So, I did manage to buy this Viscount Domus 8 analogue electronic organ, with a full 32-note pedalboard.
It works great for practice, and the sounds are alright, but ideally I would like to play using the computer and the Hauptwerk software, which gives an awesome sound quality. What I need then is MIDI output from the organ console. Obviously, this old organ (built in 1979, I think) does not have MIDI output built in (modern, digital ones do). While it would be possible to MIDI-enable it using some electronics kit, I am not sure it is possible without damaging the organ. Since I do like it as it is, I’m reluctant to do that. And in addition it’s a rather large project (a lot of wiring and soldering to be done).
Since before I bought the Viscount organ I have two MIDI keyboards connected to the computer, which is running the Hauptwerk software. This works great for playing manuals only pieces. But it’s lacking a pedalboard. So what I wanted to do was to temporarily detach the pedalboard from the Viscount organ and to MIDI-enable it and connect it to the computer. Ideally, I would use the same connector that is used to connect the pedalboard to the organ. In this way, I wouldn’t need to alter the pedalboard in any way, just plug in something else than the Viscount organ into the connector!
Some research brought me to the MIDI Gadgets Boutique, which has many kits for MIDI encoding and decoding. It turs out that they provide an ideal product for my project (I suspect I’m not the first one to attempt this), the mpc32xrs.
This MIDI encoder provides switch inputs for 32 pedal keys as well as some additional ones (more on those later).
The question was then how to best connect the MIDI encoder to the pedalboard. The Viscount organ has a PCB-based connector that fits in the connector on the pedalboard (see picture below). If I could build a similar connector it would be a matter of plug and play, literally!
Luckily, my father is an experienced electrical engineer and also a very clever man. He found a piece of “lab board” with copper lanes spaced exactly right. Since the spacing in the original connector is uneven in one place (one of the gaps in the connector is wider than one lane, but not as wide as two), it was not possible to create the connector in one piece, so I sawed three pieces of lab board and created three connectors that each fit into a slot of the pedalboard connector.
I used an old IDE-cable (I think) with 34 leads. The 34 pin standard connector fit perfectly into the MIDI encoder. Apart from the 32 pedal switch leads, there are two ground leads. Incidentally there are two connections to ground in the pedalboard connector as well, so I used both.
With the connector created and attached to the cable, it was just a matter of plugging in the MIDI encoder and the pedalboard and testing it. To my astonishment, it worked on the first attempt. I first used the handy utility MIDIOX to look at the MIDI output from the encoder, checking for bounces, non-working keys and so on, but everything worked perfectly. I then launched the Hauptwerk software, selected the proper MIDI channel, and tried it. It worked like a charm. Check out this video containing the very first testing attempt. The narrative is in Swedish, but I think you’ll get the general idea! 🙂
Now that I can play using the pedals as well, I am starting to think about how to best utilise the extra switch inputs on the MIDI encoder…