no pedals, a program of Gregorian chant and classical solos went so much better than I imagined. I have sense been playing the Schoenstein and accompanying myself in the most rudimentary of ways. A dominant and tonic and a bit of melody here and there and vocals.

    well, now I am love. I would like to start working at home on a keyboard to get at least some feeling for the manuals. Obviously not having pedals is an obstacle. But if I stay with it I am thinking of getting a pedal board via a midi and maybe eventually a Viscount classical - Envoy 23-6 or a consol - setup that interfaces with hauptwerk.

    Can anyone recommend a keyboard for beginning to learn the keyboard technique that is as basic as possible so I can develop a bit more and eventually consider a bigger investment. I am welcome my e to use the organ that led to all this but of respect for it I would like to work separately with the keyboard. As a serious harpist and long time classical flautist but a beginning keyboard person…I am desperately seeking advice.

    If the answer is a simple Casio or other basic synthesizer with a split keyboard function — fine. But I am hoping a seasoned and sympathetic organist might offer some insight.

    my goal now is the most proficiency to accompany myself with simple tonics and dominants and a touch of melody which helps enormously a weekly Sunday singer in a Catholic Church without resources for a regular organist (I am thus a capella usually…)

    thank you!!!
    Last edited by myorgan; 01-25-2023, 04:36 AM.

  • #2

    Can you tell us more about what you are interested in? For example, what is your budget? Are you interested in an organ in your home? Are you interested only in classical organ, or do you also want to play hymns or other types of organ music?

    Welcome to the Forum.


    P.S. Is English your first language? If not, some members do speak/write in other languages.
    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
      That's a nice story, welcome to the forum! Michael is right about other languages, for instance I speak Spanish. I agree that knowing things like budget and your other interests would help us give you more useful advice. I think your instincts about how to start are good. A Casio may work, but I would think a dedicated midi controller like an M Audio or Behringer might be a bit cheaper. If you want to use it for something other than just organ practice at home, something like one of the Yamaha Piaggeros might be useful, since they still have midi, but you can play them without a computer.

      Now, none of them really have the same touch as a real organ's manual, but they are a start. You can also get midi pedalboards to learn the pedals. I have a Hammond XPK-200L, but if you're going to spend that much, you might as well get an AGO pedalboard, say from Classical midi works. However, it's a bit more portable than an AGO, and you can learn introductory pedal technique on it.

      If your goal is to be a proper classical organist, and you can afford it, buying a proper organ console is recommended. You don't have to buy a new one, there are used ones available, say by Allen or Rodgers, that you can learn the technique on. They won't necessarily have Midi, but they will help you develop the skills.

      Like you, I started keyboard when I was older, actually suggested by my singing teacher. We went through the royal college program for piano, and that worked really well for me. As an accomplished instrumentalist already, you'll probably progress quickly. Usually it's recommended to get to a grade 6 ish level of piano or equivalent in other methods before starting exclusively organ, but you can practice with the pedals and familiarize yourself with how organs work and the different stops before you get there. Having a teacher helps speed up the process tremendously, and these days there are a lot available via zoom.

      So welcome to the world of organs, I got bitten by the bug much as you were, and now I enjoy it very much! Let us know if you have any questions along the way!

      Current: Allen 225 RTC, W. Bell reed organ, Lowrey TGS, Singer upright grand
      Former: Yamaha E3R


      • #4
        Welcome to the forum!
        I agree with Larason2 - try to get a console/digital organ as soon as you can. It can be a used instrument. The earlier you can start using the pedals together with the manuals, the better.


        • #5
          Dear Larason, Andijah and Michael,

          I am so grateful to you for your posts! Larasan, please allow me to thank you especially for your very helpful advice, empathy, and encouragement. I nearly bought a Piaggerro within minutes of reading your message. I think you have answered my questions and Andijah affirmed your advice. But I thought I would post the questions Michael above here and give myself a week before buying a keyboard.

          Budget & What I seek now and in the Future:

          I am seeking the best keyboard to develop keyboard fluency sufficient to focus on the pipe organ. I understand a percussion instrument (piano) is quite different than pipes (even with the keyboard layout) and I don't wish to develop habits that will need to be unlearned on the organ. So a keyboard as close as possible to the behavior of an organ would be ideal, though I realize that is not possible without an organ console (which I would like to buy eventually once I have invested time enough time on a keyboard). What I seek now is the best of a far from perfect solution and within my budget: a keyboard with Midi that will take an AGO pedalboard and, eventually, a second keyboard. I would like to interface this "console" if it is possible with Hauptwerk. My budget for the keyboard alone: $600. I am willing to pay up to $1500 (in the future) for a pedalboard, though if anyone thinks wiring a pedalboard from an electric organ is feasible, then I would look into that to save money. I have noticed many 25 pedal boards languishing on Ebay. Lastly, I would like to use Hauptwerk unless some here think it is overrated and risky to tie sound entirely to an external device (thinking far, far into the future of an organ console at home i.e. Viscount)

          What do I wish to do?

          I sing solo in a Latin Mass oriented church with a great deal of Gregorian chant. I would like to first, be able to accompany myself with very simple drones, tonics, melodic line and maybe a small bit of counterpoint. But also I would like, eventually, to play classical works to accompany myself (i.e. Mozart's Ave Verum). My dream is to be able to play someday the sublime Ich Ruf Zu Dir [BWV 639] by J.S. Bach as a prelude and other similar works. I am not sure how far I dare to dream...even a small level of compentency would be a blessing. As I said in my first post the process of helping a pianist figure out a pipe organ a day before a major event led me to fall in love with the organ. It emboldened me. Up until this experience the organ had been a mystery. I have since been playing it without pedals with the principle and bourdon on the middle manual register during my (solo) rehearsals and that alone has been an experience of such delight that I have really fallen deeply in love with the organ and wish to develop some competency on it.


          I am starting later, as an adult though I am classical singer and harpist and flautist. Larasan, you have given me much hope here with regard to starting late. I will plan to seek teachers (both keyboard) and organ. I live in San Francisco, California.

          Thank you everyone for your thought and time and care!​


          • #6
            Cassandra, you can save money by using GrandOrgue as your VPO as it is open source and free.


            • #7

              I'm at a loss to recommend anything to you. My first piece of advice would have been to find a good, used organ for around $500 to use for practice, but your apartment size and location are prohibitive. As an alternative, I would recommend purchasing a keyboard to use with organ software as tbeck has already recommended, but a keyboard is touch-sensitive, where an organ keyboard is not. That said, you could always add pedals afterward via MIDI when it comes time to add them.

              In your $1,500 range, a used organ would be a consideration as long as it has MIDI so you can use either Hauptwerk or GrandOrgue with it, as well as organ sound expanders. Your initial price ($600) is just low enough to make it difficult for me to recommend the direction to go.

              My difficulty is in recommending putting pieces together for under $600 to create something that would no longer serve your purposes when your skills get better, vs. purchasing a used organ that would be difficult to move from place-to-place should you need to move.

              Surely in San Francisco you could find an organist who could advise you first-hand regarding your needs and how to fulfill them. On the other hand, here on the Forum you will receive advice from several organists who have done exactly what you are wishing to do. Your obstacles appear to be funds, functionality, furniture space, and future.

              I wish you the best in your venture, and I hope you can piece together what you need. I hate to see a future organist not get what (s)he needs to learn the skill.


              P.S. I asked about the language you speak because some of your sentences don't make sense as written, or in context. Other causes can be that voice recognition on digital devices tend not to get the vocabulary right. We want to help you the best way possible.
              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


              • #8
                Dear Michael,

                Thank you very much. This is very helpful. I own my apartment which I will never sell; it is large enough to accommodate a used organ. If I move, it will be to Europe for part of the year and I would leave my home in tact here. I had originally planned to get a Wurlitzer with 25 pedals but the sale fell through, sadly. That said, I had worried that the electric-home entertainment vintage organs could create problems with parts and maintenance and whether or not 25 pedals would be sufficient. It was extremely inexpensive so I had been ready to try it. If I increased my budget to $3000-$5000, what would you recommend. Having a headset option would be best because my building is an old San Francisco type (all wood) and even my harp resonates through my floor and ceiling.

                I will certainly reach out to a teacher. I worry only about my keyboard skills. Perhaps, a teacher would be open to helping despite my lack of basic keyboard proficiency.

                Thank you so much,


                ps: thank you for your care regarding language! English is my first language but I sometimes write influenced by German sentence construction (so I have been told in my academic work—and this may be related to long periods spent in German & Italian environments in Europe). My first post however was merely maddening auto correct—I had tried to edit it but was unable and so resubmitted corrected but that did not work. I very much appreciate your willingness to support me in another language, if necessary.


                • #9
                  I too started late. After piano lessons as a child, I had other pursuits until taking my first serious paying job as an organist in my late 50s. My playing at the time was amateurish, though I'd played as a volunteer for years and could fake my way through most hymns.

                  So I buckled down, brought a small used Allen organ into the living room, and began to practice with much more discipline. Now, at 71, I've retired from the paying position and am back to being a volunteer at our new church. But it is startling how much my playing has changed in the past decade or so.

                  I'm still not a recital player, nor do I play much beyond the Episcopal hymns and associated service literature but I now feel fully comfortable and competent, and feel in command of the organ most of the time.

                  So press on. I would recommend finding a fairly modern used organ soon. When I was in the used organ selling business, I found very nice organs, typically between 10 and 30 years old, for several serious adult students in the range of $3K to $10K, depending on brand and how new and well-equipped. Allen is a very good brand to consider, as you may surmise by perusing this forum. But I have also sold with pride some Viscount, Johannus, Rodgers, Baldwin, etc.

                  Once you are ready to make that happen, members of the forum will gladly help you evaluate a potential purchase, best we can from afar.

                  Best wishes for an exciting adventure with the organ!
                  *** 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!



                  • #10
                    Hello again, Following the good advice I found here, I bought an Alessio to just do some keyboard work on and waited to invest in a practice organ. I have a chance to get a Hammond 820 165 for free that I am told is in excellent working order. It has an AGO 32 pedal board. Would love anyone's advice here. The current owner is willing to deliver to my home for a small fee so its very inexpensive but once up on the the second floor of my 920 square foot apartment (I live alone and don't have big appliances like a TV or entertainment console). So it will fit but if its a really poor choice it will be difficult to get out again. I simply need an organ to practice on; I have access to a beautiful pipe organ to play where I sing but don't want to impose myself with no preparation upon a beautiful church.

                    JBird thank you for the inspiring words of encouragement too.

                    Gratefully, Cassandra


                    • #11
                      John provided excellent advice on that exact organ in the past too!


                      The TLDR version is that you've found a pretty good organ, provided it's in good working order. Not perfect, but you can do a lot worse.

                      Current: Allen 225 RTC, W. Bell reed organ, Lowrey TGS, Singer upright grand
                      Former: Yamaha E3R