Homebuilt digital pipe organ

The dream of having your own pipe organ at home seems to be utopia for most persons. And it certainly is, at least if we’re talking about a huge organ with thousands of pipes. The cost is way too huge for John Average, and few have the necessary space in their home.

Enter the world of computers and digital wonders!

Today, with the computing power available in even modest personal computers, virtual instruments are becoming a relatively affordable, compact and flexible solution. Do you want a Hammond B3? No problem! A Steinway grand piano? Easy! A full-blown pipe organ with 30+ stops and thousands of pipes? I have all these right here on the laptop I write this text on!

All you need is a decent computer, MIDI-capable keyboards, a good sound card and a set of speakers and maybe an amplifier. In addition you will need software and a sample set. I will explain this in detail later on.

For my part, I grew up listening to my father and my brother playing Bach, Reger, hymns and a lot of other organ music. Naturally, I started playing myself at an early age. I taught myself to play by writing all the notes on a piece of score, then i cut the paper up by individual notes and taped the paper pieces to the keys of my dad’s organ. From there it became simple. Look at the score, look for the correct keys – and in no time, I could play organ! From there things progressed steadily, and I ended up getting keys to a chapel and a church here in Narvik, northern part of Norway. Sadly, it all halted when I had to start playing in church services or let the keys go. I did not feel confident enough to be an organist in spe, nor did I want to practice that much. I played for fun, not because I had to.

Several years went by, and in the meantime I played music – but on guitars and a Korg keyboard. Not exactly an ideal solution, going from 3 manuals and 32 pedals to just one manual and poor organ sounds.

Sometime in 2007 I came across the software named “Hauptwerk”. I downloaded a demo and could play one single note. Sounded great, but I could not judge the quality from just one note. I deleted the software and didn’t think of it for several months. Then I came across a posting in a forum, telling that the new version was available – and fully playable!

I quickly downloaded and installed Hauptwerk version 3, hooked up my USB-based MIDI-keyboard and started playing. Being a music lover, I found myself with tears in my eyes realizing that I now could get the sound of all instrument’s queen in my home! Bach never sounded that good!

From there things have progressed rapidly. I bought another USB MIDI-keyboard so that I could play on two manuals. But the need for organ pedals can not be ignored if one wants to play pipe organ!

And here the real story begins. A number of options has been considered – how do I get an organ the way I need it to be?

There are several options. Quite a few companies offers products for this purpose – from the simple to the full-grown organ console. The path to your own organ is yours to decide, but I will try to share my experiences so you can make your own judgment. And if this inspires you to do your own project, please let me know about it – and share it with others! Any hobby tastes best when it is shared.

The starting point of my project was this setup:

Two M-audio USB MIDI keyboards, a surround sound receiver, two huge speakers and a laptop with Hautpwerk (plus a few other parts and doo-hickeys). The goal is to end up with a nice console with three or four manuals, a full-sized AGO pedal board and an organ bench. And if I get hold on some real prinzipal pipes, I’ll make cabinets for the speakers and place the pipes in front of them. 🙂

Thank you for visiting, and be sure to check in from time to time to follow the progress.

Regards, Vidar.

One thought on “Homebuilt digital pipe organ

  1. Pingback: Imperial or SI? | Fagerjord.org

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *