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Lightning Fast Pneumatic-actions


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The best pneumatic action I ever heard was on a Marenghi band-organ (one of the big showman type of organs).

 

From the card-board mechnaism, this action could FLY, with absolutely incredible speed of repetition and lightning response.

 

So why couldn't they do the same with classical organ-actions?

 

I feel sure that this is one of those seemingly "simple questions."

 

B)

 

MM

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The best pneumatic action I ever heard was on a Marenghi band-organ (one of the big showman type of organs).

 

From the card-board mechnaism, this action could FLY, with absolutely incredible speed of repetition and lightning response.

 

So why couldn't they do the same with classical organ-actions?

 

I feel sure that this is one of those seemingly "simple questions."

 

B)

 

MM

 

Never tried a Kerkhoff organ ?

Tell me whenever you go to Brussels.

 

Pierre

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The best pneumatic action I ever heard was on a Marenghi band-organ (one of the big showman type of organs).

From the card-board mechnaism, this action could FLY, with absolutely incredible speed of repetition and lightning response.

So why couldn't they do the same with classical organ-actions?

I feel sure that this is one of those seemingly "simple questions."

MM

In a band-organ: Short distances, high pressures. I guess that does the trick.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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So why couldn't they do the same with classical organ-actions?

I know what you mean (try the Solo and Choir divisions at Bristol Cathedral!). Mind you, my little 3 man 1907 Hill in Gloucester has great repetition and is lightening fast. Its leatherwork was last restored in the mid-50s. I also remember the large 3 man Nicholson now in Portsmouth Cathedral had excellent old Jardine pneumatics when it lived in Holy Trinity, Bolton.

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In a band-organ: Short distances, high pressures. I guess that does the trick.

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

 

=====================

 

 

I'm sure this is the answer, but the trouble is, I have no idea what the pressures were.

 

However, the "keyless" action, (which didn't use a key-frame as such), was a combination of pressure and vacuum pneumatics, and I think this was what I just marvelled at when I heard it. It was actually so fast on repetition, it was probably quicker than any direct electric or EP action I've come across.

 

To hear a Picollo counter-melody running in semi-quavers above a quick march, just defied belief. It would NOT be possible to play anything so fast with the fingers. I know this, because I once tried to replicate a player-roll arrangement on a classical organ, with only modest success. My vain attempt could best described as "a mess of sorts."

 

MM

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=====================

I'm sure this is the answer, but the trouble is, I have no idea what the pressures were.

 

However, the "keyless" action, (which didn't use a key-frame as such), was a combination of pressure and vacuum pneumatics, and I think this was what I just marvelled at when I heard it. It was actually so fast on repetition, it was probably quicker than any direct electric or EP action I've come across.

 

To hear a Picollo counter-melody running in semi-quavers above a quick march, just defied belief. It would NOT be possible to play anything so fast with the fingers. I know this, because I once tried to replicate a player-roll arrangement on a classical organ, with only modest success. My vain attempt could best described as "a mess of sorts."

 

MM

 

I believe a pressure of nine inches is not unusual in fairground organs.

For comparison, the highest pressure in use in some pneumatic church organs is around 4".

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I believe a pressure of nine inches is not unusual in fairground organs.

For comparison, the highest pressure in use in some pneumatic church organs is around 4".

 

......And it was very rare, indeed, to have very much above that 4" in continental

pneumatic actions (no heavy wind available in organs before 1905).

 

Pierre

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The best pneumatic action I ever heard was on a Marenghi band-organ (one of the big showman type of organs).

 

From the card-board mechnaism, this action could FLY, with absolutely incredible speed of repetition and lightning response.

 

So why couldn't they do the same with classical organ-actions?

 

I feel sure that this is one of those seemingly "simple questions."

 

;)

 

MM

 

Hi

 

Probably because of the need for high wind pressures! The best Pneumatic action for speed & reptition that I've played was on a Wurlitzer theatre organ (console not too far away from the chamber) - the action wind came direct from the blower IIRC.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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......And it was very rare, indeed, to have very much above that 4" in continental

pneumatic actions (no heavy wind available in organs before 1905).

 

Pierre

 

=======================

 

I'm sure this is possibly the reason for the difference in action-speed, if 9"wg was not untypical for the later player-organs.

 

The old bioscope fair-organ's close cousin, the "dance hall" organ (Mortier etc) was being built until more or less the outbreak of WW2, and at least one of the companies continued to stagger on until around 1948. The rolls/folding cards are still being made to-day by a few specialists.

 

I love the jazz versions, where a real accordian is moved and squeezed by a crank, and all the keys and buttons move.

 

Also very clever, were the tremulating Flutes (usually Mortier "Jazz Flutes"), where each pipe had its own little pneumatic tremulator mechanism attached to the body. The tremulations were perfectly synchronised for speed.

 

It makes me wonder why we haven't developed the idea of full-size figures conducting from the organ case. They have moving, life-size figures in the organ-case at Gdansk (Oliwa Cathedral: 18th Century builder: Wolf) after all.

 

Better still, "Tiller Girls" who could kick their legs in time to the music, wearing seamed, wartime nylon-stockings.

 

The stricter ecclesiastical version would require a row of Nuns, alongside Cardinals wearing red-hats.

 

Let's bring fun back into organ-music!

 

MM

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Hi

 

Probably because of the need for high wind pressures! The best Pneumatic action for speed & reptition that I've played was on a Wurlitzer theatre organ (console not too far away from the chamber) - the action wind came direct from the blower IIRC.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

 

====================

 

Oh yes! I quite agree Tony, even if it is "just" possible to confuse a Wurlitzer action. The early ones even had pneumatic relays for the electrical key connections, and yet they were still very quick.

 

What I love is that great big "CLUNK" when you press a piston, and all the stop-keys thump down, driven by pneumatic motors.

 

They're very complex things to set up though, and many have now been digitalised and ruined.

 

MM

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====================

 

Oh yes! I quite agree Tony, even if it is "just" possible to confuse a Wurlitzer action. The early ones even had pneumatic relays for the electrical key connections, and yet they were still very quick.

 

What I love is that great big "CLUNK" when you press a piston, and all the stop-keys thump down, driven by pneumatic motors.

 

They're very complex things to set up though, and many have now been digitalised and ruined.

 

MM

 

Hi

 

The organ in question was at Thomas Peacocke School, Rye - and being an early example, it had the pneumatic relays (and pneumatic stop key motoers - but we never got those working whilst I was there because of a major wind leak in the feed to the console. It has now had solid-state action fitted - I've not been back, so I don't know what effect it will have had - but I suspect that it's not an improvement. I see that they've also tinkered with the specification to add MIDI, etc. and lost some of the 2nd touch facilities.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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There are two varieties of pneumatic action - charge and exhaust. Exhaust actions are by nature faster than charge systems, because the air in the collapsing motor is helped in its movement by the 'wind' in the action box. Charge actions have to work against air pressure unaided. When, many years ago, I was a tuner's boy (which has to rate as one of the most boring jobs on earth) in the mid 60's, we came across many actions of both types, and, if all was working well, the exhaust was almost invariably faster (i.e., repeated quicker) than charge actions. The fastest I recall was a rather nice 3m Norman and Beard in St. John's Wimbledon. You had to be careful though, as the slightest touch would sound a note!

 

Regards to all

 

John

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There are two varieties of pneumatic action - charge and exhaust. Exhaust actions are by nature faster than charge systems, because the air in the collapsing motor is helped in its movement by the 'wind' in the action box. Charge actions have to work against air pressure unaided. When, many years ago, I was a tuner's boy (which has to rate as one of the most boring jobs on earth) in the mid 60's, we came across many actions of both types, and, if all was working well, the exhaust was almost invariably faster (i.e., repeated quicker) than charge actions. The fastest I recall was a rather nice 3m Norman and Beard in St. John's Wimbledon. You had to be careful though, as the slightest touch would sound a note!

 

Regards to all

 

John

 

 

========================

 

Well John, this is the point. The "keyless" fair-organ system is a third type, which incorporates vacuum as well. I haven't quite worked out how this was done, but I'm currently looking up the diagrams.

 

However, some of the fairground/dance hall organ makers took ideas from the old "Pianola" type player-pianos; the action of which, I seem to recall, originated in Italy with people like Chiappa.

 

The trouble is, I may be talking out of the back of a small horse, because it is many, many years since I read up about these things, and when the books were still in the libraries......you know....when people read technical things for pleasure.

 

I'll see what I can find, but I can tell you, those guys were incredibly bright engineers, who got those delicate actions to work reliably in all weathers and temperatures.

 

Not bad, for an idea which began with the Jaquard Loom, around 1798, give or take a couple of years. (Patent 1801?)

 

The Rhesus monkey was an earlier invention.

 

MM

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========================

 

The "keyless" fair-organ system is a third type, which incorporates vacuum as well. I haven't quite worked out how this was done, but I'm currently looking up the diagrams.

The vacuum is because the fairground organ uses a perforated roll to sound the notes, and a vacuum is necessary because pressurised air would blow the roll off the reading mechanism. The actual note playing actions were pressure driven as normal. I don't recall ever seeing or reading of a vacuum action in a normal, keyboard played, instrument; it would seem to me to make life unnecessarily complicated when there is pressurised air available. Remember that many pneumatic action church instruments were, in the early days at least, hand blown; it would cause a few technical problems to have the 'blower' rigged to produce both. Unless, of course, anyone knows better? This instrument of ours throws up so many fascinating byways that nothing would surprise me!

 

Regards to all

 

John

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The vacuum is because the fairground organ uses a perforated roll to sound the notes, and a vacuum is necessary because pressurised air would blow the roll off the reading mechanism. The actual note playing actions were pressure driven as normal. I don't recall ever seeing or reading of a vacuum action in a normal, keyboard played, instrument; it would seem to me to make life unnecessarily complicated when there is pressurised air available. Remember that many pneumatic action church instruments were, in the early days at least, hand blown; it would cause a few technical problems to have the 'blower' rigged to produce both. Unless, of course, anyone knows better? This instrument of ours throws up so many fascinating byways that nothing would surprise me!

 

Regards to all

 

John

 

 

======================================

 

 

Just when you think you know........ :blink:

 

The organ of Sydney Town Hall by Thos.Hill (1890) had pneumatic slider-action, and on one side of the pneumatic motor was a charge pressure for "on", and on the other side, a vacuum for "off".

 

The vacuum was also applied to the key-action, which to all intents and purposes, worked exactly the same way as a pressure system, but inversely, so to speak. In addition to this negative-pressure action, there was also a barker-lever pressure action to the Great, to lighten the touch of the mechanically coupled actions as and when they were drawn, and with different pressures being applied, depending on how many manuals were coupled!

 

Now how's that for complicated? :blink:

 

I do in fact wonder, just how much of this technology owes its origins to textile-machinery innovation, because that really was state-of-the-art engineering around the close of the 19th century. (Until you've stared blankly at a sock making machine for three hours, you will never know).

 

What I do know, is that the exhaust (pressure) pneumatic system developed by Norman & Beard, was derived from that used in Italian street pianos

 

If you REALLY want to talk complicated, ask our hosts about the Welte system! (Allow a bit of time though). :)

 

MM

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======================================

Just when you think you know........ :blink:

 

The organ of Sydney Town Hall by Thos.Hill (1890) had pneumatic slider-action, and on one side of the pneumatic motor was a charge pressure for "on", and on the other side, a vacuum for "off".

 

The vacuum was also applied to the key-action, which to all intents and purposes, worked exactly the same way as a pressure system, but inversely, so to speak. In addition to this negative-pressure action, there was also a barker-lever pressure action to the Great, to lighten the touch of the mechanically coupled actions as and when they were drawn, and with different pressures being applied, depending on how many manuals were coupled!

 

Now how's that for complicated? :blink:

 

I do in fact wonder, just how much of this technology owes its origins to textile-machinery innovation, because that really was state-of-the-art engineering around the close of the 19th century. (Until you've stared blankly at a sock making machine for three hours, you will never know).

 

What I do know, is that the exhaust (pressure) pneumatic system developed by Norman & Beard, was derived from that used in Italian street pianos

 

If you REALLY want to talk complicated, ask our hosts about the Welte system! (Allow a bit of time though). :)

 

MM

 

See what I mean? I stand corrected - thanks.

 

John

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[/quote)

 

However, some of the fairground/dance hall organ makers took ideas from the old "Pianola" type player-pianos;

 

MM

 

 

My firend, who has rebuilt player painos of all kinds for the last 40 or so years tells me that the last Duo Art pianolas (with sixteen levels of theme and accompaniment volume) worked on a range of between 8 and 37 inches SUCTION!

 

The action on a well set up instrument would be far faster than any pneumatically operated pipe organ!

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[/quote)

 

However, some of the fairground/dance hall organ makers took ideas from the old "Pianola" type player-pianos;

 

MM

My firend, who has rebuilt player painos of all kinds for the last 40 or so years tells me that the last Duo Art pianolas (with sixteen levels of theme and accompaniment volume) worked on a range of between 8 and 37 inches SUCTION!

 

The action on a well set up instrument would be far faster than any pneumatically operated pipe organ!

 

 

=========================

 

Indeed it would be faster; and I have no doubt that it would be faster than the fastest direct-electric, due to the enormous torque forces, when solenoids have such a large amount of inertia.

 

Considering that for every bit of air-compression, there must be an equal and opposite air-depression, I'm very suprised that this was never exploited more fully in pneumatic-actions. After all, torque and mechanical energy in pneumatics is created by pressure differentials, and using both vacuum and charge simultaneously, would effectively double the available power; give or take a certain amount for air elasticity, inefficiency and leakage.

 

I have often though that modern light-weight, precision engineered components could yield the most amazing response, speed of repetition and long-term reliability.

 

MM

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