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octave_dolce

Electronic Practice Organ

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I mean no discourtesy, but one thread discussing digital electronics among so many pertaining to the pipe organ (and many other things!) will surely not bring the mighty Mander empire crashing down will it?

Probably not - and particularly not Hauptwerk, since it is very much a system developed by computer buffs for computer buffs and will remain so until such time as someone starts marketing complete plug-and-play organs - which, AFAIK, no one is yet doing (though I did hear that a certain well-known console manufacturer is interested). It is, though, a subject that crops up fairly regularly, isn't it? Personally it doesn't worry me and it's not for me to play the net nanny, but I do recall a warning from Mr Mander that the topic is not appropriate for this forum.

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I suppose the cooling fan could sound a bit like a blower. Even more realistic!

Urgh! No! The fans on my computer drive me up the wall if I'm practising the piano. And they're not quite a rumble a fraction above bottom G either!

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Sorry, but I don't agree.

 

Such electronic organs are, by their very nature, imitations of pipe organs. I find it quite frustrating on such instruments to find lots of MIDI switches, pistons and the like being installed in place of other more traditional registrational aids. On an electronic Nave Organ in a certain Cathedral I played on for a Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago, I found that - where a Swell to Great thumb piston would normally be expected - there was some sort of MIDI piston instead, and the Swell to Great piston had been placed in a rather unrealistic position towards the treble end of the Great manual. I wonder what use these MIDI devices are in the actual playing of the instrument. And why, too, include such devices as "Harp" and "Chimes" in an electronic which tries to imitate a pipe instrument?

 

I'm not a stick-in-the-mud (I hope! :rolleyes: ) but I wonder why it is generally quite easy to spot an electronic imitation of a pipe organ from its console even before "switching on the wind"....

You've missed my point.

 

The point of a Hauptwerk is that it does not imitate one particular pipe organ - it can imitate whatever organ you decide to upload.

 

That means it can imitate a Skinner or Willis with masses of pistons and swell pedals, or it can imitate a Spanish Baroque organ, with divided stops over a single manual, no swell box, no pedals and certainly no pistons.

 

This means that a console for Hauptwerk needs to be as flexible as possible to make up for these wildly different styles of organ.

 

Having conventional drawstops or stop tabs introduces constraints on the number, layout and labelling of the stops. Touch screens don't have these constraints and can offer an idea of what the "real" console is like with stop layout, and graphics of the real console. For example, look here at the Waltershausen console on HauptwerK:

 

http://www.organartmedia.com/Waltershausen-VCons.html

 

The Sauer organ graphics give an idication of the rollschweller with a typical dial and the combination system:

 

http://www.organartmedia.com/Sauer-VCons.html

 

So touchscreens have definite advantages over stop tabs.

 

Of course, it isn't perfect and doesn't replace the experience of playing the real thing. Console dimensions, key dimensions and touch can't readily be altered for different organs - and there's masses of differences between a midi keyboard and the keyboard of a Spanish Baroque organ. So that's why I say the console needs to be made as flexible as possible and not needlessly limiting by introducing unecessary constraints.

 

As Hauptwerk is bleeding edge technology which is an entirely modern, contemporary product of the age we live in, why should we constrain ourselves to using conventional drawstops when it works best with touchscreens, etc? And I can't understand why someone would want to dress up a contraption like a Hauptwerk console with woodwork. Something like this is probably near ideal (although I'm trying to work out why a console table that looks like little more than a slightly glorified desk should cost anywhere near £1825 - it all looks horrifically expensive)

http://www.midi-organs.eu/html/hauptwerk_consoles.html

 

I agree with you that I find it very annoying for conventional electronic simulation organs to have lots of midi switches peppered around the console and unconventionally laid-out playing aids, which seems to be all your point above is about. I wonder how often MIDI ever get used on these organ consoles?

 

I'm currently piano-sitting a Yamaha C5 or C7 which has a midi-out but it's so unobtrusive you would barely know it's there - certainly no annoying buttons all over the place! In fact there are no switches - just a little lever under the keyboard to stop the hammers hitting the strings - Yamaha have quite rightly recognised that anyone using midi with this piano would have a PC or laptop next to it to control the midi player and the midi box is underneath the piano. Why can't electronic simulation organ builders do the same sort of thing? And let's be honest - who's ever going to use it and need masses of control of midi on a pipe organ simulation? Cameron Carpenter maybe?

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I have an Allen, so am biased towards them, but I think it depends on how much you are going to spend. If we are talking sub £10,000 then I would look at Allen Protege series - don't go for the Chapel series as they use inferior keyboards etc. Otherwise Viscount offer very good value for money. Also beware because the cheapest models of both use non standard size pedalboards etc.

 

I also have an Allen which I'm very pleased with. I have the cheapest "Chapel Series" one and, if I were replacing it would go for the next model up since mine hasn't got a standard pedalboard - it's fine for me but I wouldn't teach on it, for example. (Not that I would teach here as opposed to a pipe organ unless there was a problem.)

 

I don't see what the problem with the keyboards is - seems fine to me. It's got a "Fatar" keyboard, which I think other organ companies use.

 

If you get an Allen, make sure you can adjust the volume if you think you need to. Mine has no volume control (being designed exclusively for a church, presumably). I can adjust it with a computer, and, in any case I use it with a hi-fi (via the headphone socket, which is an optional extra).

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As Hauptwerk is bleeding edge technology which is an entirely modern, contemporary product of the age we live in, why should we constrain ourselves to using conventional drawstops when it works best with touchscreens, etc?

Whilst I agree with you in principle, is the size and layout of these displays ever comparable to the pipe organ experience? By this I mean, are the stop knobs ever displayed at sufficient size and with sufficient spacing to allow the swift registration changes one can manage on a pipe organ console? Having googled touch screeens in the past and having seen a number of the HW screen displays I am left wondering whether the console management experience on HW is up to the mark. I admit I have no real evidence, but, being the cynical bod I am, I get the impression that the hype about HW is inflated to at least some extent by organists who are not at all concerned with professional standards of performance and who are perfectly happy to stop in mid stream to handle any necessary stop changes. I am of course well aware of the difference between, say, a Silbermann stop jamb and a Skinner. Obviously it's on organs like the latter where stop management becomes an issue.

 

The display on the first console picture above is a case in point. The stops look very closely spaced to me - quite apart from being placed far too high.

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Well, of course they're not going to be the same as the real thing. It's not just a question of size, spacing - there's location and the actual movements as well: Waltershausen should really have touchscreens arranged above the music desk... And my experience of touch screens is that they can take some pressing (and not pulling) sometimes for things to work - not idea for organ "performance" either.

 

But I suppose one can "make do" for practice and note-bashing purposes and getting an idea what these different schools of organ sound like. Of course, for performance, one will have to practice on the performance instrument. I've practiced hitting the screws on the key slips to practice hitting buttons on my piston-less practice organ for playing organs where I will use pistons. So any organ that isn't an exact copy of the performance organ is bound to be a bit of a compromise.

 

I think it's interesting to note that the sub organists of the 2 Cathedrals closest to me are busy with Hauptwerk installations in their own homes. If they're not interested in professional standards of performance, then I'm not sure who is... But I'm sure they find them fine for note-bashing at home and having the opportunity to experiement!

 

And how quickly can one change stops at the real Waltershausen? Would you ever really want to on that organ?

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If I can reply briefly to somne of the points made above:

(1) The touch-screens I have will only operate one stop at a time. You have to touch each one separately; two or more together will only operate one. That is a disadvantage.

(2) Whilst I can't speak for others, I do most of my practicing with just a clear 8' and 4' stop on each department (including the pedals) and I practice slowly. I don't spend hours on end sitting at home making loud noises.

(3) My Haupwerk system is in the same small room as my ordinary computer. The heat generated by three screens and two computers in that room means you don't need too much heat from the radiator!

(4) For anyone linked to my Facebook pages there is a photo of my console on there. Ideally I would like my screens higher up, as on Daniel Cook's console.

(5) I have never had the luxury of a pipe organ with lots of pistons operating on modern systems. I now have the chance of practicing using such systems at an appropriate point in the learning process.

 

Malcolm

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the exact sound, albeit at CD-level quality,

Many sample sets are recorded at better than CD quality (24-bits, 48kHz or even 96kHz). Of course you need more memory for these - my 8GB memory is distinctly restrictive these days, and if I was building a new computer for Hauptwerk now, I would install 16GB and specify the capacity to upgrade to 32GB.

 

Paul

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I'm not a stick-in-the-mud (I hope! :rolleyes: ) but I wonder why it is generally quite easy to spot an electronic imitation of a pipe organ from its console even before "switching on the wind"....

 

I found one really quite easy to spot without looking at the console or hearing the instrument.

 

It had two cases, each containing three 8ft pipes, and each being not much more than one foot deep!

 

When I looked at the console there were upwards of forty stops. (A Copeman Hart).

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Urgh! No! The fans on my computer drive me up the wall if I'm practising the piano. And they're not quite a rumble a fraction above bottom G either!

 

You connect your piano to your computer?!

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You connect your piano to your computer?!

:rolleyes: Well, I can connect one of the pianos to a computer - the Yamaha C5 has a midi interface... But I've never done it.

 

The Bluthner grand doesn't have a computer connection (I guess such things hadn't been thought about in 1896 Leipzig) but shares the room with my PC, which has a noisy fan. Hence the driving up the wall.

 

Thanks to Malcolm for his illuminating comments on Hauptwerk from real-life experience.

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I mean no discourtesy, but one thread discussing digital electronics among so many pertaining to the pipe organ (and many other things!) will surely not bring the mighty Mander empire crashing down will it?

 

 

...........

Personally it doesn't worry me and it's not for me to play the net nanny, but I do recall a warning from Mr Mander that the topic is not appropriate for this forum.

 

I also remember seeing something similar, and I have to say, I am a little puzzled as to why.

 

Obviously this is the Mander forum, supported by them, and they can of course make whatever stipulations they wish. I also accept the fact that we should respect their wishes. However, I cannot help thinking that the availability of "Home practise organs," which is what this discussion is about, by increasing the oportunities to practise, and making it more convenient, may help some organists to maintain, and even increase, their interest, and improve their skills, for the real thing. It is, after all, in a section designated for "General Discussion."

 

Is it not possible that, by bringing a 'classical organ' into the home, some young offspring's curiosity may be awakened, and eventually set them on the road to becoming a church organist?

 

Surely this is not a bad thing, either for the future of the organ, or the organ builders. There are many threats to the pipe organs in our churches, all of which board members are only too well aware, but in some places at least, a lack of people with the skills to play them must be a strong contributary factor.

 

Realistically, only a tiny few, very fortunate, organists are going to have the means to afford, or accomodate, a pipe organ at home, even a small one, and certainly not one in the Mander league, so I am a little puzzled as to how an occasional discussion like this could be harming Manders, or their business.

 

Now if we were recommending replacing the pipe organs in churches with toasters, then that would be well out of order, but from what I have seen, the members on this board are firmly against that idea, so no worries there. Most of the debate seems to be based around a genuine desire, on the part of commited pipe organists, to improve their practise facilities and hence, presumably, their playing skills. Stopping a discussion like this is not going to drive all toasters out of existence, or prevent those determined to replace their pipe organ with one, from doing so.

 

Of course, Manders may have reasons for seeing things differently, in which case, hopefully, they will explain them to us. Until then, I for one, am finding this discussion both interesting and informative.

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You've missed my point.

 

The point of a Hauptwerk is that it does not imitate one particular pipe organ - it can imitate whatever organ you decide to upload.

Yes, I'm aware of the fundamentals of Hauptwerk.

 

But I don't think I've missed your point. You said

 

"I really don't mind Hauptwerk consoles looking like "glorified midi consoles". At least they're being honest about what they are and their intentions. They're really products of modern technology so I feel the aesthetic of them being unashamedly modern is something to be embraced - I think the idea of touch screen stop jambs, etc, is the right approach, with form following function perfectly."

 

I was making the point that I dislike toaster consoles looking like 'glorified midi consoles' when their main task is to imitate a pipe organ. It seems daft to me that, for example, a Swell to Great thumb piston should be displaced in favour of a 'MIDI on Great' piston, or whatever. Which one of those would you think the most useful when playing the standard repertoire?

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I also remember seeing something similar, and I have to say, I am a little puzzled as to why.

 

Obviously this is the Mander forum, supported by them, and they can of course make whatever stipulations they wish. I also accept the fact that we should respect their wishes. However, I cannot help thinking that the availability of "Home practise organs," which is what this discussion is about, by increasing the oportunities to practise, and making it more convenient, may help some organists to maintain, and even increase, their interest, and improve their skills, for the real thing. It is, after all, in a section designated for "General Discussion."

 

Is it not possible that, by bringing a 'classical organ' into the home, some young offspring's curiosity may be awakened, and eventually set them on the road to becoming a church organist?

 

Surely this is not a bad thing, either for the future of the organ, or the organ builders. There are many threats to the pipe organs in our churches, all of which board members are only too well aware, but in some places at least, a lack of people with the skills to play them must be a strong contributary factor.

 

Realistically, only a tiny few, very fortunate, organists are going to have the means to afford, or accomodate, a pipe organ at home, even a small one, and certainly not one in the Mander league, so I am a little puzzled as to how an occasional discussion like this could be harming Manders, or their business.

 

Now if we were recommending replacing the pipe organs in churches with toasters, then that would be well out of order, but from what I have seen, the members on this board are firmly against that idea, so no worries there. Most of the debate seems to be based around a genuine desire, on the part of commited pipe organists, to improve their practise facilities and hence, presumably, their playing skills. Stopping a discussion like this is not going to drive all toasters out of existence, or prevent those determined to replace their pipe organ with one, from doing so.

 

Of course, Manders may have reasons for seeing things differently, in which case, hopefully, they will explain them to us. Until then, I for one, am finding this discussion both interesting and informative.

 

In my opinion, toasters are ideal for home practice for two reasons: they are small and can be easily moved; and headphones can be used to avoid waking the neighbours (or wife!).

 

I would never advocate the installation of electrophones in churches or concert halls. If I go to an organ recital, it is to hear an organ. If people go to listen to a symphony orchestra, do they expect to hear electronically amplified violins, or a piano recital on a Clavinova?

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:) Well, I can connect one of the pianos to a computer - the Yamaha C5 (2) has a midi interface... But I've never done it.

 

The Bluthner grand (1) doesn't have a computer connection (I guess such things hadn't been thought about in 1896 Leipzig) but shares the room with my PC, which has a noisy fan. Hence the driving up the wall.

 

Thanks to Malcolm for his illuminating comments on Hauptwerk from real-life experience.

 

(1) That's a piano.

 

(2) That's an electronic substitute!

 

Seriously, though, I have a Clavinova that has a midi interface, but I have never understood how to connect it to my computer. Now you've mentioned it, I must try to find time to discover how to do this.

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(1) That's a piano.

 

(2) That's an electronic substitute!

 

Seriously, though, I have a Clavinova that has a midi interface, but I have never understood how to connect it to my computer. Now you've mentioned it, I must try to find time to discover how to do this.

 

Buy a Midi->USB interface off ebay for approximately £2.50. Plug the connector marked MIDI IN into the hole marked MIDI OUT and vice versa, and the USB into the computer. That's it! What you do with it now, then, is over to you... Lots of software possibilities that can do all sorts of things with your piano.

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Bringing the subject back to pipe organs again, but mindful of the earlier discussions on Hauptwerk, I am pondering three questions that maybe someone involved in organ design and building might comment on.

 

1. Is there a place for sampling organs of particular historical merit for posterity? Obviously Hauptwerk does just that, so we now have a pipe-by-pipe record of the organs of Caen, Trost and Salisbury Cathedral, to name but three. In the awful event of one being lost, is it not useful to have preserved as good a record as current technlogy permits, and one that might help recreate the organ? One is even mindful that the Salisbury organ is (I believe) currently out of action, yet continues to be heard every day in the cathedral, thanks to its digital "twin"...

 

2. Is there a role for taking a "sampled organ" and hearing it in another venue, for a better understanding of how voicing and acoustics interrelate? Could one imagine a pipe organ builder with a variety of sampled ranks of different scales setting up a Hauptwerk-style installation in a church during the design stage of the instrument, in order to demonstrate how it would sound, and to help select the most appropriate scales and specification before the first pipe had been made?

 

3. Could anyone contemplate the use of touchscreens as a means of stop control in pipe organs? I know of one instrument, I think of Matthew Copley, that uses illuminated LEDs as stop controls, and one of the joys of organ building is seeing how new innovations can be incorporated into the design of an instrument with many centuries behind it. A touchscreen stop jamb would be an interesting, innovative and inexpensive (a 23 inch touchscreen monitor costs around £300, open-source software interfaces such as j-organ are freely downloadable from the internet) alternative to physical stops.

 

Contrbombarde

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3. Could anyone contemplate the use of touchscreens as a means of stop control in pipe organs? I know of one instrument, I think of Matthew Copley, that uses illuminated LEDs as stop controls, and one of the joys of organ building is seeing how new innovations can be incorporated into the design of an instrument with many centuries behind it. A touchscreen stop jamb would be an interesting, innovative and inexpensive (a 23 inch touchscreen monitor costs around £300, open-source software interfaces such as j-organ are freely downloadable from the internet) alternative to physical stops.

 

Touchscreens for around £300 are still only single touch (as far as I know) - touchscreens are really only a decent method of organ control when you can multi-touch. How often do you reach that left hand out and pull out the swell reeds, for example?

 

The other issue is one of muscle memory - with a tactile thing like draw stops, you quickly learn where they are without thinking. Not so easy with tabs (but generally they're in front of you so you can see anyway), impossible with a flat, response-less screen.

 

I think there's a reason drawstops are so prevalent - because they work well.

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(1) That's a piano.

 

(2) That's an electronic substitute!

 

Seriously, though, I have a Clavinova that has a midi interface, but I have never understood how to connect it to my computer. Now you've mentioned it, I must try to find time to discover how to do this.

 

No, the Yahama C5 is a grand piano, not a Clavinova. It's a bigger version of the ubiquitous C3. See here http://uk.yamaha.com/en/products/link/562344 and here http://uk.yamaha.com/en/products/link/105017 - or just Google Yamaha C5.

I think I've actually got a C5S but I've never played with the electrical side of it. It's got strings and everything but no speakers.

 

Back on topic - a further issue with touchscreens on real pipe organ is this: They are ephemeral technology with a planned (short) lifespan (a TFT screen has a lifespan of about 60,000 hours) and the technology would be obsolete within 10 years of the organ being completed.

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No, the Yahama C5 is a grand piano, not a Clavinova. It's a bigger version of the ubiquitous C3. See here http://uk.yamaha.com/en/products/link/562344 and here http://uk.yamaha.com/en/products/link/105017 - or just Google Yamaha C5.

I think I've actually got a C5S but I've never played with the electrical side of it. It's got strings and everything but no speakers.

 

Back on topic - a further issue with touchscreens on real pipe organ is this: They are ephemeral technology with a planned (short) lifespan (a TFT screen has a lifespan of about 60,000 hours) and the technology would be obsolete within 10 years of the organ being completed.

 

I believe the C5 is a standard piano, the C5S is the "Silent Series" - has a switch to stop the hammers from making contact with the strings, turns the digital piano on so that you can play on headphones with the same touch.

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Back on topic - a further issue with touchscreens on real pipe organ is this: They are ephemeral technology with a planned (short) lifespan (a TFT screen has a lifespan of about 60,000 hours) and the technology would be obsolete within 10 years of the organ being completed.

There's something rather wasteful about using touchscreens in situations where they are chiefly not touched and barely looked at for most of the time. A touch screen for the music would be more efficient, particularly if you can "write" on it and maybe touch that to effect stop changes (no idea how that would work in practice).

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I believe the C5 is a standard piano, the C5S is the "Silent Series" - has a switch to stop the hammers from making contact with the strings, turns the digital piano on so that you can play on headphones with the same touch.

 

Back to the trains, eh, Adrian? Notebook and anorak at the ready?

Sorry, I really shouldn't be so rude... BTW, you coming over on the 13th? You can have a look at the C5S too then, if you want.

 

One thing struck me with electronic organs and pipe organs (which crossed my mind with the Clavinova/ Grand Piano misunderstanding): our ears get acclimatised to what we're used to.

 

I remember when I had just a clavinova to play on and no access to real pianos. I thought the Clavinova was excellent - sounded just like a real piano, realistic touch, etc. Now my ears and fingers are acclimatised to playing real pianos, I find electronic pianos sound and feel, well - electric - and I can spot the difference between an electric piano and real piano instantly - something I counldn't really do when a real piano entered my life again.

 

I think the same is true of organs: when I did most of my practice on an electronic, I couldn't spot the differences between electric and real as clearly as I can now. The congregation's ears got used to the electronic organ while the pipe organ was out of the church - but I think we could all tell the difference now.

 

I also remember a professor of organ mention the same thing with temperament: he went to Italy for a few years, where all the organs were tuned to Meantone temperament. He remembered that to begin with, he couldn't get used to the uneven intervals between the notes and that some keys were unusable. But after a while, he got used to the purer intervals and the keys' different characters.

 

After a number of years, he moved to an organ with an equal temperament and he couldn't stand it at all. His ears, now used to the pure intervals of meantone, could instantly spot when the thirds and fifths weren't pure and any organ tuned to equal temperament sounded harsh and out of tune to him.

 

A slightly different story: a friend and I were discussing a Copeman-Hart electronic organ built in the 1980s today. Despite the elderly (non-digital) technology, we both agreed this electronic is one of the best simulations we've ever come across - it really is uncannily good and I think it's got a lot to do with a very well set up installation. I've played a number of more recent electronics by this builder, including the late electronic at Sheffield (now replaced by a Phoenix), which sounded distinctly "electronic", despite having digital technology. I wonder if these builders, having lived in a world of electronic organs for so long, without so much regular exposure to real pipe organs, have started to loose touch with what a real pipe organ sounds like as their ears have acclimatised to the sounds from speakers?

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Buy a Midi->USB interface off ebay for approximately £2.50. Plug the connector marked MIDI IN into the hole marked MIDI OUT and vice versa, and the USB into the computer. That's it! What you do with it now, then, is over to you... Lots of software possibilities that can do all sorts of things with your piano.

 

Thanks!

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