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Newbie / How to start with theater organ?

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1961TC4ME

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Newbie / How to start with theater organ?

PostWed Jul 24, 2019 12:05 pm

Hi all,

I have to admit, although my first passion is classical organ, I have been somewhat bit by the theater organ bug as of late and find all the colors of the theater organ quite fascinating. Kind of reminds me of when I was a kid back in the 60's when we went on a trip somewhere, I think it was near Milwaukee, WI. Anyways, I don't remember where we were but it was at a place where we had lunch. The place had one of those mechanical theater organs, it was quite large (and loud!! :lol: ) and as a 5 year old (or so), I was immediately drawn to it watching the drums and cymbals bang and so on. That sound has stuck in my head to this day. Anyways, enough on the walk down memory lane, just thought I'd share it. :D

What I did recently is I downloaded the Paramount 310. Much to my surprise it's a very delightful free 3- manual theater organ, it sounds great! I don't mind at all the dryness of it which seems to be more the way it should be anyways, and again much to my surprise, it even comes with a few demo midi files which I played through my 10 channel setup this morning after I got it set up and the ranks routed where I wanted them. I had it cranked up and it was really cool and even this limited instrument offers quite a variety of sound! What I'm wondering is where to start? Where to find some more simple (I emphasize simple) music I can learn, info about registrations techniques (without getting an encyclopedia ), and so on. Basically, where's a good place to start and play some music?

One thing I noticed today in watching the midi demos is the swell pedal(s) get used A LOT, and even a short 3 minute song involved quite a number of registration changes. Up front it all looks a bit intimidating to me, but I'm sure with time things will get easier. It looks like a completely different animal in ways compared to the classical organ I guess. Anyways, some advice on what I can look at, some free music and other info I could get would be nice if it's out there. I'm sure the resident theater organ experts here will know.

Thanks in advance.

Marc
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Frank_VTPO

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Re: Newbie / How to start with theater organ?

PostWed Jul 24, 2019 1:24 pm

Hello Marc,

you might wish to check the following sites:
Don Springer provides slides on theatre organ registration on his homepage:
http://vtpo.info/vtpo_classes.htm
Moreover, you might like the video series of organist Tom Horton on youtube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOJJy5N52lc (one of a whole series of videos)
Walz Strony's book "The Secrets of Theatre Organ Registration" seems still to be out of print
http://www.waltstrony.com/id7.html,
but there are three volumes titled "The Art of Theatre Organ Arranging" with arrangements (with many explanations for learning the technique and tricks) written by Jelani Eddington:
http://www.theatreorganarrangements.com/index.html

Regards, Frank VTPO
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stoverkid

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Re: Newbie / How to start with theater organ?

PostWed Jul 24, 2019 2:03 pm

The main idea of "Theatre" organ is arrangement. Most classical organists have experience with improvisation. If you have a good feel for chord structure and rhythm patterns, you only need melody and chord music to get you going. In the 70s there were a lot of "All Organ" books published. Look for them in used music sites. The original music that shipped with a silent film, was a melody line. If one was lucky there were chords. The success was in pleasing the audience, or yourself, with what you made of it. Most of the current crowd have classical training, and many are church organists. To get a feel for it, I would suggest listening to theatre organ radio at atos.org. Last week pipedreams.org did a two hour session with Walt Strony. The instruments do have a lot of vibratos, second touch and other features, but Fats Waller only had a "church" organ.
Just jump out of the box!
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1961TC4ME

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Re: Newbie / How to start with theater organ?

PostWed Jul 24, 2019 3:08 pm

stoverkid wrote:I would suggest listening to theatre organ radio at atos.org. Last week pipedreams.org did a two hour session with Walt Strony.


Ha! I listen to Pipedreams weekly and funny you should mention it, but i really enjoyed Walt's music on that program, especially the 'Oscar Mayer Wiener'Song' improvisation! :lol: That was great! He did a Beatles tune as well. That's what I like about theater organ, you can do real familiar songs and as mentioned, improvisation and having the tune in your head are a strong suits to have.

Frank,

Thanks, I appreciate you supplying those links, I'll take a look. I've been doing some digging online and haven't found much in the way of simple music, but the registration stuff is half the battle and important as well. Fortunately the 310 comes with some pre-set registrations to get me started and then I can experiment from there once I know a bit more about what I'm doing.

Marc
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Frank_VTPO

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Re: Newbie / How to start with theater organ?

PostWed Jul 24, 2019 5:23 pm

Hello Marc,

I just noticed that Graham Goode has discussed this topic recently in his blog (June 2019):

https://sites.google.com/site/meltoneso ... /june-2019

Regards, Frank
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magnaton

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Re: Newbie / How to start with theater organ?

PostWed Jul 24, 2019 8:12 pm

Hello Marc:

Good to see you posting again. I'll talk about audio routing since no one else has thus far. You may have seen the ParamountOrganWorks PDF guide on their recommendation for a mutlichannel setup. I have followed their recommendation about 90% since I don't have my powered subwoofer mixed down from all channels.

Forgive me if you know this but Theatre organs are highly if not all unified. So the 16' ranks shown in the pedal are really just the last 12 notes of the same 8' rank. Also the 4' on the manuals is an extended octave of the 8' rank. Generally each fundamental pitch labeled on a stop adds another 12 notes.

Since my setup consists of a pair of large 3-way speakers, active monitors, and rear channel speakers, I made some variations. I have the Tibia routed to the studio monitors but the last 5 notes in the rank (Tibia at 16') are routed to the large 3-way speakers since it can produce those frequencies much easier (13" driver vs 8"). I made use of the Hauptwerk Bass Split feature in the Audio Output section. I experimented quite a bit finding the right break point so the switch between studio monitor to 3-way is seamless 8). For the Diapason rank I simply sent the entire rank to the 3-ways. Experimentation showed that there wasn't much fidelity gain for that rank in the monitors.

The lunch place you attended was most likely a pizza parlor which helped theatre organs become popular again in the late 60s and 70s. Having tuned percussions and traps spread across the room on the walls which would light up when played gave both a visual and audible effect. This became known in the theatre organ world as "pizzafication" :lol:. You too can employ a little pizzafication by routing some traps or sound effects to your rear speakers. Give it a try as the cache regen on the 3/10 is fast.

Finally, adhering to POW's design of left and right (stereo) channels is a good thing as they have done the home work for you. Main pipe ranks speak predominately from the left channel and Solo ranks from the right just like you'd find in a typical 2 chamber, 1920s theatre installation. The Gamba speaks from the Left as it is a Main rank but its Celeste counterpart comes from the right (Solo) allowing the undulation to happen in the air.

Enjoy,

Danny B.
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engrssc

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Re: Newbie / How to start with theater organ?

PostWed Jul 24, 2019 10:01 pm

magnaton wrote:
The lunch place you attended was most likely a pizza parlor which helped theatre organs become popular again in the late 60s and 70s. Having tuned percussions and traps spread across the room on the walls which would light up when played gave both a visual and audible effect. This became known in the theatre organ world as "pizzafication" :lol:.


The name was appropriately Pipe Organ Pizza. Walt played there in the early days of his T/O career. He accompanied silent movies on occasion. would also play requests. Very personable as well as a great musician.POP had great pizza but it is no longer. Wal's music inspired my getting my Rodgers 340.
BTW, Marc, highly suggest Paramount's 341 sample set. It is stand alone set where as the the 450 requires having licensed 320 and 332 sample sets. But the 450 is very nice.There other great T/O sample sets, but not nearly as many as there for classical organs. Anyone care to list other T/O sample sets?

Milwaukee (Greenfield) still has an excellent t/o pizza restaurant.

http://www.organpiperpizza.com/the-pipe-organ.html

http://www.organpiperpizza.com/history.html

Rgds,
Ed
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magnaton

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Re: Newbie / How to start with theater organ?

PostThu Jul 25, 2019 9:23 am

engrssc wrote:BTW, Marc, highly suggest Paramount's 341 sample set. It is stand alone set where as the the 450 requires having licensed 320 and 332 sample sets. But the 450 is very nice.There other great T/O sample sets, but not nearly as many as there for classical organs. Anyone care to list other T/O sample sets?

I own the 320 as it was a very nice upgrade for just $99. You get 10 more ranks, additional percussions and traps plus the tuned percussions have an extended compass.

Neil Jensen has a fine TO sample set available as well.
http://www.keymediaproductions.com/index.php?cat=20

For fun check out David Gray's recreation of the famed Sydney Touch arrangement of Bugle Call Rag played on a Mixtuur VPO console using the Paramount 341! Scotland, England, Holland, and America represented here.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18lAawSfsz4

Danny B.
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Re: Newbie / How to start with theater organ?

PostThu Jul 25, 2019 1:20 pm

Welcome to the Tremulated side of pipe organs! There are a ton of good recommendations here.

You can get a MASSIVE amount of music out of the POW 310. It provides all of the basic colors and ranks that are used in modern theatre organ registration. I would suggest holding off expanding to the 341 until you feel like you have a good handle on registering the 310. If you do desire more variety the 320 is a good next step. It provides a second set of Strings, a Brass Trumpet that fills the space between the Tuba and the Post Horn, and a softer Open Diapason which give you more variety on the Accompaniment manual.

I would suggest buying a Fake Book (they're now called Real Books and sold by Hal Leonard). These books cover the "Great American Songbook" and are a great way to help you learn how to build your own interpretations of each tune. They provide the melody line and chord symbols to outline the structure of the tune; the rest is up top your imagination! If you have any questions on how to build a meaningful arrangement out of a fake book, send me a PM.
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1961TC4ME

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Re: Newbie / How to start with theater organ?

PostThu Jul 25, 2019 3:25 pm

magnaton wrote:Hello Marc:

Good to see you posting again. I'll talk about audio routing since no one else has thus far. You may have seen the ParamountOrganWorks PDF guide on their recommendation for a mutlichannel setup. I have followed their recommendation about 90% since I don't have my powered subwoofer mixed down from all channels.
Danny B.


Thanks, Danny. Yeah, when the weather finally gets decent up here (it doesn't last for long :lol: ) in the northern tundra, my focus turns more to old cars and I've got a couple. One is done and my evening and weekend driver, the other is still up on blocks in the shop but coming along nicely, so I generally don't post as often this time of the year. I did manage to slice my right hand index finger wide open last night :x on some rather sharp drill bit shavings, but was able to play this morning without much hindrance (and the help of a few band aids), and got off a few kinda, sorta songs. :lol: I tinkered with the routing this morning as well, and as you suggested sent some ranks to the rear channels with very cool results, I like it! Speaking of which, the more I tinker with the 310, the more I like it.

So far, I've looked at a couple of the videos Frank provided, great videos and well explained info. I think Ed recently pointed me to these videos as well, so thanks to both of you. These videos from Graham Goode provide some very helpful info to get a person started and understanding the how to parts, what does what and why, and so on. I'm going to watch all of them (more than once for sure) and take some notes, especially on the registration.

Jcvtpo,

Yes, I am very impressed with what you can get out of the 310 and it shines all by itself. I am definitely planning on upgrading to at least the 320. Would have never thought my next instrument purchase would be a theater organ, but it's looking pretty likely at this point. I can see where a person can pick up just about any song book with chords, adapt and arrange with a bit of creativity and make it work which is one thing that I think is really neat about the theater organ, you can play just about any song you like. I have older family members that grew up listening to, playing, and are very big fans of Polka music, it would be fun to try some of that as well. All great tips, thanks for all the help so far, I'm excited to continue and see where this all goes!

Marc
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Re: Newbie / How to start with theater organ?

PostThu Jul 25, 2019 3:50 pm

Marc,

Some things to consider before you start throwing money at sample sets:

I have the POW 341 and enjoy the diversity the specification offers. However, I found I had to spend a large amount of time tuning each rank and voicing things to my liking. For example, the Open Diapason is out of tune with respect to the other Diapasons, the Post Horn is REALLY spicy and requires taming in order to better blend with the ensemble, the Brass Trumpet requires evening out between notes. It's time-consuming, but you can really make the 341 shine with a thorough tonal finishing.

The POW series use sampled tremulants. Some prefer this to the HW Tremulant model. The POW 341 sounds really good, but there are times when I wish I could make some adjustments. Do I want a warbling "George Wright" Tibia with a deeper and slower trem which fits a dry studio setting, or do I want a faster and shallower trem reminiscent of organs installed in bigger rooms/theatres?

There are also inconsistencies between notes with the sampled trem. There's a portion of the Orch Oboe where some note barely shake while others vary a little more. Again, some people prefer the realism that comes from subtle note to note variations. Other prefer the "Ed Stout" approach; he is famous for regulating his reeds such that every not responds to the tremulant in the exact same way. Try to find a copy of Simon Gledhill's recoding on the Castro Wurlitzer. This organ, though no longer installed, is widely considered to be the defining example of THE Wurlitzer sound. Ed Stout and Dick Taylor built something truly special and we're fortunate its sound was preserved by Simon's recording.

I have heard good things about the Jensen and MDA samples. With these, you have the luxury of being able to fiddle with the trems to your liking. I also understand they are "dryer" samples which benefit from a room in which the sound can bounce around.

If you want to get an idea of what the Jensen/MDA samples sound like, check out this video of Simon Gledhill playing Ian McLean's "Ruby" VTPO. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTpFZIi ... e=youtu.be For this recording, you can hear a custom selection of Jensen/MDA samples playing through 32 audio channels into a studio environment.
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1961TC4ME

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Re: Newbie / How to start with theater organ?

PostThu Jul 25, 2019 5:16 pm

Jcvtpo,

Thanks for the video, yet another guy that can play waaaay above my grade level! I've been looking over the options and yes, you can quickly jump into the $300 + and then some range in a hurry. Most of these instruments have so much (too much?) to offer that I'd probably never even come close to doing them justice. Even in the Graham Goode videos he's using a rather small 2 manual instrument and getting all I'd ever ask for out of it. Honestly, I am so pleased with the way even the freebie 310 sounds and what it has to offer as is, that if I did anything I'd probably upgrade to the 320 for the paltry sum of $99 and call it good.

Marc
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magnaton

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Re: Newbie / How to start with theater organ?

PostThu Jul 25, 2019 7:05 pm

1961TC4ME wrote:Honestly, I am so pleased with the way even the freebie 310 sounds and what it has to offer as is, that if I did anything I'd probably upgrade to the 320 for the paltry sum of $99 and call it good.

I agree. The Chimes, Gong, and Ride Cymbal in the 3/20 are worth the price alone. I say that because I've played a few Walker theatre organs and these sounds are of the same high quality. The chimes have a pretty long sustain and when played though a multi-channel setup with the HW cycling algorithm, different notes ringing from different speakers, it really fools you into thinking there are real chimes hidden somewhere! Its one of my 'parlor tricks' when demoing my instrument.

1961TC4ME wrote:I have older family members that grew up listening to, playing, and are very big fans of Polka music, it would be fun to try some of that as well.

Here you go.
https://www.greenwoodumcmusic.org/hauptwerk-organ
Old Rosamunde polka on the Neil Jensen Connoisseur TO sample set, 56 audio channels, all natural accoustics!
You have click on "All videos" then Tim Duckworth, 01:12 video length.

Jcvtpo wrote:Try to find a copy of Simon Gledhill's recording on the Castro Wurlitzer. This organ, though no longer installed, is widely considered to be the defining example of THE Wurlitzer sound. Ed Stout and Dick Taylor built something truly special and we're fortunate its sound was preserved by Simon's recording.

Totally agree. I had a chance to play the Castro a couple of times in the early 2000s thanks to the kindness of the Taylor brothers. Its one of those instruments where it's hard to make a bad registration. The Simon Gledhill recording was a landmark as it sold out of its fist pressing! I asked Simon about that a few years later and he said they printed 3,000 copies based on half of the ATOS membership (which was just over 6,000 at that time) would probably buy a CD.

Jcvtpo wrote:I have heard good things about the Jensen and MDA samples. With these, you have the luxury of being able to fiddle with the trems to your liking. I also understand they are "dryer" samples which benefit from a room in which the sound can bounce around.

I disagree. Listen to the POW through headphones. Not sure how much dryer you can possibly get.

Danny B.
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Re: Newbie / How to start with theater organ?

PostSat Jul 27, 2019 9:56 am

Hello Marc and everyone,

A few more suggestions for masterful virtual theatre organ performance:

Pierre Fracalanza (2019 Theatre Organist of the Year)

https://youtu.be/fACKSYlGxlc

Stephen Vincent

https://youtu.be/Ywk0uV2Ag04

Iain McGlinchey (Paramount Organ Works partner)

https://youtu.be/mrMM7jDB6Uk

Simon Gledhill

http://www.paramountorganworks.com/down ... 50b_lo.mp3

I hope you enjoy these great examples of the art of theatre organ.

Joe Hardy
Paramount Organ Works
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Re: Newbie / How to start with theater organ?

PostSat Jul 27, 2019 9:56 pm

Hi Marc,

Some suggestions.

Play the MIDI files that come with the Paramount organ. When you hear an ensemble you like, pause the MIDI and write down which stops are drawn. An easy way to get piston settings.

I highly recommend that you check the American Theatre Organ Society's website (http://www.atos.org). They sell a 4 DVD set Plus a bonus 5th DVD. Each DVD features a famous organist who explains various techniques (ie. the fingered glissando, use of the swell shutters and crescendo pedals, etc.) The bonus 5th DVD is by Walt Strony. He discusses registrations and what registrations should be put on successive pistons. Theatre Organs do not use the stepper.

Several earlier responses recommend Simon Gledhill's recording on the Castro Wurlitzer. I highly concur.
I have an unopened, still in the shrink wrap, copy I'd be willing to gift it to you. Just send me a PM with your address info. and I will send it to you.

Bob
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