Alright ElectRowers, we’ve got a special treat for you with this feature. While we have interviewed a lot of big DJs, producers, and artists, this is the first time we’re featuring someone that is doing a little something different with their passion for music! Angelina Ngo is a New York Metro-based organist, pianist, and artist that is currently building a pipe organ inside her bedroom. Now what does this have to do with electronic music? Well, here’s the thing- her organ will allow you to load in virtual samples and use the instrument as a MIDI controller! This opens up some crazy possibilities in the form of electronic music performance. While it might not be quite portable, it is an interesting option for organists that might want to start to expand into the world of electronic music.
She has already started on this project, and from what we’ve seen in pictures, it’s looking pretty cool! She has been putting in a lot of hard work, but this isn’t a cheap project either! She mentioned to us that the organ manuals alone are $1000 each and she is looking to purchase at least three of them. She’ll also need an additional $1000 for each of the key cheeks. That’s already the price of some nice CDJs, and they comes pre-built! She’s saving money by making some of the parts herself! Swell shoes typically cost $250, but she is spending $100 and making 2 for that price.
We admire Angelina’s dedication and thirst for creation. That’s why we are excited to ask her a few questions and learn more about her adventure with building her own Hauptwerk virtual pipe organ. We’re finishing up the formatting on the interview, so you’ll have to wait just a little bit longer. However, we wanted to get all her information out to you so you can start to support and maybe even contribute. Keep reading to find out more on how you can help Angelina out!
First of all, tell us a little about what you are building.
To put it simply, it’s a MIDI pipe organ, 3-4 MIDI keyboards with the pedals of an organ. To be a little more technical: it’s a MIDI pipe organ omplete with a standard AGO 32 note pedalboard. Ideally it will have 4 manuals (keyboards) that have tracker touch. (that’s the touch you get from tracker organs, gems and much sought after by organists). I’m currently using weighted keyboards for manuals, it’s a work in progress. VST sound samples are available from actual organs from all around the world, both dry and wet, including the Notre Dame Great Cathedral organ in France. Also available are awesome theater organ sounds including some great Wurlitzers.
What sparked the idea to build something like this?
I really needed to have a personal organ that I can access at any time for practicing to get better at my art. I at first looked into purchasing a used electric organ (aka toaster organ), but at the price that is asked for in today’s market, it’s more cost effective to build one; you get to customize it to your wants and needs, and you can virtually be able to play a dozen different organs from the same console after its completion.
What were the biggest obstacles for you to overcome during this process thus far?
There were many. I knew absolutely nothing about electrical engineering, soldering, or soldering, or circuit boards. It was all new, but I had a really supportive group of people from various forums who have helped me along and helped me understand the concepts of how a MIDI Hauptwerk is built. There was even an organ builder who has taken it upon himself to make the cables I need for the pedalboard (which has just been recently finished) and will be sending me cables for the swell shoes I’m making. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to build the pedalboard, but the fact that I have finished it, and it works, had given me much needed confidence that this is actually possible. Another obstacle is finding the right parts for me to MIDIfy. But with persistence, I am bound to find something that suits my needs.
Where did you get the parts to build this?
Was everything easy to find? Did you get any reactions from people when you told them what you were building?
I look literally EVERYWHERE for parts. Craigslist, eBay, forums, Facebook connections. A big help was the Hauptwerk Forum. http://forum.hauptwerk.com (Hauptwerk is the software that I will be using to run the organ). As for reactions, depends on who I talk to. A lot of my friends are musicians who have knowledge in using MIDI, so the concept was not completely foreign to them. I like explaining things to people, so if perchance I’m talking to someone who doesn’t know much about MIDI or MIDI controllers, or even if they do, I enjoy walking them through the process.
Did you have any previous experience with building things like this?
NONE. I know how to run cables. I have an existing DAW, MIDI controllers and using sound samples isn’t new. I already have a bunch of hardware that I didn’t need to purchase so that cut the cost of this project down significantly.
Overall, how long did it take to put this all together? What are some of the things that will make it a more streamlined process in the future?
I’m still working on this one. It will be an ongoing thing that can be upgraded as my financial resources allow over the years. The pedalboard part of the organ, once I secured the actual pedals in my room, cables and a circuit board, took about 7 hours of manual labor to complete. It was totally worth it. I’m not sure if I will make another personally, but if there are others in my area who wish to undertake a similar project, I would be more than happy to assist.
What makes this instrument so useful (meaning: what are its unique features/differentiates it from other organs)?
There are many types of organs based on how the sound is produced.
Today there’s: tracker, aka mechanical action, where pretty much the player produces sound by literally popping open the valve underneath the pipes and allowing air to go into the pipes whose stops have been opened. (That’s what all those knobs and buttons are for).
Electric: the valves beneath the pipes are electric
Pneumatic: compressed air is used to control the valves that let air into pipes.
The organ I’m building: sound is produced via electrical signals sent into midi board, which is connected to my computer via MIDI cables and USB. Computer, running the Hauptwork program, (think of it as a program similar to apple Mainstage used for live performances but with an organ console instead of just a keyboard and in place of a sustain pedals, basically a 32 note “keyboard” played by your feet.) computer runs sound samples that would then play a set of sounds that you register, similar to how an organists registers the stops to be used before they play something. An audio interface connects the computer to a medium for output of sound, whether that be in-ears or monitors, or sound system.
Lastly, the number of organs you can have access to is limitless, well, only limited by how much financial resources you have to purchase the different organ sound sets.
Who would benefit from owning one of these instruments?
Organists who would like to get better at playing
Pianists interested in learning how to play an organ and how it’s different from a piano
Any musician who is already familiar with using MIDI controllers
The pedals can not only be used to play organ sounds, you can assign it to play whatever you assign.
More Information / How to Help
As we mentioned, Angelina has already started this project and has done some heavy work. She has setup a blog where you can follow her progress and get detailed information about what parts she’s using and how she is building it step by step. You can check it out by clicking here! With plenty of cool perks, the easiest way to contribute to the organ is through her Indiegogo campaign (<click) that is happening right now. The countdown clock is ticking, so check it out as soon as you finish reading this. If you aren’t familiar with crowdfunding, basically, you contribute to a person’s project or cause and they give you ‘perks’ in return. The more you contribute, the bigger the perk! The final way you can help out Angelina is by spreading the word. This is a really cool project and we hope that more and more people find out about it. So copy the links below and give them a share on your social media platforms. We know you have a couple of seconds to spare!
Indiegogo Campaign : https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/hauptwerk-a-diy-pipe-organ
Blog : http://zauberflote620.wordpress.com
Website : http://www.angelina-ngo.com/index.html