Home | Site Map | Watch | FAQ | History | Store | Contact

Yet Another Organ Pedalboard Project


For years I've been reading web pages that go something like this: "I always wanted a pipe organ but I didn't have enough room or enough money for one so I bought a used organ pedalboard, wired it up for MIDI, and built a rack to hold a couple of cheap MIDI keyboards ..." These web pages always had a picture of a home made organ console. As a point of reference, a real, commercially-made organ console looks something like this:

By contrast, the consoles on these web pages look something like this:

If your response to this second picture is "yuck," you should call your local organ salesman. If it's "I want one," then you're feeling what I felt.

Following is a description of what went into my home-brew organ.

The pedalboard proper

I bought a used AGO pedalboard from Gerald ("Jerry") Cluff for $150. He was nice enough to drive it to Sacramento (he lives in Oregon, and I live in the SF Bay Area), where I picked it up.

I chose magnetic reed switches for the pedalboard because they're:

  • cheap (ca. $0.50 apiece)
  • quiet (you can't hear them switching unless they're right next to your ear)
  • simple (only two moving parts)
  • small (the ones I used were about 5/8" long and 3/32" wide)
  • reliable (millions of operations before failure)

    Here's one of the ones I used; I got them at Al Lasher's Electronics in Berkeley:

    As reliable as reed switches are, when you have 32 switches, the odds of one or two going bad are high enough that I wanted to mount them so they'd be fairly easy to replace, and I ended up making a removable board to hold all the switches. I cut a piece of maple to match the curve of the pedalboard:

    and routed slots in it to accommodate the reed switches (which are held in with beeswax) and wiring:

    To make the board easily removable, I chiseled out a hole to hold a Centronics-type connector:

    Here's how the board fits into the underside of the pedalboard:

    To make the position of the magnets adjustable, I cut 32 blocks with magnet-wide grooves in them, and screwed these to the underside of the pedals:

    The reed switch board goes right next to these, like this:

    Incidentally, the magnets turned out to be so strong that they actuated the reed switches even when the pedal was not depressed, so I ended up breaking each magnet in half (with a pair of pliers).

    The MIDI electronics

    The pedalboard switch closures are turned into a MIDI signal by a Pedal Board Encoder 'MKOPB1-34' made by Vern Jones, which I also bought through Jerry Cluff . This encoder sends NOTE ON and NOTE OFF commands on MIDI channel 4.

    In addition, I have two keyboards, a Yamaha P-80, and an old Yamaha YPR-9 (neither of which is made any more). Either of the keyboards can send NOTE ON/OFF commands on either channel 1 or 2. The Ahlborn-Galanti organ module requires MIDI on channels 1, 2 and 4; to combine the keyboard and pedalboard signals into a single signal for the organ module, I'm using a MIDI Solutions QuadraMerge box.

    The audio electronics

    The organ sounds kind of dry if you're using it in cramped quarters (which is what my music studio is), so I got a Lexicon MPX 500 reverb unit to add a little space to it. The reverb unit also has basic volume controls for input and output, which saved me from needing a separate pre-amp; instead, the output of the organ module goes into the reverb, and the output of the reverb goes into the Sony 3120 stereo amplifier (which I got used at The Sound Well in Berkeley. The output of the amp goes to a JBL Control 29AV (for the bass notes) and a Cambridge Soundworks Newton M50 (for the treble). I've put these in the hall outside my studio so that I don't damage my hearing so much when I crank it up.

    Other wooden pieces

    To hold the keyboards, I built this stand:

    which fits over the pedalboard like this:

    I bought an organ bench on eBay; since I'm 6'2", it wasn't tall enough for me, so I carved a set of "elevator shoes" for it:

    These go on the bench like this:

    And, once again:

    Other people's pedalboard projects

  • Jordan D. Petkov, Varna, Bulgaria
  • Paul, Minnesota, USA
  • Steffan Andrews, Canada
  • David Kings, France

    Other related resources and sources for pedalboards

  • PK-25 Pedalboard, Roland
  • MOPEDAL Portable Pedalboard, Aug. Laukhuff GmbH
  • MIDI Pedalboard, Classic MIDI Works