Pittsburgh Chapter - American Guild of Organists

Pittsburgh Organ Academy

A Practice Instrument


The POA Committee realizes that the organ is an instrument of significance that may be difficult to acquire for personal use. Many other intuitions which utilize the organ also understand this and are willing to make accommodation for students who are serious students of the organ.

It should be noted that organs used for study may need to meet some minimum requirements so that students can fully develop skills needed to master the instrument. The American Guild of Organists has formal specifications for 'standard organs' which include a full 32-note radiating pedal board, full 61-note keyboards and specific dimensions for the instrument. Small "entertainment" model organs are likely not appropriate for serious practice.

If a prospective student does not own an organ, there are often many options available. Checking with a local organist or organ teacher may point to a local institution (church, school, etc.) that will be willing to allow students use of their instrument either gratis or for a nominal fee. An inquiry can always be sent to the POA committee for assistance in exploring this alternative.

If individuals are very committed to the organ as a course of study may wish to explore acquiring an electronic instrument for home use. Provided that they have full AGO-standard pedalboards and dimensions, they are likely excellent and convenient alternatives for the student. Typically these instruments will take a significant amount of space and are quite weighty (i.e. around 300-400 pounds). These should be considerations when planning for a home instrument.

A home environment will also likely lack the ambience of a large hall. Electronic organs with self-contained speakers, while convenient as a space saving device, make this a bit worse. Electronic organs with separate speakers, while large, allow placement that can help create a more realistic sound for the student. Also electronic organs that are equipped with reverberation systems can further provide a more realistic and pleasant sounding instrument in a home.

While a top-of-the-line new electronic instrument can cost upwards of $15-20,000 and even $100,000 or more, used and older models can be acquired at significantly less. Older electronic organs with reasonably modern tone generation mechanisms (i.e. digital sampled sounds) can be found in the $5,000 range or so.

Used electronic organs of extremely old design can be found for as little as a few hundred dollars. While these may not sound as pleasant as their more modern counterparts, they may be perfectly suitable as a convenient practice instrument.

In the USA, Allen and Rodgers are the two most frequent brands of electronic instruments which are found in service in institutions as alternatives to pipe organs. Persons searching for an electronic instrument should contact:

Making a decision to purchase an organ is a very large commitment of finances and physical space. The advice of a knowledgeable local professional organist should be sought before making this decision.


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