I’ve been working on an interesting musical construction project I want to tell you about. But first, I want to take you on a detour to give you some background.
When I was still in school, I had a Yamaha Electone organ, one of the home organs that were popular in the 1970s. Here’s a picture from the ad booklet. Check out those sideburns! Does this picture scream 70s or what?
That model is bigger than what you’d normally think of as a “home” model. I didn’t start out with that one though.
It all started with a little air-driven couple-octave reedy toy organ that was not so much musical as LOUD. Like a bad accordion hooked up to an air pump. Not cool.
One Christmas, my father got my mother a fancy (by comparison) Magnus organ with buttons for six of the most popular major and minor chords. Same principle as the first one, but much more sophisticated (wow! volume control!).
I played it more than my mother did, and soon set up the LOUD keyboard next to the Magnus, and played them both at the same time. It was time for a model with two keyboards.
So, I graduated to a Yamaha with two short keyboards and an octave of pedals. Pretty nifty. There was one problem.
I started running out of keys.
Oddly enough, one of my children ran into the same problem with an electric keyboard I had, which prompted me to buy the Piano That Does 11.
Loudness does seem to be a theme here, doesn’t it?
So, a short time later, my parents traded in the little Yamaha for the big Electone. But here was the deal: I could have the Electone, but there would be no lessons.
I worked my way through the home course that was provided, and bumbled my way into reading music and chords and pedaling. It was wonderful. It was loud (yeah, I know…). If I played a certain frequency loud enough, the metal Venetian blinds would rattle. Not optimal concert conditions. See photo for Venetian blinds.
When I moved away, the Electone waited for me at home. My mother polished it every week.
I had planned to get a truck and move it to my current residence. One day, I switched it on and gave it a whirl (literally—it has a spinning Leslie speaker). Suddenly, no sound. An internal fuse had failed. Once I found out which one to replace (with the help of a technician), I would pop one in whenever this occurred.
Unfortunately, it started occurring regularly. I couldn’t play for more than a few minutes before it died. Clearly, there were bigger problems.
I was torn. I hated to let it go. It would probably cost too much to fix (if I could find someone to fix it, if it was fixable). It would cost to move it to my house, and then, how long would it last?
How could I replace it? I have two keyboards (aside from the Piano That Does 11) at my home. But pedalboards are expensive.
So I started researching.
I found webpages showing ways to convert old pedalboards so they can be used with modern technology. Keyboard output can be integrated as well. There is software called Hauptwerk that has samples of the great organs of the cathedrals of the world that you can use as the voices of your keyboards and pedals. So I could play one of the great Cavaillé-Coll organs in my own home! And there are no Venetian blinds to rattle!
Which brings me to my construction project.
I brought the pedalboard and bench to my house. The pedalboard has not been converted yet, but it’s a start. I’ve already set up my keyboards.
I slid onto the bench, powered up both keyboards, selected voices, balanced the volumes (not too loud), and…magic. It’s wonderful, and surprising vestiges of what I once played remain in my memory. But more importantly, my musical world is much larger than it was back then, and I think I see some Bach organ works in my future.
Hmmmm, I wonder if that spinning speaker can be rewired….