Wurlitzer (Theater) Organ sounds for Montage/MODX

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Kurzweil
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Wurlitzer (Theater) Organ sounds for Montage/MODX

Unread post by Kurzweil » Tue May 21, 2019 5:55 pm

For you Brits, change the title (in your mind) to "Compton (Cinema) Organ sounds . . . . "

Having sold my Yamaha S-90 (with DX plug-in board) I need to decide on its replacement. I am now shifting my interest from the MODX to the actual Montage. This is due to the discouraging talk regarding noisy keys and conflicts regarding the balanced Montage piano samples being played from the graded action of the MODX-8. I admit up front that I may never notice either issue; I am not a keen ear'd person - but why buy after being warned? I hate the extra weight (and cost) of Montage but have found a couple in the $2500 to $2800 range used, which is not prohibitive compared to the cost of buying the MODX-8 new ($1900 at present in the USA). And I like all of the extra LED position indicators plus the hard buttons. Also I can then drill the case for adding a music rack (Yamaha is one of the few synth manufacturers that believes their typical musician to be illiterate), without risking the warranty. Kurzweil charges over a hundred bucks for an add-on "music desk" and apparently manages to sell them on occasion.

My question is regarding sound libraries and will likely apply to either keyboard since the software is fairly the same. I happen to be a theater organist and have heard some decent theater organ sound packages on the Tyros and see them offered for the high-end PSR models, 7xx and 9xx series. I am wondering if these registrations are adaptable or available? If the organ sound fonts are resident in the keyboard, they probably are NOT. The notion of loading actual sounds into a keyboard is new to me, as they require large amounts of memory and are real sound samples, previously the foray of the likes of Akia and Korg. Registrations have always been tiny files of numbers that merely manipulate the sounds that reside within the ROM banks that are factory loaded on the machine, one time only - during manufacture. Or they tell the voltage generators how to behave on an analog synth. Now we have new half gig piano samples available for a song, as it were, and readily "loadable".

A theater organ works a lot like a Hammond, I believe, in that those nine drawbars pick tones off of a single sound font, namely the 80 to 90 dirty sine wave samples of the Hammond tone wheels. So basically, playing an octave with the 8' and 4' drawbar (or pipe organ tab) pulled would play THREE notes, not four. That is because, like the Hammond, a theater organ is unified. That means that one set of pipes (or drawbars) produces notes at many pitches separated by octaves and intervals. Notes asked for by multiple stops (or drawbars) only sound once. Hence the middle of those three notes is sounded only once for BOTH drawbars. A rank of tibia pipes producing five stops will have 108 pipes for use on a 61 note manual. Twelve extra low notes for the 16' and three extra high octaves (48 notes) for the 4', 2', and 1' "extensions". That tone (stop) would then be available at 16, 8, 4, 2, and 1 foot pitches. 8' is called the unison pitch and gets its name from the length of the pipe for the lowest pitch - namely eight feet. The odd footages, called partials (1 3/5, 2 2/3, 1 1/3) are also available, very similar to those on the Hammond but adds no additional pipes because they are contained within the C -2 to C 8 pitches. By contrast, those same quoted footages (five stops) would require over 300 pipes on a classical organ, closer to 500 with three partials added. This compromise was done for reasons of economy (the theater organ was a cost-saving invention to produce live silent movie soundtracks using a single musician to replace an orchestra) but, just like how endearing all of the Hammond, Rhodes, DX-7 tine piano, Wurlitzer EP faults have become today, the limitations of unification have also become a characteristic part of that "sound". Listen to how sweet an early Korg CX-3's perfect sine waves were and note how unlike the Hammond they sounded. No characteristic "bite" or growl. Sounded more like a Lowrey. Hammonds had "flawed" sine waves and thank God, or Laurens, for 'em.

An accurate theater organ sound requires the combination of numerous stops, coming from four to eight distinct ranks of pipes. This is for a minimum representation, not the largest that were typically in the high teens on rank count. Montage and MODX's ability to combine eight programs of up to eight parts each would appear to make this possible. And producing the sound from scratch might be possible if suitable samples are already present within. The basic sounds are tibia, theater string, theater trumpet, vox humana.

One of the most recognizable characteristics of a good theater organ (or a Hammond) is that intense tremulant, which like the Leslie, is a combination of vibrato and tremolo, moving in sync. It's made by varying the wind pressure which affects both volume and pitch of the pipes. The tremulants are typically in sync for all of a particular tone family but each windchest has its own generator. Hence even a very small organ will have three or four tremulants that do not even attempt to play nicely with each other. Again, part of the characteristic sound. Makes it very "busy", not totally unlike simultaneously combining Hammond vibrato/chorus with a Leslie.

I suppose in writing this, I am sort of gearing myself up for the possibility of exploring the sound fonts within the keyboard and producing my own tremulants to modulate them. But the question is, has this been done? Or can any of the Tyros, Genos, PSR stuff be ported over? To my knowledge, except for Roland's Atelier organs, no other synth manufacturer has attempted a theater organ. Several, particularly Kurzweil, have done a few classical organ stops and ALL have done a classical pipe ensemble. It has a general midi patch number (20), in fact. For serious playing, one needs solo stops also.

Polyphony can become significant as large ensemble chords can play a few hundred notes on large organs, particularly classical ones. Clever registration and a few ensemble samples (like the General Midi 20 CHURCH ORGAN) makes this work. Roland does this on the Atelier. I am aware that the theater organ presently enjoys a popularity similar to that of the rare and wonderful dodo bird, making the absence of such programming entirely conceivable.
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Re: Wurlitzer (Theater) Organ sounds for Montage/MODX

Unread post by vertig0spin » Thu May 23, 2019 8:53 pm

There may be a theater organ sound library out there for a Motif or Montage/MODX (do some googling); however if there isn't, you could look to use SampleRobot Montage Edition to capture the organ sounds..!? It's free when you buy a Montage/MODX, so hopefully if you buy a used Montage, they will allow you to download it based on the serial number, I think!?
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Re: Wurlitzer (Theater) Organ sounds for Montage/MODX

Unread post by Kurzweil » Fri May 24, 2019 2:05 pm

SampleRobot looks like it has possibilities. I think that going for individual stops would be tedious. Probably better to select a dozen or so complete registrations and record them as complete setups, say two manuals only. Or maybe stick with three, splitting the keyboard into three zones plus pedal (a MIDI pedal set). I am assuming at this point that tremulants would simply be part of the sample. The only hangup with that will be looping at the correct point so there won't be a hitch in the zero point regarding tremulant. I am assuming that only a slight additional adjustment would be required regarding the loop point of the sound waveform itself. I obviously am going to have a lot to learn about sampling. Maybe it will be better to sample straight pipe sounds and devise the theater-style tremulants on the Montage (or MODX) itself. Step one is to buy the thing. Thanks for the response thus far.
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Re: Wurlitzer (Theater) Organ sounds for Montage/MODX

Unread post by Kurzweil » Thu Jun 06, 2019 1:57 pm

Well, step one has been accomplished. I now have what is probably a 2018 Montage 8 (operating system 2.02 I believe). Job one is going to be figuring out how to move this rather substantial piece of equipment. A 53 lb Kurzweil PC3x in a soft wheeled porter bag has been my heaviest in a long time. I will need to decide between a hard case on a 4-wheel end dolly (probably a hundred lbs) or another rolling bag (maybe 80 to 85 lbs). In favor of the hard case route is the fact that I already have everything except the foam on hand from a retired case. Also, stitched fabric bags do not really do particularly well with loads this heavy. Stitches begin to break, zippers fail, handles deteriorate. But god help you when that fateful day presents itself in the form of an entire flight of stairs, you, the 64 lb Montage in its' 35 lb case and no helper to be seen. I have even considered removing the endcaps of the Montage and integrating the lower section of the case with the keyboard itself. Padding becomes less needful if the keyboard and case are one entity. This would take two to four inches off of the dimensions in all three directions, a big plus when handling. The weight goes down also. The cover would be removed for playing but all else remains. (The advantage of having zero warrantee.) I did this with a Roland AT-15 Atelier organ and it worked well.

Next task is to then to relearn the operating system, which has changed. I learned it initially on an S-90 which was basically the original Motif. I haven't even figured out how to select a performance using its data list number and I'm already through the owner's manual and well started on the reference manual. Those numbers don't show up in the display and there is no numeric keypad to type such a number in either. So my Kurzweil knowledge is NOT going to port over very well. Glad to see a well-known and loved Kurzweil feature making its first appearance with Yamaha, namely "patch remain" i.e. SSS - seamless sound switching.

I think that I will very much appreciate the hard buttons, extra scenes/rotaries, extra memory, and ladder displays but it remains to be seen if I do not ultimately move over to the MODX for its' weight and size advantage. And this thing is LONG, which was my primary objection to the S-90ES when it came out. Us 88-key players do not really REQUIRE the MOD and BENDER wheels to be on the same axis as the keyboard. Move 'em up and over, please (ala MODX-8). I believe that Yamaha has always believed that it's market somewhat equates size with quality and value, unfortunately. There is a great deal of AIR inside a Motif and I suspect that this remains somewhat the case even with the considerably slimmed-down Montage (thanks for the improvement!) Kurzweil always made do with about 2/3 to 3/4 the bulk. Of course, they never had a very large share of the market and that continues to this day.
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