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Piano, Organ, and Keyboard/Durability of Electronic/ digital organ vs pipe organ



I would like to know whether an electronic/ digital organ is 1) necessarily more durable than a pipe organ (because of electronics in the electronic organ versus mechanics in the pipe organ). Recently I wanted to practice on an digital organ at a local church (Manufactured by Allen, do not know the model), but my request was turned down because of the following explanation: "We want to limit the number of players on the organ as the organ is a digital organ and consequently very delicate." Is this a true/ valid statement?

2) Is an electronic organ and a digital organ two different types of organ?

Thank you for ask all experts!

As a piano technician, this is actually out of my official area of expertise, but since I am also an organist, I will answer your questions.  The second question first, there is no functional difference between an electronic organ and a digital organ, they both create sound using electronic means.  There have been electronic organs around for decades; digital is newer technology but the sound coming out of the speakers is still created by electronics.

Now, as to the durability, the folks at the church are blowing smoke.  Allen organs are quite robust and I can not think of anything that someone seated at the console can do that will 'hurt' the organ [short of kicking it or something similar].  Actually, the same can be said of pipe organs, too.  What they really don't want you doing is changing the registrations that the official organist has set up for Sunday.  It can be quite time consuming to get the combination pistons set 'just right' for a player, and if something [or someone] comes along and changes something in that setup it can lead to a catastrophic meltdown.  Of the organist, though, not of the organ itself.

As to pipes/electronic, the debate rages on.  Pipes are expensive to buy and maintain but purists love them.  Electronics are less expensive initially and the average church-goer cannot tell the difference from sitting in the pew, but the fact is that the pipes will outlast the electronics by many generations as the technology ages and parts become difficult and then impossible to replace in the latter.  We had a big old Allen at a local school that became worthless because of that, and although the company claims they can provide parts for any Allen organ ever built [at least they used to claim that] they will quickly change the subject if one begins to ask about availability and cost of a specific component that might be forty or more years old.  On the other hand, we have been keeping an 87-year-old Robert-Morton theatre pipe organ going for a long time at our local ATOS chapter and expect to continue to do so indefinitely.

You may feel free to quote me on any of this.  Good luck!

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William Rowland


PLEASE NOTE! I do NOT give values of pianos OR dates! The piano service questions I can cover include general information about piano tuning: how often should a piano be tuned, what if a piano has been neglected, what is a pitch raise, how long does it take, how much should I expect to pay for service, and so forth. I can also provide information about common repairs and adjustments, such as keys that don't work, those that continue to sound after you have let off the key, how important is the regulation, can I change the tone of my piano, how can I get the keytops repaired/replaced, and so on. I DO NOT provide resale values of instruments for two reasons: first, a technician has to physically check out a unit in order to appraise its value accurately, and second, values vary widely from one part of the country to another. I also do not offer advice as to care of the piano case, as that is better left to woodworkers and cabinet makers. I also DO NOT provide information about the age of a piano, that info can be accessed at


I have been a piano tuner/technician in the Midwestern USA since 1974, working with customers and music stores to provide service to their pianos. I do tuning and repairs and provide free estimates on my services and have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Empire School of Piano Technology, 1973, Apprenticeship at Century Keyboards, Joplin, MO. Also I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science at Missouri Southern State University in 1990.

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