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Is there an Ultimate Instrument?

Using the CODM to create your own organ definitions, exchange CODM organ definitions, ...

Is there an Ultimate Instrument?

Postby Wadih » Thu Dec 15, 2016 3:48 pm

Dear Forum Members,

I would like to wish you all and your loved ones a Happy Festive Season.

When I decided to buy a Hauptwerk license, I thought that St. Anne sample set would be sufficient and that I won't need to buy other sample sets.

Two weeks later, I ended up buying a bunch of sample sets with the thinking that those 5 sample sets should be good enough to play any Pipe Organ music. But I was mistaking for the second time as I ended up buying more sample sets; that of course in addition to downloading a bunch of free sample sets that other Hauptwerk members has shared.

That said, it looks like we are in a search for the Ultimate or Dream instrument if I may say. I am sure though that a good organist can make wonders even with an instrument with limited capabilities relying on two important factors: His playing technic and stops combinations.

Today, instead of buying more sample sets, I am starting to think CODM as this is a tool that the developer has gratefully offered to users so that they can go ahead and build instruments to their liking and needs.

As I am new to this, I have a number of questions that I would like to share with you and I appreciate your replies and recommendations:

- Can all sample sets available in the market be used in CODM. If no, how do we define if a sample set can be used?
- Is there a limitation to the number of sample sets one can use to produce a CODM?
- Is there a limitation to the number of stops in a CODM?
- Will the CODM sound as realistic and vibrant as the sample sets used to build it? To what extend revoicing and retuning is possible?
- I read in a number of posts that Hauptwerk CODM can be time consuming and may be difficult, are there any other softwares or applications that could be used instead?

I appeciate your replies and comments.

Kind regards,
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Re: Is there an Ultimate Instrument?

Postby josq » Thu Dec 15, 2016 5:09 pm

Dear Wadih, I have a bit of experience in building CODM sample set. Your post includes a few "philosophical" considerations as well as a number of practical questions. Let me try to respond to both aspects.

What would be the capabilities of the ultimate instrument? It would include the full range of organ building styles from Renaissance via Baroque and Romanticism to symphonic. It would be German, Dutch, French, Spanish, English, American and more, all at the same time. It would include the grand acoustics of a cathedral and the intimate atmosphere of a small chapel, and everything in between. It would switch effortlessly between equal, meantone and other intonations. Every stop and pipe that ever has been build should be included.

Is such an instrument possible? To a very good approximation, the answer is yes. The unbelievable has become true. Thanks to the Hauptwerk and the sample set developers we all can invest to have such an instrument in our home.

But could all these features be included in a single sample set? Obviously not. In this sense, the ultimate organ is impossible. Yet I deeply recognize your desire - I have been looking for the ultimate instrument for long. In other words, a sample set that could harbor almost any style, any ideas, any sort of registration in a convincing manner.

I think I have found one that comes close enough: the Goerlitz sample set from Sonus Paradisi. As of yet, I have the medium version only but that one is already fantastic. I plan to upgrade to the full version, which includes a very large swell division, and I think this will allow me to play all of the major styles. It is a 6-channel sample set, and the acoustics can be varied from cathedral to dry.

Before, I have done attempts to achieve this goal using the CODM. It was an interesting enterprise, but not fully satisfying. I found it hard to match the intonations of many different instruments in a way that worked for any plausible registrations. It worked only for some subsets of registrations, but perhaps I did not try enough.

Now to your practical questions:
*To be compatible with the CODM, I believe sample sets need to satisfy some requirements regarding e.g. the hierarchy of the folders containing the release samples. I think most sample sets from the major developers are compatible. However, in some cases the sample set license may prohibit the use of the samples in modified form.
*I think any number of sample sets can be used
*The number of stops is limited to 1000 or so, due to the fact that each stop and rank needs a separate ID, and some ID ranges are a bit limited. Nothing too bad, even if you use separate ranks for tremulants and surround, you can go up to 200 stops or more.
*In principle, the CODM will sound as realistic as the source samples, provided proper voicing. However, the wind model options in the CODM appear to me a bit limited and are a bit hard to figure out, I think many sample sets have better and more vibrant wind models. A lot of voicing can be defined in the CODM, while the standard Hauptwerk voicing menu remains available
*Developing a CODM typically took me tens of hours. So you really should set apart quite a number of evenings. There is a software called Myco that simplifies CODM development, but I think at the cost of some flexibility. However, I only have looked superficiously into Myco
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Re: Is there an Ultimate Instrument?

Postby adrianw » Thu Dec 15, 2016 7:22 pm

Can all sample sets available in the market be used in CODM. If no, how do we define if a sample set can be used?

No. Some are precluded by licence - I believe (although I do not have any personal experience with them) the OrganArtMedia sets, for example, preclude any modification or development. Others do not comply with the CODM restrictions and naming conventions, deliberately or by oversight.

You can always ask the developer, and can trust the answer "No" but be wary of the answer "Yes". Experience suggests that many sets that superficially look or were intended to be customisable are difficult or impossible to use. I have found mixture stops are particular headache - the CODM requires information about their pitching that can sometimes only be guessed at and often requires a mixture stop to be broken by range into multiple ranks. Demo sets can be very useful (even if they are only a few ranks or of limited compass) in discovering CODM compatibility problems without too much expense.

Is there a limitation to the number of sample sets one can use to produce a CODM?

I expect so, but in theory this is probably very large.

In practice, the answer is often exactly one. The differences in tuning, acoustics and sample levels make convincing custom composite organs combining sets from more than one instrument much more difficult than producing extended organs drawing all the samples from one instrument, even if these instruments have all been sampled by the same producer.

Producing a high-quality composite organ by combining samples from different sample set producers, all of which are likely to have been recorded with different equipment, processed by different noise-reduction and looping algorithms and follow different technical conventions, will tend to be very challenging indeed. Personally, I have yet to hear any convincing example.

Is there a limitation to the number of stops in a CODM?

Yes. Several different limitations depending on what you want to do with it, actually. For example the standards graphics limits to 38 stops per division. But it is unlikely to be the showstopper.

Will the CODM sound as realistic and vibrant as the sample sets used to build it? To what extend revoicing and retuning is possible?

No. Or at least, very probably not. The "secret sauce" of many sample sets (and all the best ones!) is in the ODF which contains a great deal of note-by-note tuning and voicing information as well as overall "EQ" type filter settings and models for tremulants and enclosures and expression pedals (amongst many other things), even before the complexities of the wind model (which can be very complex indeed). Recent sets also provide 4 or 6 channel surround samples with their own parameters. None of this information is easy to extract from the ODF or easy to include in the custom organ description, and since CODM does not offer any note-by-note parameters much of it is actually impossible to reproduce accurately.

In theory it could be added afterwards but one would require either (a) special software to extract it from the original ODF (only possible if it is not encrypted, of course) and analyse it which is not, as far as I know, generally available; or (b) a pair of exceptionally discerning ears and the advanced voicing tools to try to do it yourself. Unless you are a professional programmer or professional voicer, and have a great deal of time, taking either route will likely lead to disappointment.

I read in a number of posts that Hauptwerk CODM can be time consuming and may be difficult, are there any other softwares or applications that could be used instead?

They are not wrong. Of course, most worthwhile things, (including learning to play the organ), are both time consuming and difficult.

I know that Myco has been successfully used, for example by Augustine Virtual Organs. And for sure Augustine has produced some very impressive results. I suspect it may have taken him hundreds (or more likely thousands) of hours of work to do so.

Is there an Ultimate Instrument?

No. Of course not. But exploring CODM can be an interesting and fun way to discover that. Just be prepared to spend a lot of time doing so.

- Adrian.
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Re: Is there an Ultimate Instrument?

Postby mdyde » Fri Dec 16, 2016 7:19 am

Hello Wadih,

To add to others' replies:

- I'd recommend having a look at the CODM's user guide (on the Help menu in Hauptwerk), which should cover most of the technical aspects in depth.

- Some maximum numbers for CODM organs:
* Stops per virtual division: 99
* Virtual divisions: 6 main divisions allowing divisional combinations, tremulants, swell boxes and wind supply model (plus another 10 without those things).
* Virtual ranks: 999999
* Referenced sample set packages: 999999

- Composite organs with hundreds of ranks are likely to need very large amounts of RAM, CPU power, and time to load.

- As Adrian mentioned, per-pipe voicing stored in a sample set's original organ definition (ODF) can't currently be transferred automatically to a CODM ODF you might create, but you could in principle replicate it via the user voicing controls. In practice, if you were to try to combine ranks from multiple sample sets then you would almost certainly need to do quite extensive re-voicing to try to achieve anything coherent anyway, due to the sample sets' different styles, acoustics and voicings.

- In general, the CODM is meant to provide a 'relatively' quick and easy means (for technically-inclined users who don't mind some programming in XML) that's sufficiently flexible to create ODFs that can cater for the features and specifications required to model most organs, but it isn't designed to cater for every conceivable feature or historical organ quirk (in order to keep it reasonably understandable and usable).
Best regards,

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Re: Is there an Ultimate Instrument?

Postby Erzahler » Sat Dec 17, 2016 9:59 pm

I don't know if you need a mega-organ with authentic stops to cover every period of music and organ building - rather an organ that approximates the overall sound that satisfies you when you are playing a particular piece. Salisbury come close to that I reckon.
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