21st Century Arranging for Band Organs

Notes & References for

Presentation at the AMICA/COAA Meeting & Rally

by Wallace Venable

Princeton, NJ

5 August 2016

My Articles on Arranging

Hand-Punching My Own Rolls from Midboek Templates, Wally Venable; Carousel Organ Issue #35
Describes construction of a simple single-hole, foot operated, punch mounted on a typewriter table.
Also covers creating arrangements using the MIDI editor PowerTracks Pro, and then "marking" rolls for punching using MIDIBoek software.

Using MIDIBoek as an Analytic Tool in Arranging, Wally Venable; Carousel Organ Issue #49
MIDIBoek is a free program for Windows computers which was developed for use in printing templates for organ rolls and books. It is also a powerful tool for analyzing musical arrangements while creating files for both roll and MIDI organs. The article illustrates the author's processes.

Scanning Sheet Music to Produce MIDI Files, Wally Venable; Carousel Organ Issue #50
It is possible to produce MIDI files from sheet music using a personal computer and a scanner. The author uses PhotoScore Lite. SmartScore MIDI Edition and SharpEye Music Reader appears to do similar work. The article illustrates the author's processes.

Arranging in the Carl Frei 20-Note Scale, Wally Venable; Carousel Organ #56
Discusses specifics of the Carl Frei (aka Raffin 20) 20 note crank organ scale

MIDI vs Paper Music, Wally Venable; Carousel Organ Issue #58
Discusses why the issue of whether the music is played from paper rolls or MIDI files has negligible effect on how the music sounds.

Arranging for Percussion, Wally Venable; Carousel Organ - in press
Discusses issues related to percussion notes in mechanical instrument music arrangements.

MIDI File Mapper - Preliminary Notes

Work of Harald M. Müller

Harald M. Müller is a German computer programmer who has written a number of articles, in English, or arranging for small organs.

Müller works almost exclusively with Java; and notes that Java has a complete MIDI library which makes reading, handling, and writing MIDI messages very simple. I have not yet developed my knowledge of the language to the point where I can use these tools.

Musical Statistics on the 20er Organ Scale, Harald M. Müller; Carousel Organ Issue #25
Describes the various chords, etc. which can be put in arrangements for music using the Carl Frei 20-er scale.

Some remarks on arranging for the 20er

A short course on arranging for small organs


MIDI-fying a 20er Crank Organ

Other Online References

How is an Organ Music-Book Made?, Leonard Grymonprez; Issue #47
Describes methods of Arthur Prinsen and Eugene Peersman in arranging for band organs.

How Wurlitzer Rolls are Made, Matthew Caulfield; Issue #7
History and technical description of the Wurlitzer perforator as it now operates at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum. Topics covered include arranging, cardboard master, paper slitter, indexing rods & interposers, compensation for roll speed, 125, 150, & 165 scales.

Punch Your Own Organ Rolls (with Computer Help), Mike Knudsen; Issue #15
Describes use of author's program UltiMusE running under Linux to mark (arrange) and print templates for his Raffin 31 organ.

The Haughawout Book-Punching Machine, Terry Haughawout; Issue #23
Describes construction of  about 20 punches in the 1980s. Article includes photos and drawings. Also includes photos of many other organ book punches and their use in band organ factories.

Music Arranging and the Computer, Tom Meijer; Issue #6
Some of the advantages of using MIDI and a computer instead of paper and pencil:
(1) ... quicker and easier - especially concerning repetitions and tempo adjustments...
(2) ... listen to what he has arranged while working ...
(3) ... easily transpose a finished arrangement from one scale to another...
(4) ... print arrangement on a paper master, or cut the book with a computerized punch ... Or supply the customer with the arrangement as MIDI ...

Arthur Prinsen - a Life full of Music, Daniel DeBie & Björn Isebaert; Issue #42
Arthur Prinsen was born in Belgium in 1933. As a member of a dance band, Arthur regularly performed in halls where a mechanical dance organ could be found. Fascinated by the mechanism, he studied under arranger Urbain van Wichelen and took over his business. He later became a builder of dance and concert organs.

Ralph Tussing, Matthew Caulfield; Issue #32
Discusses the Tussing family who were employed in the Wurlitzer factories and the T.R.T. Manufacturing Company of North Tonawanda, NY which later produced band organ rolls on Wurlitzer perforators. Ralph arranged rolls for Wurlitzer organ at T.R.T. After Ralph's death in 1974 company assets were sold to Doyle Lane.

MIDI Software I Use Regularly

PowerTracks Pro

PowerTracks Pro has been my basic MIDI editing program for about a decade. Originally it was pretty much limited to MIDI work, but over the years it has had many audio processing features added.
PowerTracks Pro Audio 2016: Basic Package $49.00 for first time buyers

PhotoScore Lite 8

PhotoScore Lite 8 is the current version of the program I use to generate MIDI files from sheet music. It will also process music in .PDF files. The Lite version has limits, but it does a lot for a small price. See my article "Scanning Sheet Music to Produce MIDI Files" above for further information.
PhotoScore Lite 8 - $59
PhotoScore & NotateMe Ultimate 8
Scan sheet music and edit PDF scores. Handwriten scores using stylus or mouse. - $249


With the Midiboek program you can convert standard Midi files to templates for street organs, pianola's, music boxes and so on. You can print templates for street organs with carton books, both with key mechanism as well as pneumatic trackers. Variable note length and fixed note length are supported. Support is present for melody, counter melody, percussion and register notations. Sustain pedal events in the Midi file are supported on demand. The template is printed as a collection of loose pages, with cut and paste lines. The pages can be glued together or fixed directly on paper or carton before punching.
Midiboek is FREE.

Other Interesting Software & Resources


I use Noteur occasionally. Noteur is a general purpose midi file editor that is focussed upon the use by people who work with midi files for mechanical instruments. It is a piano roll based editor. The user can open a gamma file, that is a description of the instrument he or she is working for (same gamma as used for Midiboek). Noteur then 'knows' the instrument and supports the user with a series of handy functions.One of the strong features is the embedded programming language MPL. It is like Cakewalk's CAL, but then specialised for working with mechanical instruments and easier to use for programming novices.

Band-in-a-Box® with RealBand 2016 for Windows®

First-time Purchase     $129
Band-in-a-Box is a fantastic software package which will generate a complex band arrangement as a MIDI file starting from chords, and a melody. You select the style from an extensive list. There is no "band organ" style incuded.

Comparison of MIDI editors and sequencers


BandMusic PDF Library

BandMusic PDF Library preserves and shares band music from the Golden Age of the American Town Band. If you are looking for public domain music to use as source material for band organs, you'll find a lot of it here – marches, waltzes, rags, theater music, cornet solos, trombone features, and much more.

Thanks to the band community the Library continues to grow. Vintage music in print is being donated. They continue to scan old music–we post both old and new editions each month. Friends of the library send missing pages, and volunteers create transposed parts for modern bands. It's this spirit of generosity that is making this heritage project truly "The band library for musicians, by musicians!"