ORGAN with the GINO-MIDI Interface
the internet you can find several software-packages
that enables you to use your computer as an
electronic organ. Soundcards have improved
dramatically and the Personal Computers are much
faster then before. Constructing, designing, and
building the sounds in digital instruments are
taking place on the computer also. Even the most
expensive digital organs are microprocessor-based.
It is a logical step to build an organ with the
computer also. The PC is the heart of the
instrument, and the manuals and pedals and switches
are the means to play this instrument, just like a
digital organ. Of course you need an interface to
connect the manuals and pedals and stop-switches to
the computer. But once you have all the hardware,
built a console, then you have the means to play
Now you will probably scratch your head and think:
This sounds great, but how does it work?
answer this question, I have to ask this first:
What is needed to create a computer-organ? Here is
- a Personal Computer
- a soundcard with MIDI or Game port-connector (joystick), or a USB to MIDI interface.
- a set of speakers or headphones that has to be connected to the sound card
- a MIDI keyboard or manual
- a game port to MIDI cable or a MIDI to MIDI cable and a MIDI manual or keyboard
- software like J-Organ, MyOrgan, Toccata or GenPo or Hauptwerk
- a sample-set in the case that you use Hauptwerk.
Well, we have a lot of ingredients to make our
The main part of our shopping list we already have
at home. We have a computer, otherwise you could not
read this website (unless your kind friend printed
this page for you) . Most computers these
days have onboard sound. If not, one can buy a soundcard that will
perform really well. The low-end soundcards with 5.1 sound are
already available for less then € 25. Most of the
time you will also have a set of small speakers, or
even use the speakers of your monitor. It is
impossible to imitate the Notre Dame cathedral with
these speakers. But for experimenting they will do.
Later we can hook up an amplifier with a set of
really good speakers.
Now we need a MIDI manual or keyboard. And of course
a cable for the connection between the keyboards and
the computer. Most computer-shops or music stores
will have them. Sometimes these cables are hard to
find, or very expensive. If you are not afraid to
use a soldering iron then you can create such a
cable yourself. If you read further then you can
find the schematics that I drawed for making such a
cable. The keyboard can be a simple 5-octave (61
note) keyboard. Of course a 4-octave keyboard will
do also, but 5 octave is preferred. This keyboard
should have a MIDI-out connector. Of course you can
also use a midi-master keyboard or build your own
manual-stack (with 1 or more manuals) as described
on this site. Now we will define : Midi-keyboard: It
is a keyboard that has contacts under the keys, and
a MIDI interface, but does NOT produce sounds.
This diagram shows a setup
for a complete organ with 2 manuals (a keyboard
stack), pedals and stop-switches.
What you see here are the
stop-control switches, Manual 2, Manual 1, and
The stop-control switches are
being red by the GINO-MIDI Interface through a
diode-matrix and each diode-matrix is being
scanned by a decoder which sends the signals
(pressed keys, selected stops etc) to the
GINO-MIDI Interface through a system of chained
All of these decoders are
chained (linked) through a flat-cable, that
finally ends at the GINO-MIDI Interface. We call
this the GINO BUS.
The GINO-MIDI Interface is
the main circuit, the brain of our system. This
main-circuit contains a fast microprocessor. This circuit is so fast that it
can scan almost simultaneously the manuals
(keyboards), stop-switches, and pedal, and
converts these data to MIDI-signals that are
sent trough 1 MIDI cable only to the MIDI or
If you click on the links
below then you will arrive on the page where you
can find the schematics , photo’s and PCB’s for
the GINO-MIDI Interface. You find here also the
schematics for the decoder for each division
(manual, stop-switches and pedal). For each
division you need a matrix with a decoder
Since each matrix consists of
a group of 8 diodes (1 diode per key or switch)
and a decoder can decode (read) 8 groups of 8
diodes, every decoder can then read maximum 64
keys ( 8 x 8 ). Since a 5-octave manual only
has 61 keys, we have enough capacity. Also the
pedal decoder has the ability to decode 64 keys,
but since only 32 keys maximal are used for the
pedal, we have enough capacity.
You can connect up to 64
stop-switches to the matrix for the stops.
One thing that is essential for our project is the
software that can translate the MIDI-messages to
organ-sounds. For this purpose several programs are
available. Most of these you can download and they
are freeware. For Windows we have for example jOrgan
(Java based) and several soundfonts are freeware
also. Hauptwerk is a commercial
product and has a demo-version available but it does
not support soundfonts, but large sample-sets where
each pipe is separately recorded. Besides,
you also have the freeware GrandOrgue.
There is a
big difference between jOrgan, Hauptwerk and
jOrgan is soundfont-based, while Hauptwerk and
GrandOrgue are sample-based. Soundfonts
are based on recreating complete stops from several
recorded notes from a pipe-organ. (same principle as
a digital organs). The Hauptwerk family is sample-based. The sample
sets are individually recorded organ pipes, one by
one, over the whole keyboard and pedal. An other
disadvantage of Soundfont-based software is that it
mostly requires a Creative Labs soundcard
(SoundBlaster etc) because the samples are stored in
so called “banks”. (Most newer Creative soundcards
and motherboards don’t have a game-midi port
anymore). I prefer JOrgan because of it’s
flexibility in configuration and experimenting and
it is transparent software. Of course it takes also
a while before you know all the ins and outs of the
software. In my opinion in Hauptwerk and
the configuration is not so easy and flexible as in
This kind of software is the heart of the
computer-organ. For example, in JOrgan you start by
building up a console on your computer. The stop
switches etc are placed on your screen. Below you
find an example of how it looks.
The next step is to make JOrgan generate the sounds
and make them available to the speakers. This is
where the Soundfonts come in. A soundfont pack is in
fact a bundle of sounds files of recorded and
recreated stops. Of course there are really nice,
and less nice samples. On several websites you can
download freeware Soundfont packs. Other sites offer
soundfonts that are commercial and you have to pay
for the samples.
The next step is to load the Soundfont Pack in the
memory of your soundcard.. Now you have to associate
the organ-stops with the virtual console that you
built up in JOrgan. Now you are ready for your first
performance as an organ-player. It sounds easier
then it is in real, but this is just an outline.
Most soundcards and software have a kind of
user-manual or instructions. And if you have a
Creative Labs soundcard (SoundBlaster), then you can
use Vienna or the Soundfont manager to select the
banks. The soundfont software is more easy to
understand and to use.
Here you see a test-setup. You see a manual
(keyboard) that is connected to the GINO-MIDI
Interface by the flatcable. This version was
created on a piece of Vero-Board.
The GINO-MIDI interface is
connected to the computer by a MIDI-cable.
On the screen you see the
console of jOrgan with all the stops that I used
for my first digital organ.
Now you are ready to play and
amaze your audience with your first concert.
These days you
can create a wonderful sounding digital organ with
your computer, a low budget and a little extra
hardware and software.