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New Electric Action Systems


david_forde
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Hi all,

 

Has anyone had any experience of the ‘intelli-key’ or similar systems for action control? In particular has anyone tried the “128 gradations” of control offered by Eltec Automazioni (see the ISO journal...or see http://www.eltecautomazioni.com/Eltecautom...i/UK-Eltec.htm)?

 

The philosophical question is whether proportional control is appropriate for non-mechanical action organs – should we expect electric actions to behave exactly like tracker organs, or should we be happy with the ‘on and off’ control offered for the last hundred and a bit years?

 

David

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I have to say that this website is largely Greek to me, but I think the question here is: how will the player be able to feel control over these 128 individual pallet movements? There seems little point in having 128 stages if the player cannot feel the control (s)he has over them.

 

Personally the thought of double touch scares me. As for 128-touch... But give it a bit of adaptation and I see potential here for it to become the Rollschweller of the future!

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Personally the thought of double touch scares me. As for 128-touch... But give it a bit of adaptation and I see potential here for it to become the Rollschweller of the future!

 

 

Hmm - now that is something I hadn't considered - worth noting that the 128 steps are in a magnet travel of 8mm....

 

The idea is that after the pluck of the pallet has been overcome (and the note starts to sound) the travel (both distance and speed) from that point to the fully open position can be precisely controlled – thereby emulating the control available with mechanical action. Emulating because it is of course a stepped system (all 128 of them) rather than the infinite control offered by tracker action – though I imagine dividing 8mm into 128 steps means the steps are practically imperceptible!

 

Is this system of musical/aesthetic merit? Should we accept that we need tracker action if we want infinite control and ‘on/off’ action if we want the flexibility offered by electric action?

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Good question and, speaking for myself, I'm not sure of the answer. It's a bit difficult to discuss in the abstract. I think it's one of those things we would need to test-drive a bit to assess whether it is worthwhile.

 

But I have to admit that, never having had the luxury of a modern, responsive tracker organ to play day in, day out, I do wonder whether players can really control the opening of the pallets with as much sensitivity as is often claimed. No doubt I shall now be taken out and shot at dawn.

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Good question and, speaking for myself, I'm not sure of the answer. It's a bit difficult to discuss in the abstract. I think it's one of those things we would need to test-drive a bit to assess whether it is worthwhile.

 

But I have to admit that, never having had the luxury of a modern, responsive tracker organ to play day in, day out, I do wonder whether players can really control the opening of the pallets with as much sensitivity as is often claimed. No doubt I shall now be taken out and shot at dawn.

 

Try sitting in the bath with water in it and see how slowly you can control the pulling out of the plug. Both water and air can be classed as fluids.

 

;)

 

FF

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
But I have to admit that, never having had the luxury of a modern, responsive tracker organ to play day in, day out, I do wonder whether players can really control the opening of the pallets with as much sensitivity as is often claimed*. No doubt I shall now be taken out and shot at dawn.

(my asterisk)

 

 

*All modesty aside, I consider that I have had considerable experience of seriously sensitive tracker actions and I still think that this is a good question. Frankly, VH I probably agree with you.

 

I think at any medium to fast playing the answer is 'no'.

 

In slow, legato playing I concede that it is at least possible that one attacks the keys less sharply and consequently one might be limiting some of the transient sounds (chiff etc.). I have thought so in some cases... and perhaps this feature is both natural and desirable... but...

 

It is worth noting that there is also a sharp down side to acute sensitivity of key touch: at the same time that one ((if lucky) gets control of starting transients, one also gets substantially increased risk of clipped and mis-struck keys! The more sensitive the tracker action, the more likely one is to mis-hit and for these unintentional brushes to become actual mistakes. I refer to the sort of control that one gets from suspended action - keys literally hanging from the roller boards. Sounds frequently come earlier than expected in the 'down-travel' and of course there is the question of some notes being lighter than others (bass notes having more top-resistance quite often unless balanciers are in use).

 

A further problem with very light (modern) tracker actions is the effect sometimes called pallet bounce. If readers have not met this, the characteristic is that if you play firmly and rhythmically, lifting fingers clear of the keys upon release, it is quite possible for some notes to come back up (and pallets to close) so fast that the note actually rebounds and thus plays again, if only briefly. This is not something that ever happens with electro-pneumatic or pneumatic action.

 

I love a good tracker, and I especially love the genuine old ones - where the player is obliged to put the keys down in the same way as a performer from the 18th century (learning a huge amount in the process). But.... is it just my imagination.... having got their wonderful new tracker organs, doesn't it seem that (Bach aside) most repertoire that actually gets played on these new instruments is (strictly speaking) post tracker? Your Franck, Vierne, Messiaen, Eben pieces etc. were all written for mechanically aided key touch.

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... lifting fingers clear of the keys upon release...

 

Am I alone in having been taught this is extremely bad practice? I have had to spend many hours doing exercises that involved holding 5 notes and releasing a couple at a time whilst keeping the finger in contact with the key at all times.

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A further problem with very light (modern) tracker actions is the effect sometimes called pallet bounce. If readers have not met this, the characteristic is that if you play firmly and rhythmically, lifting fingers clear of the keys upon release, it is quite possible for some notes to come back up (and pallets to close) so fast that the note actually rebounds and thus plays again, if only briefly. This is not something that ever happens with electro-pneumatic or pneumatic action.

 

This (valve bounce) is exactly the problem they encountered with high revving engines. How did they solve the problem? Replacing the mechanical cam and valve with a pneumatically operated valve.

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This (valve bounce) is exactly the problem they encountered with high revving engines.  How did they solve the problem?  Replacing the mechanical cam and valve with a pneumatically operated valve.

 

.....And in our day-to-day cars, using four little valves/cylinder instead

of two bigger ones.

 

Pierre

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Am I alone in having been taught this is extremely bad practice?  I have had to spend many hours doing exercises that involved holding 5 notes and releasing a couple at a time whilst keeping the finger in contact with the key at all times.

 

 

So that's where I've been going wrong!

I wish someone had told me this before.

 

Do tell us, what's your teacher's name?

 

P.

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A further problem with very light (modern) tracker actions is the effect sometimes called pallet bounce. If readers have not met this, the characteristic is that if you play firmly and rhythmically, lifting fingers clear of the keys upon release, it is quite possible for some notes to come back up (and pallets to close) so fast that the note actually rebounds and thus plays again, if only briefly. This is not something that ever happens with electro-pneumatic or pneumatic action.

 

 

To an extent, the Solo action (if not the other departments) at Bath Abbey exhibits this effect - it is not good for fast repetitions or repeated chords.

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This (valve bounce) is exactly the problem they encountered with high revving engines.  How did they solve the problem?  Replacing the mechanical cam and valve with a pneumatically operated valve.

 

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

 

I would hate to be considered pedantic, but, here beginneth the lesson!

 

Valve-bounce is a problem especially associated with high-lift camfshafts used in performance engines; where the ramping and fall off become critically abrupt due to the long dwell angle of the valve-openings, which enables the maximum amount fuel/air mixture to fill the cylinders.

 

The first attempts at controlling this possibly originated in Italy, with cams which had the cam profiling machined as a groove in the side of the otherwise cylindrical lobes. This however, proved troublesome, owing to the extreme physical stresses involved, and high speed metal fatigue and fracture were commonplace. Today, I believe only Ducati motor-cycles use the desmadromic valve system.

 

The use of very high pressure inert gas in modern racing engines, enables the valves to have only a fractional weight as compared to normal valves, and no mechanical cams with ramps. Being light and attached to a small piston, the valves are capable of working efficiently at very high speeds; in a Grand Prix car, about 17,000 rpm at peak speed. (Turning three times faster than a conventional engine) I'm not sure if the system doesn't use reed valves, which are very sensitive and more or less inertian free.

 

After the experiments with desmadromic valves, but before the exotic high-pressure gas valves of to-day's racing engines, there was another method of reducing or eliminating valve-bounce, which may be of interest to organ-builders.

 

When valves bounce, they ALWAYS bounce at specific speeds; commensurate with the natural resonance (or a closely related harmonic) of the valve-spring. A very simple work-around, is to have double valve-springs; one inside the other as coils, but each with a different resonant frequency. Not only does this more or less eliminate the harmonic resonance of the single-valve spring, it also produces an en-harmonic "friction" which acts as a natural damper.

 

In fact, by using two springs of different rate and physical

dimension, the damping effect could be harnessed usefully to include organ tracker-actions, and it doesn't matter whether coil springs, leaf-springs or some typeof torsion-bar is emplo .

 

End of physics lesson.

 

MM

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Am I alone in having been taught this is extremely bad practice?  I have had to spend many hours doing exercises that involved holding 5 notes and releasing a couple at a time whilst keeping the finger in contact with the key at all times.

 

Your exercise is also useful in teaching pupils a basic legato technique on repeated notes - but I expect that you already know this!

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Hmm - now that is something I hadn't considered - worth noting that the 128 steps are in a magnet travel of 8mm....

 

The idea is that after the pluck of the pallet has been overcome (and the note starts to sound) the travel (both distance and speed) from that point to the fully open position can be precisely controlled – thereby emulating the control available with mechanical action.  Emulating because it is of course a stepped system (all 128 of them) rather than the infinite control offered by tracker action – though I imagine dividing 8mm into 128 steps means the steps are practically imperceptible! 

 

Is this system of musical/aesthetic merit?  Should we accept that we need tracker action if we want infinite control and ‘on/off’ action if we want the flexibility offered by electric action?

 

The way I read it was 8mm of travel divided into 128 steps of 0.064mm. As these steps are so small they would appear to the average user as infinite control.

 

Sadly my ability at the keyboard doesn’t go beyond a few clumsy cords.

 

Surely the “feel” provided by tracker action is due to the resistance of the springs, pallet and action? Is the “feel” also due to the audio cue as the pipe starts to speak?

 

If an organ was built with tracker action but with the pipes speaking into a different room would the player really know (by touch of finger tips) the precise point the pallets opened?

 

I just don’t know. ;)

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The way I read it was 8mm of travel divided into 128 steps of 0.064mm.  As these steps are so small they would appear to the average user as infinite control.

 

Sadly my ability at the keyboard doesn’t go beyond a few clumsy cords.

 

Surely the “feel” provided by tracker action is due to the resistance of the springs, pallet and action?  Is the “feel” also due to the audio cue as the pipe starts to speak?

 

If an organ was built with tracker action but with the pipes speaking into a different room would the player really know (by touch of finger tips) the precise point the pallets opened?

 

I just don’t know.   ;)

 

There is also the problem of larger pallets being needed for bass pipes. . Sometimes the lower part of the clavier can be even heavier than the middle and upper parts - especially on older instruments.

 

I found Sherborne disappointing insofar as the weight of touch is concerned -particularly since new soundboards were constructed, together with a new coupler chassis.

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There is also the problem of larger pallets being needed for bass pipes. . Sometimes the lower part of the clavier can be even heavier than the middle and upper parts - especially on older instruments.

 

I found Sherborne disappointing insofar as the weight of touch is concerned -particularly since new soundboards were constructed, together with a new coupler chassis.

 

Every day is a learning day.

 

I hadn't even thought that the weight of touch would/could change as you played up and down the keyboard.

 

;)

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Hi all,

 

Has anyone had any experience of the ‘intelli-key’ or similar systems for action control?  In particular has anyone tried the “128 gradations” of control offered by Eltec Automazioni (see the ISO journal...or see http://www.eltecautomazioni.com/Eltecautom...i/UK-Eltec.htm)?

 

The philosophical question is whether proportional control is appropriate for non-mechanical action organs – should we expect electric actions to behave exactly like tracker organs, or should we be happy with the ‘on and off’ control offered for the last hundred and a bit years?

 

David

Unfortunately, I only have 129 graduations of control of each key, so this system would be no good for me. ;)

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Every day is a learning day.

 

I hadn't even thought that the wieght of touch would/could change as you played up and down the keyboard.

 

;)

Certainly does - pallets in the bass are bigger for larger, more wind-hungry notes and you'll get double pallets (i.e. 2 pallets per key) or even more (normally in very large modern mechanical action organs) in the bass of large divisions. Sometimes balancier motors are used to give assistance to overcome the pluck to open the pallet(s) and some builders (I believe Ken Tickell did this at Eton) use electric actions to open the 2nd pallets triggered by a sensor (now normally optical or hall) on the mechanical action pallet.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Surely the “feel” provided by tracker action is due to the resistance of the springs, pallet and action?  Is the “feel” also due to the audio cue as the pipe starts to speak?

 

If an organ was built with tracker action but with the pipes speaking into a different room would the player really know (by touch of finger tips) the precise point the pallets opened?

 

 

 

I think a player's fingers and subconscious respond to the 'break' point - the moment in travel downwards when the wind resistance against the pallet has been overcome. The weight required to take a tracker key down is greater than that which is needed to hold it down. A Willis III toggle touch simulates this well. At Hereford Cathedral, for instance (asssuming that H&H's recent restoration has kept the original characteristics) the keys have a definite 'quasi-pluck' point, this is roughly 1/8" down - with the full depth of touch being 3/8".

 

 

Off at a tangent:

Maybe this a good point to mention that from time to time I meet consoles set up with a deeper touch than 3/8". I often find these moderately uncomfortable, and when the sharps are only 1/2" tall (as is common), you get the curious feeling that sharps actually go down level with the naturals (once again making cuffs and split notes more likely)!

 

I'm sure that 3/8" travel used to be an official standard.... the question is, should it still be so? Opinions please!

 

One or two builders used to pride themselves on a very light shallow touch - T.C.Lewis comes to mind in particular - indeed, this feature was described as 'piano' touch in contemporary organ literature. What do people think about these?

 

 

Caution! Off down a sharply-descending spiral of utterly pointless whimsy......

In my book, Hell would be full of electronic organs with no stop pitched higher than 4'. However, all these registers would have been personally voiced by Lawrence Phelps, John Norman or Denys Thurlow. The chipboard console would be designed along strictly un-ergonomic lines, with squeaking pedals widely spaced and straight - both bottom and top notes being unreachable without shifting position on a bench lined with heavy-grade aluminium-oxide paper. The damp plastic keys would be set too far back - controlling an extremely light and shallow key action, the whole placed in a small hall with an (appropriately) dead acoustic and smelling of three-month old prawn cocktails, milk that has reached the stratified stage (grey furry top, green and watery middle and dull orange lower level) and pig manure. This depressing environment would be enlivened by stops, couplers and (cinema-style) Tremulant that arbitrarily come on and go off unexpectedly. The tuning would fluctuate, and the temperament would vary without warning - meantone being the most common.

 

From time to time, recently dead people (formerly used to exercising arbitrary authority with enthusiasm) would scream for the music to go louder/faster/softer/slower/stop abruptly, whichever choice was least convenient to accomodate.

 

Playing non-stop would be obligatory and the only music permitted for use would be by lesser-known Victorian and Edwardian composers or famous names of the 1960's. The copies would tend to close by themselves because the organ-builder had provided no music clips and the music desk would have been placed as high and as far back as possible while still being theoretically useable. The audience would be full of unwashed, chain-smoking, failed composers and (superannuated) higher education professors, each supplied with blowpipes loaded with sharpened biro refills. Any mistake made would result in a shower of missiles and a baying chorus of 'start again!'

 

Needless to say, Improvisation would be banned since those with talent would always make the audience jealous. The only light relief possible would be listening to former estate agents, prize-winning architects, C-list celebrities and government experts* being flayed in the hall next door.

 

 

Maybe I'd better start being nice to people.....

 

*P.S. on second thoughts, if government 'experts' were being flayed next door, maybe this isn't Hell at all!!!

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In my book, Hell would be full of electronic organs with no stop pitched higher than 4'. However, all these registers would have been personally voiced by Lawrence Phelps, John Norman or Denys Thurlow. The chipboard console would be designed along strictly un-ergonomic lines, with squeaking pedals widely spaced and straight - both bottom and top notes being unreachable without shifting position on a bench lined with heavy-grade aluminium-oxide paper. The damp plastic keys would be set too far back - controlling an extremely light and shallow key action, the whole placed in a small hall with an (appropriately) dead acoustic and smelling of three-month old prawn cocktails, milk that has reached the stratified stage (grey furry top, green and watery middle and dull orange lower level) and pig manure. This depressing environment would be enlivened by stops, couplers and (cinema-style) Tremulant that arbitrarily come on and go off unexpectedly. The tuning would fluctuate, and the temperament would vary without warning - meantone being the most common.

 

From time to time, recently dead people (formerly used to exercising arbitrary authority with enthusiasm) would scream for the music to go louder/faster/softer/slower/stop abruptly, whichever choice was least convenient to accomodate.

 

Playing non-stop would be obligatory and the only music permitted for use would be by lesser-known Victorian and Edwardian composers or famous names of the 1960's. The copies would tend to close by themselves because the organ-builder had provided no music clips and the music desk would have been placed as high and as far back as possible while still being theoretically useable. The audience would be full of unwashed, chain-smoking, failed composers and (superannuated) higher education professors, each supplied with blowpipes loaded with sharpened biro refills. Any mistake made would result in a shower of missiles and a baying chorus of 'start again!'

 

Needless to say, Improvisation would be banned since those with talent would always make the audience jealous. The only light relief possible would be listening to former estate agents, prize-winning architects, C-list celebrities and government experts* being flayed in the hall next door.

Maybe I'd better start being nice to people.....

 

*P.S. on second thoughts, if government 'experts' were being flayed next door, maybe this isn't Hell at all!!!

 

 

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

 

You forgot the "gripper-rod" pedals which would be such an aid to accuracy.

 

;)

 

MM

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