Vidas: Hello and welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast!
Ausra: This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better organist.
Vidas: We’re your hosts Vidas Pinkevicius...
Ausra: ...and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene.
Vidas: We have over 25 years of experience of playing the organ
Ausra: ...and we’ve been teaching thousands of organists online from 89 countries since 2011.
Vidas: So now let’s jump in and get started with the podcast for today.
Ausra: We hope you’ll enjoy it!
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas,
Ausra: And Ausra,
Vidas: Let’s start episode 681 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Dimi, and he writes about his dreams and the challenges that he is facing. So:
“1. I dream to play at my future organ romantic and baroque pieces, but not only that.
2. I plan to buy a used electronic organ (Ahlborn DS series, 2 manual+pedal) and I haven't found the owner manual and the service manual online, I looked on some forums and sent emails to Ahlborn website, but so far no answer.
The price is €250.
I can (barely) afford it, it is about 39% of my total net income, despite that I am optimistic.
I will use my Edirol FA-66 interface and GrandOrgue to test it.”
Vidas: Do you know what Dimi is talking about, Ausra?
Ausra: About which part?
Vidas: About the organ that he is planning to buy, the electronic..
Ausra: No, I have no idea. Maybe you have?
Vidas: Ahlborn is a manufacturer of electronic organs which I have heard before, but I don’t know the specific series that he is talking about.
Ausra: I just know one thing; that I would never ever buy an instrument if I did not have directions of how it works.
Ausra: And if he can’t find it, so then why buy such an instrument?
Vidas: Yeah, because finding a used organ is cheaper. Right? But then if you buy a cheaper organ, you might not have directions, owner’s manual, right?
Ausra: Well, you know, in Lithuania, we use such a saying that cheap meat is for dogs, only. Or that sort of the greedy pays twice, and usually that’s the truth. Sometimes it’s better to save your money and to get a better thing that to get a cheap and bad one. I’m not saying that this particular one would be a bad thing, but it’s sort of makes me suspicious why he cannot find the directions.
Vidas: Yes, and why the price is 250€ only for a two-manuals and pedals instrument.
Ausra: There might be something really wrong with it.
Vidas: Uh huh! 250€ is like only… you could buy cheap plastic keyboards, two of them, for that price, but no more. And if this organ should be good with pedals, and of course the biggest expense would be pedals, then the price is kind of strange.
Ausra: Well, my advice would be just make sure if you are getting it that you could be refunded if something would be very wrong with that instrument.
Vidas: Yeah, and maybe, he doesn’t say, but maybe the owner of that instrument will sell it with the manual, with the owner’s manual and service manual, but he cannot see it before buying it. You know? That’s maybe the case. Could be. I don’t think it’s a stolen instrument, like, most people…
Ausra: Maybe not! It’s not a car you know! Not a fancy car.
Vidas: Yes. It would be strange to steal a two-manual and pedal organ and sell it.
Ausra: I never thought about it. It’s really funny.
Vidas: So yeah, probably Dimi is looking for that manual to familiarize himself with this instrument ahead of time. Right?
Ausra: Yes, with the possibilities of it.
Vidas: Maybe the Website that is selling this used organ is not complete in the description and specification of that instrument and he wants to know more. Right? Could be.
Ausra: Could be.
Vidas: That’s the tricky thing with used organs.
Ausra: But as I said before, I would rather save more money and buy a better thing if he’s not sure. But maybe it will work just fine. Who knows?
Vidas: He writes he can barely afford it because it’s 39% of his total net income. So that’s the sign that this purchase is a little bit too much for him either way.
Ausra: Yes, could be.
Vidas: What I would do in his situation, I would buy one keyboard only; plastic keyboard for starters, up to 100€ and then gradually, when I have more money—save more money—I’d add the second manual, and then later I’d add the pedalboard, too. Sort of a custom built organ, not a complete solution like he’s talking about, because the price is important in this case for him. If it were not important, if I had a lot of money to spare, then it would be a different question. Right?
Ausra: Yes, because the price of 250€ for a two-manual and pedals instrument is sort of very unrealistic even for the used one.
Vidas: Yes, which means that you might end up with a complete instrument that is not good. Right?
Vidas: In reality, it would seem like a great deal, 250€, but who can sell it for 250€ if it’s good. Right?
Vidas: If it’s a used organ…
Ausra: Unless the owner is dead, and the relatives do not have a use for it, then I could understand such a price.
Vidas: Ah yeah.
Ausra: That it’s just a big thing that you want to get rid of—that it takes your space and you want to get rid of it. That would be a possibility.
Vidas: Mhmm, lots of moving parts here in this question I don’t know how to answer. But the dream is very realistic. In the future, he wants to play Romantic and Baroque pieces. Yeah.
Vidas: Nice. But not only that, he wants to expand his repertoire as well. Cool!
Ausra: Yes, I think that having an instrument of his own will help him to achieve his dream.
Vidas: Yeah. So the thing that is important to figure out right now is if this electronic organ will be a good fit for him…
Vidas: ...if it’s a good instrument.
Ausra: Actually, the most, I think, reasonable thing would be… I don’t know how far he lives from that instrument from where he’s buying it… would be actually to go and to play it—to try it out and then to see if it works and then to buy it. But if it’s very far away, maybe it’s too expensive to travel and to try it out.
Vidas: A lot of times, people buy used instruments from eBay, you know? And the eBay seller could be in another country or even on another continent. That’s the tricky part.
Ausra: Yes. But in that case, maybe the shipping would be more expensive than the instrument itself.
Vidas: Exactly. A two-manual and pedal instrument, if the price is 250€, but it’s a heavy instrument, definitely. Right? A full size instrument. So probably… let me check… Ahlborn… if it’s full size… Ahlborn DS. Okay, let me s… Oh yeah, looks like a complete instrument with pedals, yeah, two manuals, it’s definitely a heavy instrument, so the shipping would be very expensive, and he would pay probably that much for shipping alone.
Ausra: And he needs to find out, too, what about the shipping price...delivery price.
Vidas: Depending on the location, of course.
Vidas: Okay guys, I don’t know if it’s useful, but you see how many questions you have to figure out for yourself before buying this thing. My personal recommendation would be to start small, not with an instrument that you would be stuck with for life, like a complete two-manual and pedal instrument which you can barely afford. That’s the tricky part. If the price is important for you, my solution would be to customize it and build it for yourself one manual at a time. Right? Like we did at the beginning of our Hauptwerk journey.
Vidas: Did you like what you saw arriving at our home?
Ausra: No, I did not.
Vidas: Boxes and boxes and boxes…
Ausra: I wouldn’t want to experience it again. Such a mess.
Vidas: Yeah. If you guys are curious about our Hauptwerk setup, you can go to our Website and there is a page called “Tools” (https://organduo.lt/tools) and you will find the Hauptwerk setup that we use and the many modifications of it we changed over the years, too, from a simple solution to a more advanced solution, then we decided to have a portable Hauptwerk setup, then ultra portable which would fit in a backpack. You will see everything there. Okay guys, this was Vidas,
Ausra: And Ausra!
Vidas: Please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. And remember; when you practice,
Ausra: Miracles happen!
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Although much of classical organ music requires the full length of pedal board, not every organist have access to this kind of instrument, either pipe organ or electronic organ. Many people have Spinet electronic organs at home and they have to solve the pedal playing problem because Spinet organ pedal board have only 13 keys (C-c). For organists who practice on various kinds of electronic organs, such as Spinet, adjusting to the short pedal board is a very important question. In this article, I will give you 2 solutions for practicing classical organ music on the Spinet electronic organ with the short pedal board.
In general, it depends on what kind of music you are working on. There is plenty of organ music which was written for manuals only. Obviously, to play such music on the Spinet organ is no problem at all. In addition, a significant part of early organ repertoire was composed with a short pedal board in mind.
For example, Italian organs for many centuries didn't have a full pedal board so anything Italian would work fine on a Spinet organ. The question remains what to do with the classical organ music, like the music of Bach which often requires 27 note pedal board (sometimes even 30)
In general, for music which requires the full compass of pedal board you have only 2 options:
1) To arrange the pedal part so that it will fit the short compass of the Spinet. For example, notes in the pedal part above tenor c would have to be played one octave lower. Sometimes an entire excerpt might be played one octave lower.
If you have to play notes from c sharp up to f in the treble octave, you can lower them by two octaves. In doing so, you may also have to adjust the pedaling. For example, this could mean that using the right foot on the Spinet organ might be complicated so the majority of notes should be played by the left foot.
2) To play as written, imagine the additional pedals, and press the approximate spot on the floor. It is also possible to add a wooden board on the floor of approximate the same height as the Spinet pedals so that you will have the same feeling while playing with your feet. In addition, you can draw the missing pedals on this board so that you will know exactly where to play.
If you want to play classical organ music on the Spinet electronic organ, use the above tips for pedal playing. It is also a good idea from time to time to get access to the real pipe organ. Occasional practice on a full length pedal board will allow you to have the correct feeling for your feet.
By the way, do you want to learn to play the King of Instruments - the pipe organ? If so, download my FREE video guide: "How to Master Any Organ
Composition" in which I will show you my EXACT steps, techniques, and methods that I use to practice, learn and master any piece of organ music.
Some organists have electronic organs with one octave pedal board at home which they use for practice. While this idea is very practical, such organists have to face several difficulties with this kind of instrument. In this article, I will discuss what problems arise when organist has an electronic organ for practice purpose and how these difficulties might be overcome.
One octave pedal board may be the cause of the back pain, if used incorrectly. It might arise from playing with the right foot in the bottom of the pedal board of such organ. This kind of instrument is mean to be played with the left foot most of the time. And of course not that kind of music with the independent pedal part like most of classical polyphonic organ music. Incidentally, the right foot usually is busy operating the swell pedal and pressing the toe studs where available.
Originally, the electronic organs with the short pedal board were intended either for playing classical transcriptions from popular works or the arrangements of tunes from pop music. In both cases, the texture is rather homophonic with the melody in one hand (usually in the right) and chordal accompaniment in another.
The pedal part in such music is mostly the bass voice which only supports the chords and serves as harmonic foundation. Very seldom it is required to play an independent melodic line in the pedal part of such arrangements. Therefore, one can easily use only the pitches of the available one octave to play the harmonic foundation with or without some rhythmical syncopation.
Contrary to such arrangements, in classical organ music the pedal part is very often independent. The organist is required to use the entire compass of the two-octave pedal board, often playing the higher notes up to treble F. Naturally, performance of most of organ music on electronic organs with one octave pedal board is quite challenging.
The solution for this problem is rather simple. The organist could try to extend the short pedal board by attaching a wooden board with similar dimensions as the pedal board. One can go even further and draw the rest of the notes on this wooden board. This way it is possible to pretend and imagine the full pedal board very easily (and avoid dangerous tension in the back).
Some organists try to compensate the short compass of the pedal board by lowering the pedal part in various places of the music score. This is a possible solution to the problem but is rather inconvenient and might cause some frustration. Instead, it is probably better to extend the pedals with a wooden board.
If you will continue playing pedals on your electronic organ, it is best if you avoid playing with the right foot on the extreme left side of the pedal board while practicing. This may mean adjusting the pedaling when necessary. In addition, use the idea of extending your pedals. Otherwise, you could try to get some practice time in churches that have organs with pedals of at least two octaves in compass in your area.
By the way, do you want to learn to play the King of Instruments - the pipe organ? If so, download my FREE video guide: "How to Master Any Organ Composition" in which I will show you my EXACT steps, techniques, and methods that I use to practice, learn and master any piece of organ music.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
Our Hauptwerk Setup: