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MIDI controller that feels like organ
#2998026 07/02/20 08:21 PM
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gvfarns Offline OP
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It looks like I may be called upon to accompany the congregation at my church on the organ. I have played a lot of piano in my time but never the organ. I have organ voices on my digital pianos, but they have fully weighted actions and are not very good representations of the organ I will be on, so I'm looking to construct a little organ station at home for so I can practice with some organ VSTs.

The organ I will be using is a two-manual Allen Master Design Series. It has diving board keys.

I'll worry about the pedals later, but I'd like to buy two little keyboards to get started. I tested the organ and to me it felt like a super cheap midi keyboard, not that I have much experience with them. I'm thinking a completely unweighted keyboard is what I want, not a semi-weighted one, right?

Anyone have experience with 61-key controllers or keyboards that feel pretty similar to an Allen organ? Obviously, it would need to be MIDI capable. Any advice or experience would be appreciated.

Models that have caught my eye already:
  • Nektar GX 61
  • M-Audio Keystation 61 (semi-weighted)
  • Costzon 61-key portable digital piano
  • Korg microKEY 61-key
  • Miditech i2-61


I could pay more, of course, but it doesn't seem like what I'm going for is very expensive--I just want unweighted keys and nothing else, the fewer features and smaller form factor the better. Happy to have any guidance.

Last edited by gvfarns; 07/02/20 08:23 PM.
Re: MIDI controller that feels like organ
gvfarns #2998041 07/02/20 08:54 PM
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Well, look who's back! It's been a long, long time! Much too long. Welcome back. smile

Sorry, but I have no advice to offer concerning MIDI organ-feel controllers.

I sent you a PM. Have a look.

Re: MIDI controller that feels like organ
gvfarns #2998045 07/02/20 09:05 PM
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Originally Posted by gvfarns
I'm thinking a completely unweighted keyboard is what I want, not a semi-weighted one, right?
It doesn't really make much difference. There are good feeling and crappy feeling boards of each kind. Unfortunately, you'll probably have a hard time finding someone who knows which cheap controllers feel more like an Allen organ. If there are any music stores actually open near you, getting your hands on a few of them would be best. But an obvious issue from your list is that the Korg has mini-keys, you don't want that if it's to rehearse for something you will play on full sized keys. Other than that, even without playing the Allen, I would say avoid any of the cheap controllers that get much stiffer toward the backs of the keys than they are at the fronts, or that are heavily sprung and push back against your fingers, because I'd be surprised if any "real" organ had those characteristics. Also, I'd be wary of the ones that have sharp squared off edges on the sides of the keys (or fronts, even though the Allen is waterfall) ... some companies do that to make the keys seem more piano-like, but that actually interferes with some organ technique.

Re: MIDI controller that feels like organ
gvfarns #2998075 07/02/20 11:01 PM
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Thanks anotherscott and MacMacMac. Good to see the regulars are still around!

Yeah, the organ world and the cheapo-bleepo controller world don't seem to intersect much (and the former is pretty small anyway). I'd love to go try out some controllers but a lot of those kinds of stores are closed. Probably I'll pick one up on amazon and just return it if it doesn't feel right.

It's actually kind of odd that I've played so many digitals over the years and never played a semi-weighted keyboard. I know I've played synths at some point, but not enough to be real familiar.

The good thing is that the organ didn't feel very special at all. As long as the keys are super lightweight, they should be good enough for this purpose. I don't even need MIDI velocity information.

There are a couple of videos of folks doing basically what I want to do. The high price of organs and low price of cheap keyboards and computers makes building your own organ quite appealing, apparently.

This one uses the M-Audio



And this one uses the Nektar



Though in a follow-up video he "upgrades" to some kind of fatar action. As far as I can tell he doesn't explain why (I don't speak German).

This one also seems to be using an M-Audio of some kind, though I can't see the model


Last edited by gvfarns; 07/02/20 11:03 PM.
Re: MIDI controller that feels like organ
gvfarns #2998076 07/02/20 11:14 PM
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One more that uses casio CPS101 keyboards. I don't know how they compare with others



Re: MIDI controller that feels like organ
gvfarns #2998142 07/03/20 08:08 AM
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You might get better responses asking on The Organ Forum.


Novus NV10
Re: MIDI controller that feels like organ
gvfarns #2998258 07/03/20 01:14 PM
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Quote
. . . . I tested the organ and to me it felt like a super cheap midi keyboard, not that I have much experience with them. I'm thinking a completely unweighted keyboard is what I want, not a semi-weighted one, right?

Yes. There's something else to watch for (if you're looking for a "real organ experience"):

. . . On many (most? all?) organs,

. . . . the keys trigger _near the top of their motion_.

Whereas, on a touch-sensitive synth action, they trigger at (or near) the bottom. That lets the circuitry compute MIDI velocity.

Just one more thing to be aware of, when testing. And a possible reason for picking a _really cheap_ synth-action keyboard, without touch sensitivity.


. Charles
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PX-350 / microKorg XL+ / Pianoteq / Lounge Lizard / EV ZXA1 speaker
Re: MIDI controller that feels like organ
Charles Cohen #2998265 07/03/20 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
Yes. There's something else to watch for (if you're looking for a "real organ experience"):

. . . On many (most? all?) organs,

. . . . the keys trigger _near the top of their motion_.

Whereas, on a touch-sensitive synth action, they trigger at (or near) the bottom.

Dang. I was actually thinking the fact that organ keys are slightly narrower might be the biggest issue, but that sounds like a pretty important one. I need to go back to the organ and try it to see at what point it triggers.

Maybe I should buy an actual organ. Going to have to persuade my wife to clear out some space in my living room.

Re: MIDI controller that feels like organ
gvfarns #2998359 07/03/20 04:58 PM
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This probably is not cheap, but have you seen the Johannus ONE? It's basically a digital pipe organ in the form factor of a stage piano, and while it does have some built-in sounds (which sound amazing on YouTube), it also has MIDI in and out, according to the spec sheet on the website.

https://www.johannus.com/en/collection/home-organs/one/one

Being made by a company which has much experience in digital pipe organs, I would expect the action to be very much like what you're looking for.

Re: MIDI controller that feels like organ
gvfarns #2998379 07/03/20 05:58 PM
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The Johannus is basically Dexibell hardware with sounds from Johannus.

(That specific model is.)

So it has an "organ action" from Fatar.

Re: MIDI controller that feels like organ
Charles Cohen #2998380 07/03/20 06:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
Quote
. . . . I tested the organ and to me it felt like a super cheap midi keyboard, not that I have much experience with them. I'm thinking a completely unweighted keyboard is what I want, not a semi-weighted one, right?

Yes. There's something else to watch for (if you're looking for a "real organ experience"):

. . . On many (most? all?) organs,

. . . . the keys trigger _near the top of their motion_.

Whereas, on a touch-sensitive synth action, they trigger at (or near) the bottom. That lets the circuitry compute MIDI velocity.

Just one more thing to be aware of, when testing. And a possible reason for picking a _really cheap_ synth-action keyboard, without touch sensitivity.

A pipe organ with tracker (mechanical) action does not have a single on/off switch release point but an interval during which the valve moves from fully closed to fully open, creating an opportunity for musical articulation.

A given electric organ action may simulate this to varying extents, so the only way to establish the trigger point on the action in question is to play it or read its documentation.

Also a tracker action initially has more resistance when pressing the key and the the resistance lightens past a certain point. Some electric pipe organ actions simulate this touch feel while still having a single point at which the note turns on.

Among mainstream keyboard vendors, the Fatar actions in Nord and many Fatar Studiologic midi controllers work well as organ actions as does the Roland semi-weighted synth action found in the Jupiter-50 and other keyboards. That Roland action was actually not terribly unlike an Aeolian-Skinner electro-pneumatic pipe organ I once played a fair bit.

I would probably look for a used Fatar Studiologic midi controller with semi-weighted action and turn off after-touch if it has it.


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