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Thread: Using MIDI to play a theater pipe organ

  1. #1
    ppp Pianississmo straubie's Avatar
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    Feb 2017

    Using MIDI to play a theater pipe organ

    I'm on the maintenance team for a small, 100-year-old Wurlitzer theater pipe organ. It was moved from its original theater to the local museum in 1989 and renovated. A number of years ago a player piano mechanism was added to it. The player was modified to add an auto-rewind capability and to generate discrete 12VDC outputs from the middle 61 notes. They are wired into the organ's Solo manual. A paper piano roll can be played by turning on the organ, selecting some Solo stops, and pressing a button. When the music ends, the roll is rewound and the player is ready to go again. The player subtracts nothing from the original instrument, which is fully functional and can be played by an organist.

    Unfortunately, the player mechanism wasn't new when installed and is much older now. It and the home-brew electronics for it are becoming increasingly unreliable.

    We're considering adding a MIDI-based, alternate auto-play capability. We think we need a device that can generate a MIDI data stream that can be converted into 61 discrete outputs that can be merged into the existing player circuitry. It would be sufficient to have this feature always play the same music once at the push of a button, with stops selected by the operator, and then stop. The wiring for all of that already exists in the organ. If it were easy to switch songs from time to time, that would be a bonus. We want any modifications to preserve the organ's original functionality, of course.

    Can anyone give us some advice?


    Bob Straub.

  2. #2
    ppp Pianississmo artkt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2017
    Nenana, Alaska

    Hello Bob,

    Since no one has replied here, I will...

    Artisan Instruments makes a system that will directly replace what you have, or add full midi capabilities to your instrument without modifying your existing console or relay. It will interface to the relay the same way as your roll player.

    BTW, I did the same thing with a piano stack and contact rail myself years ago.

    The Artisan website is

    The product I use is called the Micro MIDI system. I use this system extensively, it is very fast and low cost.

    I am sure Mark Anderson can put together a solution for you that is very economical.


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