HISTORY

Since the first electronic instruments have been developed, those instruments were not only used to create new sound-spheres but also to mimic other acoustic instruments. A lot of experiments to create the ONE instrument that could play ALL sounds led to inventions like the Mellotron (developed in the early 60ies) that used pre-recorded tape loops for each key. It could play different timbres and pitches recorded from real instruments or choirs. The overall quality as a sound clone was really pure. Nevertheless musicians used and still use the Mellotron with all those insufficiencies to create new sounds in contemporary music. With the sampling technology that was introduced to a wide range of listeners with the Fairlight and Synclavier systems it was then possible to store acoustic waveforms in a digital way.  While the Mellotron was more the type of “Guess-what-instrument-I-am” instrument, the Fairlights and Synclaviers could get closer to the original instrument’s sound. But there were some issues like the price of those systems, the sampling space and polyphony. Also there were some claims to allow better sampling quality. The RAM space to store the sounds seemed to be the biggest problem. How to shorten a symphonic orchestra to a few kilobytes of audio data? That was impossible!

Only a few generations later – after the rise and fall of the hardware samplers like the Akai S1000 or the Rolands and Kurzweils – there is a new league to allow sampling on the next level: The software samplers like TASCAM’s Gigastudio, Steinberg’s HALion or Cakewalk’s Dimension. They are available to all musicians due to low costs and they offer nearly unlimited polyphony and a lot of sampling-space (even with technologies like disk-streaming). And then there are new software tools to sample instruments fast like SampleRobot. Armed with all those weapons it makes sense to try one more time to come as close as possible to a real instrument – like in this case – a church organ.

THE MARKET TODAY

A large series of sampled instruments can be found on the market today, ranging from classical/acoustic instruments to modern electric instruments (pianos, orchestral instruments, e-pianos, synthesizers etc.). Although the recording technology has made it possible to achieve high quality and long duration sampling, many high-quality-sampled instruments still miss a certain amount of “reality-feel” because they often are too “clean” or at least have something sterile about them. Furthermore the human’s ear is very sensitive to audio patterns. It instantly recognizes a sample when there are no natural variations in the sound.

It has become a challenge to reproduce as many elements and facets of the instrument as possible to maintain its liveliness. One also has to realize that even an instrument’s background noise (e.g. the noise of the organ’s pipe-engine) and the room acoustics can make it sound so realistic.

OUR GOAL

We would like to create a virtual church organ that is very authentically sounding and realistically playable and can be loaded into most software samplers available on the market. Our goal is to get feedback from people that listen to recordings of the original organ and the virtual copy and cannot tell the difference between them.

HEAR THE DIFFERENCE

As a later part of this project the virtual church organ will be compared to the original. Both are recorded in the same way. However, this should be decisive for the organist as well as for anybody who listens to this instrument. We decided to sample the organ chromatically to avoid pitch-shifting. This basically means playing and sampling every single note/pipe of a certain organ stop. For the basic audio tests we selected a certain amount of stops (single stops and mixtures of them) and sampled these in halftone steps. Furthermore we recorded different sample lengths to hear if there is a variation in the reverb when sampling longer notes.