Virtual Pipe Organ Keyboard and Console Scanner

Keyboard Interface for digital organs, complete with Virtual Pipe Organ Software System.

Complete with Virtual Organ Software - just connect keyboards and play!

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Highlights:

KEYS2USB module scans and interfaces up to 3 keyboards, + pedalboard and stops

Single USB connection to host computer

No need for additional power supplies or midi adaptors

MAESTRO Virtual Pipe Organ software can be configured to use any soundfonts, from Baroque to Wurlitzer, and provides on-screen stop configuration, voicing and fine tuning - no need to purchase any other software in order to enjoy dozens of freely downloadable soundfonts !

I have designed and built classical and other electronic organs since around 1964 (!)   I tried to keep up with available technology, as increasingly useful integrated circuits became available, including microprocessor controllable ones.  But everything changed around 1999, when powerful synthesiser cards and larger memories had appeared.  People began to make sound samples from real organs,  often of a length that could include aperiodic features such as wind noise.  The subtleties of attack (with "chiff" ) and decay could captured and reproduced far more faithfully than possible with electronic hardware.  My organ hardware was reduced to a parallel interface, with the PC doing all the console scanning, and sound generation via a standard Soundblaster audio card.  It ran faithfully for the next 14 years on Windows 95 !   More recently I worried that more modern PCs and operating systems would make interfacing more difficult, the obvious standard to adopt being USB.  Hence this board, which runs its own scan cycle and sends the keyboard status continuously to the host PC.   Using Soundblaster or other MIDI compliant cards had always come with the restriction (mainly due to MIDI protocol) of being able to play only 15 'presets' or stops at once.  Some fonts have been made to get around the problem by combining sensible combinations of stops in a single preset.   NB  MIDI protocol for synthesiser control and soundfont design are a subject in themselves - the 127 selectable presets in a soundfont can each contain many sound samples.    Anyway, with powerful PCs it is now possible to avoid the restriction of 15 presets by resorting to "Soft-Synths" - these are program libraries which generate the final waveforms in software, fast enough for real-time playing.   Thus the software evolved into its present form.   I am happy to provide it for private use as shareware, and it will run with or without my interface board, since it now accepts standard MIDI keyboard input as well.

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Summary:   

Here is a low-cost system for connecting bare keyboards directly to your computer (USB connector).   A single PCB card is all that is needed to link a PC to up to 3 keyboards, pedalboard and stops. 

MAESTRO software creates an amazing classical or other type of organ,   nothing more is needed except your keyboards and contacts.  Off-the-shelf midi keyboards can also be used, and any .sf2 soundfonts can be loaded and configured as organ stops.

For those who want to use other Virtual Pipe Organ software, eg Hauptwerk,  Miditzer etc,  I can provide a MIDI compatible device driver to provide such programs with up to 4 midi inputs, to correspond to up to 3 keyboards, pedalboard, stops and pistons.  Thus the board can provide MIDI input without MIDI latency and without additional hardware. 

 You can even mix with keyboards that already have Midi interfaces,  to add a pedalboard and stops etc.   Since KEYS2USB transmits the complete state of your console every 2mS*,  there is no question of ever missing an "event" - no question of notes ever ciphering (sticking on) or of any other mishap that can happen with hardware Midi cable interfacing.     Thus up to 4 x 64 = 256 'events' can be transmitted in 2mS !  (cf hardware Midi taking around 256mS (a quarter of a second) to send so many events !! )  

*scan rate can be changed, if necessary, higher or lower.

Details:

KEYS2USB is a single module that scans 4 departments, each of up to 64 notes/contacts.  Typically these might be Great, Swell, Pedal,  Stops & Pistons.  But since the Pedals use only 32 notes/contacts,  the other 32 might well be used for Stops & Pistons,  thus leaving another department available for a Choir keyboard.......

ADDITIONALLY the KEYS2USB module provides an 8 bit output port, to which your PC can send data - typically this might include serial streams to update a large number of Stop status indicators, or to operate motorised stops.  There are limitless possibilities and full instructions are provided to get you started.  The output port can be updated at approx. 16 bytes/mS.  A single serial stream could be sent at approx. 8kbit/sec,  so 100 stop indicators and/or actuators could be updated in just over one hundredth of a second.

 

Specification

Dimensions:   75mm x 160mm x 20mm assembled circuit card, 5 mounting holes,  with mounting spacers

Outputs:      4  Departments x  8 matrix address lines for keyboards & stops.

                    1 x 8 bit output Port for operating stops, indicators etc.  The output port connector can supply limited  +5v dc power, from the host computer.

Inputs:          1 x 8 bit input Port for all keyboard & stop matrix input

Connectors:  6  x  10 pin ribbon cable plug headers

                     1   USB socket for connection to host PC

Diagnostics:  2 leds to indicate USB communication status.

Power:          30mA approx,   supplied by the USB connection from host PC. (no external power supply needed!)

Sundries needed:

Ribbon cables, already fitted with connectors, to plug into KEYS2USB:

     Set of 5 cables,  3 x 300mm for keyboards and/or stop indicators,  1 x 1.5m for pedalboard,  1 x 2m for common data input - this cable receives data from every keyboard.   (socket connectors - terminal strips?)

Diodes - 1 needed per contact ,  set of 64 diodes for one keyboard, if not already present

Contact wire -  for home-made contacts (construction suggestions supplied)

                  4m length - sufficient for at least one keyboard of 61 notes

Reed Switches and magnets -  Ideal for pedal contacts, to avoid dust and dirt !

                Set of 32 reed switches and magnets, plus 32 diodes

Virtual MIDI Port Driver - Only needed for use with 3rd party software that expects hardware MIDI inputs.  

 

Contact: bstuartb@compuserve.com   for more details, cost and availability

Visit the Electronic Organ Constructors Society website www.eocs.org.uk  for inspiration,  information,  and more 'mainstream' interfacing.

Visit Colin Pykett's website www.pykett.org.uk for many in-depth articles on organ design.