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Thread: What happened to the Home Organ Market?

  1. #41
    f Forte Bobmann's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    NC, USA

    I believe the shift in the organ market in the US is due to a shift in musical tastes, instrument usage, and a younger generation that needs quicker gratification.

    My definition of "organ" would be the instrument that has at least 2 keyboards and bass pedals. Keyboards are more closely related to a piano than an organ, even though they can sound like an organ. Folks that have keyboards in their home either use them to practice piano, or to utilize them as a synth or MIDI controller. Aside from a church, I would think that the largest use of an organ as an instrument would be for use in the field of entertainment that would require carrying the instrument around. Here, the keyboard would be better suited for its ability to emulate a variety of instruments.
    Hard to carry around even a spinet model organ, discounting from the fact that these were not really made to withstand constant moving.

    I peruse Youtube often to listen to different types of music. It is probably genetic (My Dad was born in Germany), but I love polkas. Virtually every performer I see now is Eastern European, and an accordion is omnipresent.
    In the US, aside from pockets in PA and the midwest, you just don't hear a lot of polka. Accordions are virtually non existent.
    Most of the organ music I listen to seems to originate in the UK and surrounding areas.
    Barry Morgan would not make it in the US...
    Point is that types of music as well as instruments vary from one part of this big world to another, and even from one part of the US to another.

    Here in the US I cannot see the organ market ever coming back.
    Few people want to listen to organ music anymore for one thing.
    What is popular on the radio will be what is emulated in the home by people who just enjoy what they hear.
    In popular music, the organ is pretty much relegated to the background fill.
    Even in jazz, there seems to be more keyboard than organ.
    Then there is the whole logistical can't carry an organ around with you very easily...moving it out of the family room so that your siblings can watch TV is not feasible.

    When I was young, it seemed that neighborhoods were more interactive. A week would not go by that neighbors were either at our house or we were at the neighbors gathered around the organ, as we all had one in the living room, just singing and enjoying life.
    These days, neighbors seldom even know each other other than a cursory hello in passing...but this is a whole different subject.

    Playing an organ also takes a commitment, and it really is not easy to master. Not that a piano or guitar or any instrument for that matter is easy, but the organ requires the additional dimension and co-ordination of both hands and feet. Watching people like Andy G, Nigel Olsen, Peter Hayward, Carol Williams...Cameron Carpenter is mind numbing...the list is long...all playing as if the organ were just an extension of their body never ceases to amaze me, especially knowing first hand how difficult it is...having made a feeble attempt at playing myself. These people were gifted with an amazing skill and talent, and I hope their legacy is forever.
    All the music these people make is hardly mainstream, though.

    The younger generation is better geared to keyboards and the ability to utilize computers to create works that sound as if an orchestra were involved. One can multi-track themselves to sound like they are accomplished musicians, with the pitch and time correction, and ability to fix mistakes.
    Point is that the learning curve is quicker with a whole lot less practice time than playing an organ real time.
    Don't get me wrong here...creating digital music does require a large degree of talent and musical ability; I am familiar because I have dabbled in this media as is just a different ability that utilizes more current technology, and the results can be achieved much quicker.
    And it's not like playing an organ.

    That is my opinion, for what it's worth.
    I will keep fixing and putting Hammonds back into circulation for as long as I am able. Hopefully future generations will appreciate these relics.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and reality.
    In reality, there is.
    '54 C-2 & Pair of 122 Leslies
    H-324/Series 10 TC
    '35 Model A (Serial# 41) with a 21H
    Look at some of my rescues:

  2. #42
    Moderator andyg's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Newhaven, UK

    As always, Bob makes some good points. However, I think, as I said earlier in the thread, that we should define 'keyboard'. If we're talking what we (at least over here) term 'arranger keyboard', then it's more correct to say that they're closer to home organ than piano. The home organ is/was the daddy of the keyboard - I know, as I worked on the designs! I have only a handful of students that use a keyboard in lieu of a piano, and I only let them do that for a while. A couple have passed Grade 1 piano, having only played on a small Yamaha or Casio until a week before the exam, when they've used the school piano or sneakily practised in the music store! Only one is at present also using it as a MIDI controller. But that's here in the UK and I happily accept that things may be different elsewhere.

    Instant gratification - oh yes, I think a lot of youngsters want that, but at the same time I have had some who have gone on to Diploma level on keyboard, and that certainly isn't instant! It's easy to blame the arranger keyboards that first came about in 1980 for the demise of the organ business, and I'd certainly point the finger. As they developed very fast, they left the organ in their wake. But consider this for a moment.

    1970 Hammond Piper Autochord. Rosemary Bailey and the Piperettes doing the rounds of the malls, selling the 'EZ Play' idea - instant gratification? That was followed by Kimball, Baldwin, Lowrey et al. All in the 10 year gap before the first Yamaha and Casio keyboards hit the stores.

    But then go back even further, to the Hammond Chord Organ model S. E-Z Play, courtesy of 'one finger chords' and a couple of pedals for root and 5th. Again, the advertising pushed the easy aspect, you could play in 'minutes' - instant gratification, 1950s style?
    It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

    New website now live -

    Current organ: Roland Atelier AT900 Platinum Edition
    Retired Organs: Lots! Kawai SR6 x 2, Hammond T402, T500 x 2, X5. Conn Martinique and 652. Gulbransen 2102 Pacemaker. Kimball something-or-other.
    Retired Leslies, 147, 145, 760 x 2, 710, 415 x 2.

  3. #43
    f Forte Bobmann's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    NC, USA

    Interesting discussion.

    Andrew, I had forgotten about those "one finger" organs. It should have crossed my mind, as I enjoy following Barry Morgan...he is a hoot. Reminds me of one of those salesmen one would see at the mall. "give me 10 minutes and I will have anyone playing like an expert!"
    I even had one of those Hammond S6 chord organs for a little while here in the shop. It was fun to fool around with.

    Keyboards today are way beyond those instruments technologically. I had a high end Clavinova for a while that was absolutely amazing in what it was able to do with minimal input from the player, I am sure you are familiar with it. I did enjoy it for a few years, but then it just felt as if something was missing...I felt unfulfilled. The music I was able to create sounded beautiful, but i did not feel like it was all "me".
    For one thing I needed pedals.
    There is no sound from my old Hammond unless I am pushing a key. I like that.
    I also just like the sound of the Hammond/Leslie organ with no "bells and whistles".

    I hope that makes some sort of sense.

    There is a whole other facet to the organ market these days as well...the Wersi comes to mind. That is another amazing instrument and although it is very automated, there is a pretty steep learning curve before one sounds like Claudia Hirschfeld...not to mention a Divine given talent but that is a whole other discussion.

    I wonder if those people who had those early "easy play" organs grew tired of them quickly and quit playing them.
    Seems like that which comes easy is not as satisfying long term.

    Please do not misunderstand...I fully appreciate that getting to most any degree of proficiency on any keyboard is most certainly not easy or quick, unless one is some sort of savant. As I said before, I know the struggle.

    I just get a great deal of satisfaction from making some sort of melodic noise that does not send the dogs running. It makes me happy, and there is just not enough of that these days.

    As I ponder this discussion, it comes to mind there is the difference between playing a technically good piece, and going further by inserting one's feeling into what we hear.
    Folks like you are not only technically accurate, but are able to inject personality into playing. I enjoyed those videos you posted playing the X-66, BTW.
    We all know what this sounds like, but it is hard to define.
    When I hear Patsy Cline sing it never fails to give me goose bumps. She makes me feel all the emotion she is able to infuse in the song.
    Playing any instrument is no different.

    This discussion has taken a slight drift from the OP, but I have enjoyed the interaction.

    Thanks for your efforts in keeping up with this Forum, Andrew. You and the other moderators are very much appreciated.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and reality.
    In reality, there is.
    '54 C-2 & Pair of 122 Leslies
    H-324/Series 10 TC
    '35 Model A (Serial# 41) with a 21H
    Look at some of my rescues:

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