After a check of the location, of the acoustic conditions and of possible background noises, the next aspect was to find the best possible recording technique, starting with selecting microphones and their placement. We decided to record the organ with multiple microphone groups. So we have the opportunity to improve our final audio result in the post production process because we are free to do different audio mixes. To capture the full sound of the organ we need three different microphone groups:

First of all we have a set of “close mics” which are set up on the gallery (6 meteres away from the organ), these are two Schoeps BLM3 and three Schoeps MK5 cardiod microphones. The positions of the MK5s are far left, middle and far right. In addition the BLM3s are placed to capture mid left and mid right.

Secondly we built a 5.1 surround array (based on a decca tree) with a special spider, which is mounted on a big tripod and then placed in the nave. The distance to the front mics is about 15 meters, the height about 7 meters.

Finally we put up some room mics to record the reverberation. Those are placed far away from the organ (all Schoeps MK5) – two mics are set up at the right and the left end of the nave and two mics are set up as an ORTF stereo system in the middle at the far end of the room, right behind the altar. We decided to use Schoeps microphones only - mainly to make sure having a balanced sound from all our microphones that blend perfectly together.  


The microphones are connected to two RME Micstasy interfaces, which have 16 high quality microphone preamps each. Via digital MADI cable all signals are transferred to a computer with Steinberg’s Nuendo multi-track audio recording software.


How could we ever control such a big organ with so many stops?

Someone could sit behind the organ, playing one key after another without moving or making any sound, holding the key for an exact amount of time, etc. This would mean a very long and stressful piece of work! Since we needed a perfect recall of a sampling session and also an intelligent way to make the sampling process as easy as possible this was definitely no option.

Fortunately the organ in Ratingen has a MIDI board included, which means that it responds to MIDI messages when connecting a keyboard or computer via MIDI cable to it. We checked the MIDI engine and found out that we could control every key (from foot pedals to each of the three manuals) and every stop via MIDI. This makes our sampling project a lot easier to handle as we now can use SampleRobot to fully automate the recording process.


SampleRobot is a software application, which is especially designed for automated sampling procedures. It automatically sends out MIDI notes and controller messages. So SampleRobot can remote control the complete organ and therefore do the sampling completely on its own. For our project SampleRobot plays and records each note “without further human help” and it can even trim and loop the samples automatically.

An important part in the design of SampleRobot is the ability to record release-samples (also automatically). These release-samples can be used to emulate the room-behaviour when playing the samples in a software sampler. In the church you will hear the reverb when releasing a key that plays a note. In a software sampler a release-sample has to play to achieve the same effect. In our case the release-samples are captured for each key and contain the reverberation of the church. Only with this technique it is possible to mimic the real church organ’s sound behaviour.



Our recording process goes like this (after having adjusted all signal levels):

1. Select the organ stops we want to sample

2. Program SampleRobot to automatically play each note of the specified keyboard range with a certain length

3. Set SampleRobot to record release-samples and to include a recording pause after each note

4. Start the recording process

After starting SampleRobot all we have to do is simply concentrating on the signals and making sure that there are no noises (traffic noises or people from outside knocking against the doors).