SOPP338: I don't think our church will be willing to spend any more money for fixing keys in our digital organ
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 338, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Estella. And he writes:
My dear Vidas,
I have subscribed to your organ blog and it has helped answer some questions about improving my organ skills, thank you.
I have a question about the Allen Chapel organ, which is the one that I use at my church. Last year one of the keys on the Great Manual started clicking or clacking (G). After calling a repairman and 500.00, it was repaired. Just recently, the B flat key has started making the same sound. I don't think our church will be willing to spend any more money. Do you know a quick or inexpensive way that it can be fixed?
Hope you can help,
V: Ausra, you go first.
A: Well, sometimes people think that we are source of...
A: Some sort of yes, magicians, or organ doctors. Yes, we have doctorate degrees but not in organ maintenance.
V: And not in organ building.
V: And especially not in electronic organ building.
A: Sure. For me, I think it’s time since one key had the same problem and now another begins to have the same problem, probably that keyboard is just worn out.
A: And I guess the smartest thing would be to get a new instrument.
A: That’s what I could suggest.
V: Because, even if your congregation would be willing to spend 500.00 for repairing B flat key, maybe in a few months you will need D key, and then the G sharp, and maybe A and so forth.
A: And only repairing one key, and to take 500.00, I don’t know in which…
V: I presume…
A: But then if it’s U.S. dollars, so, I don’t know, Euro’s is, it’s highway robbery I think.
A: So you better watch out what are you calling to help you with your organ.
V: To really get acquainted with the prices, maybe you could check out representative of Allen Digital Organs in your area, maybe in your state, or in your, where ever you live. For example, in Lithuania, we have a person who is representative not only in Lithuania but also in other Baltic countries, I think, and also in Poland, I believe. So, but he’s official. The prices could be checked and compared. So look at the website of your organ company first of all and see if they have affiliates.
A: Yes, true.
V: Another thing, is, as Ausra is suggesting, to really get maybe, start thinking about possibility to raise money for a new instrument, and not necessarily an electronic one, right? Because that’s the thing about electronic organs. They, we all know that electronics last only a few years. Home appliances and T.V. sets and computers get out of order pretty soon after the warranty...
V: Period ends.
A: Sometimes I think that somehow we just calculate it when things will start broken.
V: Mmm-hmm. It’s like maybe after five years, problems will start to be quite prevalent. We know some examples in our city that people are playing electronic instruments and they’re not really happy at all.
A: True. And what I would do if I would be in Estella’s shoes, and would still have to play that organ with that B key not working…
V: B flat, right?
A: B flat, yes, not working, yes, as it should. I would choose my repertoire according. You could do that by choosing wisely the keys which you are performing.
V: To omit B flat.
A: That’s right.
V: And then play A sharp.
A: No. You, don’t make dopes of me.
V: I’m not making fun of you, I’m just making fun of situation.
A: I know but I’m trying to help! And of course use another manual as much as possible. Because I assume it has at least two.
V: Yes, you still have one more at least left.
A: So, yes, play more on that one, and on the Great, you just need to watch certain keys. And not only like B flat major or B flat minor but also you need to avoid like B minor too, or B major.
A: Because they would have this B flat or A sharp, a lot.
V: Oh, that’s a seventh scale degree.
A: True. And of course it’s actually very bad because it’s quite a common key.
V: Mmm-hmm. All flat keys have B flat.
A: I know, and even F major or d minor.
V: Even if you play everything in C major, if you want to modulate…
A: Well play in C major and A minor, that would be the best.
V: But even if you…
A: Oh no, G major, E minor, that would work just well.
V: But what I’m saying is that sometimes music modulates, and you can’t avoid that.
A: Well, play them on another manual.
V: Another manual, yeah, for now. But that’s the thing with these electronic keyboards—nobody can repair them but the official repairman. And they might be really pricey. Maybe that guy was official and maybe that’s his price point—500.00, for...
A: That’s horrible.
V: And maybe you will not find anyone else to help.
A: I think that’s just horrible.
A: I cannot believe it.
V: Mmm-hmm. Neither can I. But if there is nobody else, you see, what can you do. Like in mechanical action organs, you could sometimes figure out by yourself. If there is some sticky key, you could figure out what’s happening. Maybe you could adjust the spring a little bit to make it a little bit stronger and maybe then it will start to work. What the problem is, I don’t know, maybe the string, maybe the valve. Maybe two adjacent keys are touching each other. Maybe you need to clean it up a little bit. Maybe there is a dead mouse or something stuck. Maybe that’s the same thing in that B flat key, but you can’t do this yourself unless you know electronics.
A: And right now I’m thinking about old saying, this is, that ‘the greedy pays twice’.
A: Do you know such a saying, Vidas?
V: You mean that the church, which…
A: They wanted to save money basically…
V: To save money.
A: So we bought electronic organ.
A: And that’s very often the case.
V: Mmm-mmm. I know some of our readers will be disappointed at our conversation now because they love electronic organs. But what you do in the situation?
A: Well, because it’s not too bad electronic keyboard for example, at home, as your practice organ. That’s very appropriate I think. And because only you will use that organ and it doesn’t take much space, so it’s very handy, and actually I think it’s a good choice if you cannot have another kind of instrument, or afford another kind of instrument.
A: But think about churches, about institutions...
A: And, I’m just thinking that to buy an electronic keyboard it’s sort of really chicken vision.
V: Mmm-hmm. Instead of…
A: I’m sorry if I offended anybody, but…
V: No. You didn’t offend Estella. I think, she didn’t buy this instrument, you know. I think somebody else in that congregation decided to invest just a little bit of money, not more, and that’s very, not far-sighted. Because properly maintained pipe organ can play for generations.
A: Yes. For centuries.
V: Yes! As we see around the world, there are organs still working from 16th Century, in Italy for example.
A: That’s right.
V: In Bologna. And it’s still playing.
A: So if you will think in long terms, I think it’s much more adequate to put in a larger amount, but to get a sure thing.
V: Mmm-hmm. So a short term solution of course would be to avoid playing the Great manual with the flat keys. And sometimes you can get around with playing with different octaves, I think.
A: Yes, you could do it.
A: Sometimes that’s a case too.
V: But mostly use the second manual, the Swell manual if it has two manual. And also check if that repairman is official. Maybe there are other legitimate choices to call and maybe they could do the work on the same quality but much cheaper.
V: I’m not sure about that actually, but, 500 dollar for one key seems a lot.
A: It seems, yes...
A: Way too much.
V: Mmm-hmm. Okay. Thank you guys for this question. I don’t know if we’ve been helpful or not but we tried to do our best. But we have some boundaries because we lack electronic engineering background. And plus, Estella didn’t say what the problem was. She didn’t explain. Even to engineer, engineer wouldn’t know how to do. Maybe more details are needed. But anyway, we tried to help. Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice...
A: Miracles happen!
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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