Aeolus - show us your organs

Hi gang!

I am working on some enhancements to Aeolus integration with Zynthian which should drop in the next stable release. Aeolus is a pretty good pipe organ simulator. It uses generative algorithms to emulate the various sounds of pipe organs, not samples and is very configurable. Zynthian uses the default Aeolus configuration which presents a Grand manual, two Swell manuals and a pedal board. (Excuse me if I get things wrong. I am not a pipe organ specialist.) Each of these four keyboards / divisions has a set of stops controlling the sounds. There are also swell controls (although I don’t think they work in the current stable release). Each division is presented as a chain.

The current implementation has some constraints which I am removing, e.g.

  • Any quantity of keyboards / division (1…4)
  • Any MIDI channel (not just 1…4)
  • Save, rename, delete presets

So why am I telling you this? I want your collective wisdom to shape some development, particularly around presets. I plan to provide two banks of presets:

  • General
  • Local

The presets in both banks are actually the same but selecting a preset from the General bank will restore stop values for all divisions whilst selecting the preset from the Local bank will restore stop values for the currently selected chain / division. This is similar behaviour to a real pipe organ that may have general pistons and local pistons. The preset names would appear the same in both banks (because they are the same - just a subset is restored if selected from the Local bank.) What is your opinion on this behaviour? I wanted something that aligned well with a real organ whilst providing the advantages / flexibility of a digital implementation.

The swell controls include:

  • Swell / expression
  • Tremolo frequency
  • Tremolo depth
  • Sustain

(Sustain isn’t really part of swell and isn’t really part of a real pipe organ.)
I had originally thought to include these in the presets (as we might do with other synth engines) but it occurred to me that might be undesirable, e.g. recalling a local preset for a division whilst playing another may have undesirable effect if the swell parameters changed. Maybe we only recall swell parameters from the General bank or not at all. What do you think?

The presets currently provided were dreamt up by our wonderful @jofemodo but at his own admission may not be particularly useful. I am struggling to find examples of presets (piston settings) that we might use as a default / factory set. It seems that most organ music scores seem to leave the orchestration to the organist with just a few suggestions, e.g. “f but sweetly”. I have found a few examples of common settings from some organ lessons but I wondered if our lovely community of organ players would like to contribute some presets with their names and stop settings (and swell settings if appropriate). This could be in the form of lists of stops per division or as Aeolus preset files.

Zynthian presents 4 keyboards driving 4 divisions. Aeolus supports up to 6 (I think). Would there be an advantage to implementing a bigger organ with the ability to constrain the quantity of divisions when adding an Aeolus instance? I have used the default config with 4 divisions:

  • Manual I
  • Manual II
  • Manual III
  • Pedals

and allowed creation of 6 different layouts:

  • Manual I+II+II+Pedals
  • Manual I+II+Pedals
  • Manual I+Pedals
  • Manual I+II+II
  • Manual I+II
  • Manual I

on the basis that you will pretty much always want Manual I and addition of pedals is likely to be required for any combination of manuals. The list could grow by adding:

  • Manual I+II+III+IV+Pedals
  • Manual I+II+III+IV+V+Pedals
  • Manual I+II+III+IV
  • Manual I+II+III+IV+V

which is still a manageable list of combinations. My geeky, engineering side says that the flexibility would be good and there is likely to be someone who appreciates the extra keyboards / divisions. My project manager side says to avoid adding features that few (if any) users want and who is going to design those extra divisions? There are mega (physical) organs out there with even more manuals so it may be nice to have them but in reality, most of us only use at most two hands and two feet to play and with instant recall of local pistons, the extra manuals may not be needed, i.e. you can recall a preset for one of your three manuals rather than physically move the a fourth or fifth manual. My preference is to stick with the 4 manuals / divisions. Please let me know your opinion, preferably supported with real-life scenarios / workflows.

And finally, stop sniggering @wyleu.

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I’m not a practicing organist, but it would be nice to have a variety of organ setups to choose from. And to be able to configure the organ according to the instruments I go to play.

I have prepared a draft of virtual instruments:

vicar’s organ
manual I - keyboard compass: 49 notes, no. of organ stops up to 8

pastor’s organ
manual I - keyboard compass: 57 notes, no. of organ stops up to 8
pedal - pedal compass: 24 notes, no. of organ stops up to 4

dean’s organ
namuál I - keyboard compass: 61 notes, no. of organ stops up to 12
manual II - keyboard compass: 61 notes, no. of organ stops up to 12
pedal - pedal compass: 32 notes, no. of organ stops up to 8

archpriest’s organ
namuál I - keyboard compass: 61 notes, no. of organ stops up to 16
manual II - keyboard compass: 61 notes, no. of organ stops up to 16
pedal - pedal compass: 32 notes, no. of organ stops up to 12

bishop’s organ
manual I - keyboard compass: 61 notes, no. of organ stops up to 16
manual II - keyboard compass: 61 notes, no. of organ stops up to 16
manual III - keyboard compass: 61 notes, no. of organ stops up to 16
pedal - pedal compass: 32 notes, no. of organ stops up to 12

cardinal’s organ
manual I - keyboard compass: 61 notes, no. of organ stops up to 20
manual II - keyboard compass: 61 notes, no. of organ stops up to 20
manual III - keyboard compass: 61 notes, no. of organ stops up to 20
manual IV - keyboard compass: 61 notes, no. of organ stops up to 20
pedal - pedal compass: 32 notes, no. of organ stops up to 20

pope’s organ
manual I - keyboard compass: 61 notes, no. of organ stops up to 24
manual II - keyboard compass: 61 notes, no. of organ stops up to 24
manual III - keyboard compass: 61 notes, no. of organ stops up to 24
manual IV - keyboard compass: 61 notes, no. of organ stops up to 24
manual V - keyboard compass: 61 notes, no. of organ stops up to 24
pedal - pedal compass: 32 notes, no. of organ stops up to 24

Exampe of cardinal’s organ can be Harrison & Harrison organ of Westminster Abbey

Example of bishop’s organ can be 1903 NOTRE DAME DE METZ CAVAILLÉ-COLL

Example based on real instruments now. Třebechovice parish has six churches with organs. Suppose there is an organist who goes to play in all six. It would certainly be useful for him to have all six instruments in virtual form in Zynthian.

The organ in the parish church of St. Andrew (can say bishop’s organ)
I. Manual - 12 stops,
II. Manual - 8 stops,
III. Manual - 10 stops,
Pedal - 8 stops,
octave couplings, super and sub couplings

The organ in the Corpus Christi church (can say pastor’s organ)
Manual - 5 stops,
Pedal - 2 stops, I/P,

The organ in the church of St. Jakub the Elder, Vysoký Újezd (can say pastor’s organ)
Manual - 7 stops,
Pedal - 2 stops

The organ in the church of St. Peter and Paul, Jeníkovice (can say pastor’s organ)
Manual - 5 stops,
Pedal - 2 stops

The organ in the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Krňovice (can say pastor’s organ)
Manual - 3 stops, I/P, I/I 4
Pedal -

The organ in the church of St. Mary Magdalene, Ledce (can say pastor’s organ)
Manual - 5 stops,
Pedal - 2 stops (manubrium only for one)

You can watch all six organs on this video - Varhany na Třebechovicku - YouTube
sorry for czech language.

Maybe one day such an organist will Zynthian turn on, find one of the instruments
parish church of St. Ondreje, Třebechovice
church of the Body of God, Třebechovice
church of st. Jakub the Elder, Vysoký Újezd
church of st. Peter and Paul, Jeníkovice
church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Krňovice
church of st. Mary Magdalene, Ledec
and practice on the specific sound of the selected organ.

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I played with Aeolus for a whole week (the last version 0.10.4 compiled by me on a raspberry pi 4 with PatchBox OS) and adjusted registry settings, keyboard mail, etc. I developed my idea a bit and put the result on github - GitHub - ToFFmashines/virtual-organs-Aeolus: setting of virtual pipe organs for Aeolus

For the players with only one keyboard controller I describe and prepare 3 virtual organs based on historic pipe organs , more here virtual-organs-Aeolus/vicars-organ.md at main · ToFFmashines/virtual-organs-Aeolus · GitHub

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some of you may know we had built a dedidacted raspian image running Aeolus for RPI3 under the name of Organnery. Expert pipe voicing guys from the UK have created a new organ definition that is used by default on this image, with a 3 manual+pedal and all new stops definitions. I’d be happy to share it to be included in the zynthian distribution.
A variation of this definition has been worked on with a french concertist from Paris, I can ask for her authorization to use it also. @riban let me know if you need them

The division presets (which should be named “combinations” in the organ language) are a great addition, often requested by organists (mostly concertists, not home or office players I have met in France), many thanks for this !

Pistons are the name of kyboard couplers, but it may be different from one country to another as there asre so many variation in terms all over the planet.

Swell and tremolo parameters should not be recalled by presets (only organ definition). On real organ it is wired to pedals which barely never move unless you put your foot on it.

Another interesting kind of preset bank would be the “preset combinations”, those buttons named PP,P,F,FF … they are mostly combinations (presets) defined by the organ voicer, that a user cannot modify. Like a quick access to a standard set of pipes.

More than 3 manuals is very rare used, if it is not for pictures :wink: Most players are totally ok with 2 manual (think home players and office), while adding the third one offers more pipes for flexibility for enthusiasts, curious, and concertists.

One last detail I personally like, i the ambisonic output of aeolus, with the audio window parameters. I’ve been playing with ambisonic output fed into an ambisonic revreb + headphone decoder, and the result is really beautiful ! Not sure zynthian mixer can deal with the ambisonic output, but I urge any interested organ player to try it :slight_smile:

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Thanks @ToFF & @jerash - all good stuff. I haven’t looked at ambisonic sound but my youngest child is currently doing a project on it for final year degree thesis so I will ask for some info. If it can pass as a 2-channel audio signal at standard linear sample rate then it should pass through the mixer which does not (or should not) affect the phase. Certainly A/B (left/right) phase is maintained to sample accuracy.

I have been reading more about organs so my vocabulary is improving. Thanks for the extra pointers. “Preset combination” is the organ equivalent of factory presets. We can certainly add these but of course we need to design them first.

I liked the idea of having a single preset that may be recalled to one division or all divisions but need real life users to say whether it would be appropriate.

We can stick with the 3 manuals + pedals as our normal full sized organ. I was tempted to add another two manuals

In addition to the advantages mentioned by @jerash, the Organnery version of Aeolus offers full control over the internal reverb via MIDI, which is not possible in the original Aeolus. I find this a really useful feature. Depending on what I’m playing, the default reverb parameters can make the sound way too “muddy” and its good to be able to turn down the reverb. Also, if you are using an external reverb plugin its good to be able to disable the internal Aeolus reverb.

So one vote from me for Zynthian to adopt the Organnery version of Aeolus.

I plan to add control of Aeolus audio settings including reverb. I agreed with @jerash to stick with my patched version of upstream Aeolus to reduce the support overhead/burden that may be incurred by using Organnery as a base. There are some very desirable features in Organnery but integrating in Zynthian would be challenging. I hope the work we do in Zynthian benefits upstream and derivatives like Organnery, e.g. the OSC support. We will benefit from the work they do and share.

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I totally agree :slight_smile:

I plan to add control of Aeolus audio settings including reverb. I agreed with @jerash to stick with my patched version of upstream Aeolus to reduce the support overhead/burden that may be incurred by using Organnery as a base.

OK, sounds great. I hope its not too much work to add the audio/reverb controls.

Probably not as much as I hope! I think (hope) these parameters are accessible within the application’s messaging queue in which case it should be fairly simple but it’s not at the top of my to-do list.

yes they are ! just grab the additional code in the midi input handling in our repository

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