Reed Organ MIDI Conversion Tickles All 88 Keys

What did you do in high school? Chances are it wasn’t anywhere near as cool as turning a reed organ into a MIDI device. And even if you managed to pull something like that off, did you do it by mechanically controlling all 88 keys? Didn’t think so.

A reed organ is a keyboard instrument that channels moving air over sets of tuned brass reeds to produce notes. Most are fairly complex affairs with multiple keyboards and extra controls, but the one that [Willem Hillier] scored for free looks almost the same as a piano. Even with the free instrument [Willem] is about $500 into this project. Almost half of the budget went to the solenoids and driver MOSFETs — there’s a solenoid for each key, after all. And each one required minor surgery to reduce the clicking and clacking sounds that don’t exactly contribute to the musical experience. [Willem] designed custom driver boards for the MOSFETs with 16 channels per board, and added in a couple of power supplies to feed all those hungry solenoids and the three Arduinos needed to run the show. The video below shows the organ being stress-tested with the peppy “Flight of the Bumblebee”; there’s nothing wrong with a little showing off.

[Willem]’s build adds yet another instrument to the MIDI fold. We’ve covered plenty before, from accordions to harmonicas and even a really annoying siren.

11 thoughts on “Reed Organ MIDI Conversion Tickles All 88 Keys

    1. Creator here.

      I designed my own boards for educational purposes (since I’m a high school student, I’ve never gotten a change to design a PCB before) as well as practical purposes. 15 of the boards cost $50 shipped to my door – hard to beat in price. There are actually no commercially available solenoid driver boards with large amounts of outputs. Using 88 single-channel boards would be messy and not cheap either.

      Also, I got very efficient at populating the boards. I cranked out all 6 in only a couple hours – I could do about 2 solder joints a second once I got into the rhythm of it.

      1. Organ companies have many driver boards and silent solenoids. The driver boards take midi and are addressable as instruments so many ranks can be controlled. The boards usually are in one octave strips and string in series. Still cool DIY.

  1. I’m the creator of this project :)

    If anyone has any song requests then please submit them here:
    I’ll film and upload them as soon as I can.

    Also here’s a YouTube playlist showing all of them:

    And please vote for my project in the contests on Instructables:

  2. Hello. I’ve tried uploading a few midi files I have created, intended for piano roll perforator use, but should work well on your instrument. The files are unable to upload, however. Is there a specific midi file type your submission page accepts exclusively? These would be much fun.

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