With all of our organs out on long-term rental, I have been left with no instrument at home.
I had a Wyvern 32 note pedalboard in the workshop to which I fitted our contact system and a MIDI Gadgets mpc32xrs encoder. An Ikea Galant table that I had modified a few years back was also pressed into service. This left just a bench and something to play!
I made a very simple bench out of 18mm birch ply offcuts. So, what keyboard?
We started business midiflying pedalboards and re-skinning M-Audio Keystation 61es keyboards, so we have a fair amount of experience using MIDI controllers as organ keyboards. I had read a lot of positive comments regarding the Behringer UMX610 keyboard on the Hauptwerk forum, so I decided to give one a go.
It has been quite a while since I have played on anything other than Fatar or UHT keyboards and it was a shock to play the UMX610. The touch may be slightly better than the M-Audio and the key profile more suited to organ use, but the actual construction quality and overall feel was very disappointing. This first thing I had to do was take a file to the keys to remove the molding flash lines that caught my fingers during playing.
The geometry of the keys is very similar to the M-Audio. The pivot is far too close to the back of the key. This gives a very strange feeling when playing the sharps, especially at the back. The profile of the sharps is slightly strange, tapering towards the back. But by far the worst attribute is the rattling. This is a noisy keyboard to play.
Another plus for the UMX610 is it has 8 programmable buttons. The quality of the buttons is awful. The case creaks when they are used. As for programability, well they are to a degree. They can be assigned to send CC messages, I have failed to get them to send PC. But the most frustrating aspect is they either toggle between 0 and 127, or send 63 depending on the CC event. So they can be used as Hauptwerk pistons, but detection is a pain.
This was a useful experience. I had wondered if we had gone in the correct direction in supplying only Fatar and UHT keyboards. Were we missing a trick for creating a truly low-cost Hauptwerk organ?
For a DIY project the UMX610 has a lot to offer – it is probably the best of the bunch. But no matter how good the carpentry, you’ll always be playing a UMX610, a decent organist will always be able to tell that they are not playing the real thing. Also, an additional encoder will be needed for pistons increasing the cost. 8 switches per manual is usually not enough and the MIDI events sent by the UMX are really not appropriate.
As a business, labour is a major contributor to the overall cost of a keyboard. If anything, the amount labour increases when using a UMX610 as opposed to Fatar; the keybed needs to be extracted, the wiring modified etc. In summary, an installation could never be based on these keyboards.
Before embarking on a re-skinning project, consider that we charge £605 + VAT for a Fatar TP/60 with oak key blocks, base tray, piston rail and MIDI encoder. The keyboard is supplied wired to the encoder, the encoder supports up to 3 expression pedals, thumb and toe pistons. Thumb pistons are £12.90 + VAT, fitted wired and engraved. Just plug in the USB cable and start playing a real organ tracker-touch keyboard!