Synthesizing Keyboard
  • We do not have an organ in our parish, but rather a synthesizing keyboard with various organ settings. I don't like it at all and feel it is very artificial, but at this point budgetary constraints are forbidding purchasing an organ for the church. I am doing a lot of hymns and accompanied chant. Can anybody give me any suggestions as to how to get this instrument to sound more like a church organ? The former director is big in praise and worship music and purchased it for that purpose. Now that we have a more organ-friendly pastor, I am doing more and more organ music (and ridding the parish of anything OCP). We will go to the Adoremus hymnal over the summer. Also, the sound in our church leaves a lot to be desired and sometimes the organ settings on the keyboard sound very tinny and hokey. I've tried many different things, but nothing seems to relieve the sound. Of course, I don't expect it to sound like a pipe organ, but surely, there is something that can help.
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    If the pre-programmed organ patches on the keyboard are not the best, it might be possible (for perhaps only a few hundred dollars, or maybe less used) to get a MIDI sampler to plug into the keyboard that at least has better organ sounds.
  • I don't know if they're still at at, but Ahlborn Galanti had "organ" tone generators that are decent as these things get.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    #1, above all: GET RID OF IT. Buy a real organ, or, failing that, at least a digital one. Some of the cheapest digital models are around $12,000 new. Surely you could find, say, 24 people, willing to pledge $5/week for 2 years, to purchase an organ. Do you know how to play a real organ? (no attack, just curious) If not, seek training.

    Use of a MIDI patch is so far below the dignity of the liturgy that bongos would be an improvement. So please consider your options as you move forward in this position.

    #2, as for the situation you're in RIGHT NOW, my advice is to check if your keyboard has a "Harmonium" patch. The "Church Organ" patches always seem to have been designed by people who have never heard or played a real organ. The Harmonium patch is usually pretty acceptable. Failing that, I'd find a patch approximating a Hammond organ, usually listed as "Jazz Organ". It's not ideal, but it will probably sound better than the default patch - after all, the Hammond was invented to imitate the sound of a pipe organ. Or just use the "Piano" patch. It's probably the best one on there.

    #3, depending on your church acoustic, you may consider adding reverberation to the sound. Too much can make the sound uselessly muddied, but a bit will add much to the sound. Of course, you need to be familiar with the operation of the instrument to do that.

    Again, let me stress the importance of buying a real/digital organ. Something with pedals and stops. Your parish will be MUCH happier with it, and it will DRASTICALLY improve the musical quality of your liturgies. If I may be blunt (of course I may), your parish sounds like it's in crisis due to the leadership of the past few priests. Your community is splintered, fighting, and leaving. As someone who has worked on an organ fundraising project before, I have seen first-hand what a tonic such projects are for a hurting congregation, and how they lend a sense of pride and involvement in the music program.

    There are options for your congregation, so talk to your pastor and see what he thinks. I must STRONGLY, STRONGLY, STRONGLY disagree with the advice above: do not spend a CENT on anything other than an organ. You'll just be patching (pun unintended) over a serious deficit in your program, and it will fix very little. Talk to your priest, talk to some of the parish "movers and shakers", and see what you can do to get an instrument to produce worthy Sacred Music.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Gavin, there was no advice nor recommendation, per se, given "above," just information.
  • Gavin--thank you for your suggestions. We will eventually (in the next couple of years when our new church is finished) get a real organ and, while I am a pianist and not a true organist, I have a church organist friend who is willing to give me lessons. My objective at this point is to try and find something that will do justice to the music without spending a lot of money since the parish is in the middle of a capital campaign for the new church. I will try the Hamonium patch (unless, of course our keyboard doesn't have one). And, thank you for the advice about the "church organ" setting, because, like you say, it truly sounds nothing like a true instrument.
  • As Jeffrey discovered last year or so, Roland/Rodgers have church instruments even under $5,000 that do a very adequate job of replacing synthesized keyboards...I'd be glad to provide information for people, I do freelance Rodgers/Roland designs across the US, and develop software for some of these instruments to assist churches in me privately at Roland is committed to helping churches and also supporting early music, which is why they, and only they right now, build digital harpsichords that include continuo pipe stops, fortepiano and celesta, an instrument that serves opera houses and orchestras very nicely..

    As Charles suggested, some manufacturers, including Rodgers, manufacture MIDI modules that are MIDI in the sense that they are accessibile from any keyboard, but are actual church organs without the keyboards and pedalboard....the same guts that are in their regular organs. Some of them are quite useful, at a great savings, and would play from the synthesized keyboard very nicely, using their sounds, not the synth ones. Builders know that churches are in a bind financially and are doing what they can to keep organ sound in the church. Some organists will turn their noses up at them because they do not have an AGO 32 note pedal board...or a 30 note BDO pedalboard, or moving drawknobs....all the things a congregation can't see and could care less about, but they have the sound....which is what a true organist wants...the bells and whistles are meaningless if it does not sound like an organ.

  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,933
    What FNJ says is true. I was the consultant to installing a Roland C-330 in a church out East from here where I live this past December, and for 20k, it is a phenomenal deal.

    The speaker system is the real trick. I haven't seen a digital installation that I like yet. However, I have spoken with M&O and they are doing some very good speaker installations. It is almost better to plan more money on the speakers than the instrument itself. Builders of pipe organs did and continue to do BOTH. Designing and voicing pipes for an installation is inseparable from designing and building the console. The two are one and same, and need to be treated as such.

    Don't skrimp on speaker installation and placement, voicing (individual volume and tone of each pipe) and analyzing the EQ of the particular church architecture and then getting the sound even throughout. You need someone who knows acoustics to do this. That generally doesn't come from digital organ companies these days.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Gavin's advice is spot on. By all means, find a way to avail yourselves of a genuine organ. Not mentioned (I think) above is another possibility: that of acquiring a used (pipe) organ. You could check with your local AGO chapter for help in locating one of many that are available, some at quite reasonable prices.
    As for making your fake sound like an organ... it's all in the touch, and for this you might want to consider some lessons. Many times have I been told that I made 'it' sound like a real organ. Having the touch of a real organ-ist in your hands and fingers (and mind) is no panacea, but it helps somewhat.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Thanks Jackson.....I do agree with the touch and I'm getting better at it. I'm also so used to playing the sustaining pedal on the piano, that it's taking a lot of practice to rid myself of it.
  • My good friend, John Bishop, at Organ Clearing House, is the expert on locating and installing used pipe organs. Among all other things, he is a trustworthy person, devoted to the organ as a musical instrument.

    Why choose from one or two near you that may or may not match your church needs when he has 70 available?
  • This is beginning to go in the right direction!
  • A good option could be using Hauptwerk system too you can hear some samples at my website (
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    A friend of mine is using Hauptwerk to remodel a practice organ at home. I hear all you need is a fast computer and an MIDI keyboard (or two). He is taking apart his old electronic organ, then rewiring the thing to add midi functionality, then hooking the midi to his computer. Sounds like fun.
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,566
    Hauptwerk is wonderful in many ways, but requires an organist who is devoted to make it work....and when that organist moves on, the odds that her/his replacement will be able to keep it up and working are very slim.

  • especially if they're using their own personal laptop with the "church organ".
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,933
    fun for home or studio, but i would think a nightmare for a church