Progress, and a detour

Posted 16 March 2011 by

Some time has passed, now, and much progress has been made on the “virtual” organ building project. The gear has all arrived and the separate elements have been assembled. The biggest among these was the putting together of the organ bench. It arrived in a flat box and required driving wood screws in various places to assemble the bench. All went well, almost. A banquet table is serving in place of the back-ordered console. Leg extensions on the table quite easily raised it to the proper height. I had a few moments of panic when the pedalboard seemed to be too wide to fit between the table legs. Luckily, with a bit of maneuvering and jockying, the pedalboard barely fit between the table legs, with very little room to spare.

So, now I have the table, the bench, and the pedalboard in place. The three keyboards sit on top of the table, and all the measurements work out just fine. The distances between pedalboard, table top and keyboards are just fine. Sitting at the assembled gear feels quite natural and are very, very close to Americal Guild of Organists specifications.

The keyboards came as separate units. The manufacturer, Classic Midi Works,  provided brackets that fit along side the keyboards providing the ability to properly stack each keyboard on top of the other at the correct spacing and tilt, so once again, the keyboard stack looks and feels right to sit at and play. All is well.

Construction of the keyboards is very sturdy and the feel of the keys are wonderful.  The travel of the keys and the touch are faultless. These keyboards have “tracker” action, and are very pleasant to play. The brackets are solid and steady. Nothing feels cheap. It will be a pleasure to play. The pedalboards’s keys are not quite as sturdy as a main-stream organ builder would construct, though I am not disappointed. The manufacturer warns that their pedalboards are “for practice, not professional use”. But they will be fine.

The wood construction feels very solid. The finish has a rich walnut sheen and is quite beautiful.

One disappointment: the bench has a piece that runs across from side to side, under the seat and just above the back of the pedals for a foot rest. I discovered the hard way that it is made of particle board instead of solid wood. In the assembly process, I managed to break that piece on one end. That’s how I discovered it was not solid wood. Luckily, I was able to glue and clamp it back together. It seems to be OK. It raised questions in my mind about the wood used in the rest of the instrument. I had hoped for better materials. We will see if, over time, it endures as it should.

Swell shoes above the pedal board attached easily to the back structure of the pedalboard, and again, they are placed well and seem to be just fine. I worry a bit about the wood construction. A lot of pressure can be applied to the swell shoes, and I am hoping that the wood portion of the pedalboard where they are attached is strong enough to handle lots of use. Again, over time we will see.

The electronics of the project are also assembled and in place. That includes the computer, the touch-screen monitors, the cabling between the keyboards, the computer, and the firewire audio box. I am using my existing home stereo system to amplify the sound. I anticipate this will be sufficient for my little basement room, where it all will hang out.

Connecting all these things together was cause for careful scrutiny of the fairly well organized and mostly clear owner’s manual. A bit of head scratching was required, and in a few instances, the printed material did not reflect recent model upgrades and connection cables provided. However, I was able to figure things out.

Each piece of the console is considered a separate device in the hooking up and configuring of the electronics. There are wires running back and forth and between the individual pieces of the console. Lots of wires. There are the midi elements, the power supply elements, and control elements that all have separate contacts and cables. I stood on my head for a couple hours getting all the wiring correct. At least, at this stage, I am assuming it is all correct. I have yet to fire it all up and run the device drivers and software. It is all pretty complicated.

A detour–rather a big one–has kept me from throwing the switch and beginning the software installation. The computer I bought specifically for this project had a flaw. I needed to have the latest and greatest computer, with significant power and speed. It is based on a mother board that had a manufacturing flaw. The Intel chipset on the motherboard, which communicates between the CPU and the rest of the computer, had bad chips. It was the Intel, series 6–Sandy Bridge–circuitry that had to be recalled. However, there was a month-long wait before the corrected boards were available. I just today (3/16/11) retrieved my computer from the shop with the new mother board installed. Cudos to the MicroCenter of Overland Park that handled the replacement so graciously and with speed.

So, now that is behind me, and I can begin the process of loading software and device drivers and start the configuration process. This has me more worried than anything else. Here, I jump into an area way outside my comfort zone. I have never worked with MIDI. But that is next. So, here we go. More later…

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