How to find a home practice organ

Since I have an organ at home, I have been asked about how to find a practice organ. This post will contain my ideas of how you can find a home practice organ.

I was fortunate to get my Saville organ for at home for free! At the time, I was taking organ lessons with Michael, and he was the organist at Adrian College then. The college has a pipe organ, and they were not using the Saville organ that had been donated to them. I was able to take it to my home for free and have been using it ever since.

If you choose an electronic organ, I strongly recommend finding a model that has a full range of pedals. The models with only one octave of pedals aren’t going to help much with practicing to be able to play other organs. Newer electronic (or digital) organs will sound more like an actual pipe organ than older models. My organ is from the 70’s. Technology has advanced a lot since then!

Once you find an organ, you may need to make a plan for moving it to your home, unless you bought it from somewhere that provides delivery. They can be very heavy. It took 4 people to move my organ into the house. You may need to hire movers, rent a truck, find 4 strong people that can lift it, etc.

How to find a home practice organ

Check with piano stores

Piano stores that sell used pianos may also have used electronic organs. I discovered this when I bought my piano.  The store had at least one electronic organ on display each of the three times that I visited.

Ask around

Some churches may have electronic organs that they are no longer using. Or they have more than one instrument and be willing to part with one. Of course, this could be quite time consuming depending on the number of churches in your area.

Ask everyone that you know. Someone’s relative or friend of a friend might have an old organ that they would be happy to get rid off.

Thrift Stores and online selling sites

One time, I saw a full-size organ with the full pedal board in a second-hand store — however, most of the time I’ve seen the small organs with only 1 octave of pedals, which I recommend you avoid.

You can also check Facebook Market Place, Craigslist, and eBay for electronic organs that might be for sale close to you.

small organ without all the pedals
Small organ without all the pedals. I don’t recommend this type of organ for practice.

Contact places that repair organs

They last time my organ was serviced, the technician mentioned that he had other organs for sale. These organs were not listed for sale on his website as far as I remember. Even if the repair place doesn’t have any organs for sale, they might know people in the area that are looking to sell.

Buy from a dealer

Depending on your budget, you might decide to purchase a new organ. Dealers that represent big brands may also have used models available. The prices will vary depending on how many ranks and the size of the organ. A 5 manual organ will cost more than a 2 manual organ.

I have heard of Allen, Rodgers, and Viscount organs.  There are likely more brands out there.

Several years ago, I went to the American Guild of Organists convention, Rodgers was there selling new instruments. They, of course, sounded great! However, the price of a new organ wasn’t in my budget then, and I didn’t think a newer organ would help me become a better organist any faster.  I am sure it would have been more enjoyable to hear!

What if you want a pipe organ as your home practice instrument?

Pipe organs are going to be more expensive. But if you have space and budget, you can have a pipe organ in your home!

  1. Contact a pipe organ builder and hire them to build one for you
  2. Find a home to purchase that already has a pipe organ in it. You’d need to be willing to move. I remember when a house in Grand Rapids, MI was for sale that has a pipe organ in it. The listed price for the house was much less than what it would cost to get a similar organ installed new.
  3. Check with Organ Clearing House. While they mostly seem to work with large organs, sometimes have smaller home organs. These smaller organs may have 4 ranks.

What other tips and recommendations do you have to find a home practice organ? Please share your ideas in a comment below.

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Heidi Bender writes about her experiences of learning to play the organ. She started on the adventure in 2009.

She also writes on her website Tons of Thanks, which helps people write thank-you notes. Heidi is also a cat lady who writes at The Joy of Cats.

4 thoughts on “How to find a home practice organ”

  1. Concerning the pedalboard:

    (A) Yes, having the full 32-note [2.1/2 octaves] in the pedalboard is really indispensable, because most organ-specific music entails at least some degree of playing actual melodic lines in the bass, compared to more informal music where the doing the bass requires only playing the single foundation-notes of accompaniment chords. So when you practice a piece with “lines” in the bass, you’ll need to be practicing, with your feet, almost the same degree of content as with each of your hands.

    For most church organists, this is an important consideration not only for performing “advanced” works for the “mini-recitals” of prelude/offertory/communion music, but even more essentially for the truly primary role of accompanying —and leading(!)— congregational singing in hymns and, in some contexts, in liturgy. In a church setting where four-part chorale structure (SATB) is the predominant format throughout the hymnal, and indeed the preferred one for that congregation or entire worship-tradition, pedalwork can be an especially important expectation upon an organist. In particular, in that setting you may be privileged to accompany a congregation, with or without choir, for whom it is a central part of worship to fill the sanctuary with the often masterfully-crafted four-part harmony made available in the hymnal. Those singers, there, who take the bass line depend on any keyboard instrumentalist to lead that part, at least in the first few stanzas, and an organist needs to lead that line as accurately as she/he would when reading from the hymnal at the piano. [This is not to ignore the organist’s possible opportunity to “enhance” the harmony, or indeed the entire accompaniment, in later stanzas, which can in itself be an intense form of her/his own worship. But that is, and must always be by implicit or explicit understanding —or even musical “collusion”(!)— with the congregation; and it must render an enhancement, never a distraction, to their own worship.]

    (B)
    In addition to the size of an organ’s pedalboard [full 32 notes], there are other details of pedalboard specifications you’ll want to consider in order to ensure that your home practice organ’s pedalboard is as close a match as possible to the pedalboard at the venue where you’ll be playing publicly. There are a very few fairly common differences among pedalboards that “itinerant” organists are accustomed to expecting and putting up with. Among these are (a) whether the overall lay of pedals is flat, exactly parallel to the floor, or concave, where the higher and lower notes proceeding beyond the middle-note gradually rise progressively to the right and left respectively; and (b) whether the notes radiate outward from where they join the console at their fronts, to become very slightly farther apart from each other, progressively, as the length of each pedal proceeds backwards to where they all end beneath the organist’s bench.

    But thankfully, in all other respects that are regularly noticeable in playing, most responsibly designed organs [pipes, electronic, digital] are standardized by adhering to specifications officially adopted and posted by the American Guild of Organists (AGO) [originally formulated and provided by courtesy of the Wicks Pipe Organ Company]. The AGO’s “Standard Console Specifications” can be found at , where “Pedalboard” is the initial set of specifications at the top of the list. It would behoove anyone shopping for a home practice organ to refer to the AGO specifications when examining a potential instrument.

    An anecdote will provide an especially sound example: A young acquaintance, an accomplished pianist, perhaps too eagerly seized the opportunity to emergency-sub as organist at a relative’s church 80 miles away and just one-week out. He was of the same denomination, so had a copy of the hymnal at home, was lucky enough(!) to get the hymn numbers right away, and diligently practiced them all week on a neighbor’s living-room organ, self-teaching himself by practice to do the pedalwork precisely and fluently in just one week. The practice organ [which subsequently I was able to examine more closely] had a full 32-note pedalboard, had come with a professional-grade organist’s bench as OME, and appeared in every way to be a nicely equipped instrument for a serious organist. But when the lad arrived at the distant church the following Saturday to get set-up on that organ for the next day’s worship with all the hymns he had so meticulously practiced, and he launched into “Blessed Assurance” [with the “impressive” footwork of its magnificent almost-barbershop bass line] it was a shocking mess!! [And here he was facing a full house of exceptionally well-voiced and well-eared Methodists in less than 24 hours!]

    The pedal sharps (the “black notes”) back home on the neighbor’s otherwise handsome-looking instrument were over an inch shorter(!) than the ones at the church [installed by a prominent, AGO-accredited pipe-organ builder]. The naturals [and probably the sharps, too] were amiss as well with each one slightly narrower than any other 32-note pedalboard. [Apparently the manufacturer of that instrument sold that pedalboard as a “convenient option” to accommodate buyers with limited space in their living rooms.] Anyway, when on Saturday the lad first attempted to play “Assurance” on the church organ, the problem became apparent that his feet had learned to play it on the different “terrain” of the discrepant pedalboard back home, and every one of those magnificent notes was undershot, or, in panicked attempt at compensation, overshot. Please do heed the caution, just for assurance [and “Assurance”!], to checkout the AGO Specifications (as linked above) for any instrument you intend to practice on.

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  2. In today’s technology, having pipe organ sound in your home can be easier than one may think. With the age of “Digital Technology”, you can play a pipe organ out speakers in your home from an existing organ console for a fraction of the cost real pipe organ. And to add to that process, you can often take an existing console, and make it a digital without spending again on all the woodwork the new organ will have. You gut the old electronics out, retrofit the keyboards and stops to a new Digital system, and you have the organ in your home that you would not be able to afford if it were new from a dealer.

    Heidi makes a good point about having a 32-note pedal board and two, or more, full 61-note keyboards. You can’t walk into any church with a nice organ and just sit down to play being used to a 13-note spinet organ in your home.

    The innovations in electronics today is quite incredible!

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