29039 N. 59th Street, Cave Creek AZ 85331
Phone (480) 215-1340 
Pipe Organs, MIDI, and Electronic Music  


 Gordon Minns has a life-long interest in music and musical instruments. He built his first pipe organ in 1970. He has used his electronic knowledge to great advantage to create a number of enhancements to pipe organs, including one of the first electronic combination actions (automatic stop selection). He has designed MIDI  (musical instrument digital interface) equipment and software to simplify pipe organ wiring and permit both real-time recording and playback of pipe organ performances. These can be easily installed on conventional pipe organs. 

To reduce the labor of organ tuning, that normally requires two people (one to press keys, and the other to climb amongst the pipes) he is currently developing a remote control device that can be used with both conventional (non-MIDI) and MIDI pipe organs to sound individual pipes to simplify the tuning process. 

Cool Mechanical Instrument and Pipe Organ Sound Files

http://mmd.foxtail.com/Sounds/  Site with interesting sound files

Mechanical Fair Organ (MP3, 65K) Short and Fun...Click to play

Pachelbel, Toccata in E  (MP3, 2 megabytes) Click to play

                                                                                         3 manual & pedal 53 rank tracker, 1849 Hall & Labagh

                                                                                                                                        Photo courtesey of www.organclearinghouse.com 

New Pipe Organ Projects

Gordon recently acquired a 4-rank pipe organ that will be used to design an experimental "hybrid" organ that combines electronically-generated sounds with natural pipe sounds, using MIDI and audio sampling technology. The intent of this project is to enhance the tonality of  small pipe organs, by adding additional virtual ranks of pipes with authentic pipe sounds.  This could be a low-cost solution for upgrade of smaller organs.

  View of pipe and wind chests



Console has lots of wiring and stop control relays!


A Bit Of Pipe Organ History 

Before electrical activation of pipes was a possibility (prior to the late 1800's), there was a direct mechanical link between the keys and the air valves under the pipes. This necessitated locating the pipes above the console, which is why these organs are so tall. Inside the casework, is a complex maze of wires, linkages, and sliding valves (stops) to control the pipes. These so-called 'Tracker' organs are still being built, because of their charm and special performance qualities, afforded by the direct linkage to the valves.

When electricity became available, an "electro-pneumatic" system was devised that allowed remote location of the wind chest (that holds the pipes). It uses a small electromagnet to control air flow to individual pipes, with switches on the keys to activate them. A typical large organ has an enormous amount of wiring and (by today's standards) bizarre mechanical relays to control everything. 

A further enhancement was added when the Wicks Organ Company invented the "direct electric action" to replace the relatively complicated, and hard to maintain leather pouch-valve method of the electro-pneumatic system. This system uses a powerful electromagnet to directly control a felt air valve beneath each pipe. 

About twenty years ago, with the advent of low-cost microprocessors, the MIDI (musical instrument  digital interface) was devised to control electronic synthesizers. The MIDI system has found its way into the pipe organ world, and has not only simplified the wiring, but also eliminates the mechanically-complex "combination action" needed in conventional organs for stop selection. MIDI permits performance recording/playback.





















29039 N. 59th Street, Cave Creek AZ 85331
Phone (480) 215-1340