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Converting pipe and digital organs to Hauptwerk

A discussion forum for anything even marginally Hauptwerk-related.

Converting pipe and digital organs to Hauptwerk

Postby Antoni Scott » Sun Dec 02, 2018 11:39 am

I have converted several organ consoles (pipe and digital) to use Hauptwerk , mostly out of curiosity and as a hobby. Originally I wanted to build one for myself so that I could experience the authentic pipe organ "feel" of pulling or tilting stop tabs rather than touching a screen. The touch sensitive screens had their advantages like being able to switch organs without renaming all of the stops. I just didn't like the Hi-Tech look.

Each console was a little different. This adventure started out as an attempt to improve the visual appearance of my original Hauptwerk "contraption" which looked ugly. Three manuals on a workbench, with a pedalboard underneath, certainly got the job done but wouldn't look good in a living room. My first console was a three manual Schantz pipe organ from 1980. It looked brand new and I got it with the pedalboard and bench for $400. Since I already had three manuals from Classic MIDI, Canada, I replaced the manuals. I removed the 66 tilting stops, combination action and all the pipe organ related hardware that was not necessary for the functioning of a Hauptwerk set up. Years later I added a fourth manual. The Fatar manuals offered by Classic MIDI were not the woodcore version with round thumb pistons but were perfectly adequate for my needs. Since the Manuals were already Midi, "daisy-chaining" them to the computer was not an issue. The pedalboard, which was by Schantz, required that they be converted from analog to MIDI. Once again, third party vendors offered digital scanning boards that received the 32 pedal notes, one wire at a time Analog In-Digital Out. The board had 64 positions on it so I used the remaining positions to attach the toe pistons. Classic MIDI and Artisan offer these boards. Classic is twice the price of Artisan but do the same thing. I've used both. To be honest the less expensive Artisan boards were far easier to hook up as they have 64 pressure sensitive connections that are simple to use. Classic required a special tool that spreads the post open. In addition to a fourth manual added later, I added more toe pistons and a row of couplers above the top manual. That was it.
The Schantz console had two touch sensitive computer monitors. The unorthodox appearance of the console bothered me a little so may next project was to get a console that had moving stop tabs. My first conversion was an old two manual late 1800's pipe organ console with ivory keys. It had been upgraded at some point with tilt tab stops. Another conversion was a 1970 Rodgers console with three manuals, 66 stops (33 on each stop jamb) and 20+ couplers. The organ console was in good condition, solidly built as to be expected. One problem with old pipe organ or electronic organs are the keyboard contacts. Low voltage arcing (a small spark that corrodes the contacts) can be VERY problematic. It is essential with Hauptwerk that the contact rails be shiny smooth, really smooth, to avoid intermittent contact. Every bit of corrosion must be removed and the best way is to polish the surfaces with 2000 grit paper or crocus cloth.

Since the combination action worked I retained it. The stops had SAM's (stop action magnets) and there is something satisfying to see stops move when you push a thumb piston. Interestingly, this 66 stop organ was powered my the tiny MacMini with 16GB RAM. Amazing. I also converted a Wick's pipe organ console. These organs were given away for cost. I just had fun converting them.

Lastly, although moving stops gives a better experience, it poses too many issues when switching organs. I decided that the original concept of a touch sensitive screen on each stop jamb was the best option for me. It is entirely possible that you could have an attractive classic looking console converted to Hauptwerk at 1/4 the price of a new console. You can watch a Youtube video that I created sometime ago that describes in detail my Hauptwerk conversion.

Antoni Scott
Posts: 810
Joined: Fri Sep 24, 2004 6:18 pm

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