How to set up the Hauptwerk virtual pipe organ using MIDI keyboards and a computer

In this article, I’ll tell you how to set up a working Hauptwerk system, using MIDI controller keyboards.


Many home organists often dream of playing a wurlitzer theater organ or church organ to elevate their performance to another level and for personal enjoyment. At one point, this would be very difficult, as you would have to have physical access to the instruments in order to play them. It’s not like that! Through the use of modern computer technology, samples and MIDI, the home organist / enthusiast can now play a Wurlitzer theater organ or church / pipe organ without leaving home using a computer running Hauptwerk virtual pipe organ software , controlled from MIDI keyboards. with pedals or pretty much any decent electronic / digital home organ that has MIDI out.

Hauptwerk virtual pipe organ software

Hauptwerk is software distributed by Milan Digital Audio and available on the Hauptwerk website. It is available in three versions: free, basic and full edition. We will use the FREE edition, version 4 for the purposes of this article. Version 4 has a download of around 2.2GB, so I would recommend downloading with a fast internet connection. Once you have downloaded Hauptwerk v4, you need to install it on your desktop PC, laptop, MAC or MacBook laptop.

Requirements and prerequisites

Desktop Computer Requirements

I’ll assume you have a decent, relatively modern PC that you can use to run Hauptwerk. Hauptwerk recommends a minimum of an Intel Core2Duo system with a minimum of 2GB of RAM installed. For this article the minimum recommended is an Intel Core 2 Duo system, I will use my existing E7500 Core2Duo based system here as I have it available. This is considered a low to mid-range specification these days, as the Intel Core 2 Duos processors have been superseded by the Core i series processors. Hauptwerk recommends these Core I CPUs for the best performance, although I can assure you that my setup works fine, using the FREE St. Annes Mosely organ supplied with Hauptwerk. If you want to use larger sample sets, I recommend using a Core i5 or i7, but since I’ll only be concentrating on the FREE Hauptwerk edition, then the Intel Core 2 Duo E7500 is more than capable of getting the job done.

If you intend to run Hauptwerk on a larger scale and use the Basic or Full version to run much larger sample sets, then Hauptwerk really recommends that you use an Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processor with 8-16GB of RAM. This will require a 64-bit operating system, such as 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium. If you already have a 32-bit Windows PC, it will be restricted to 3.5GB of RAM as this is a limitation of 32-bit software.

AMD processors will be fine for Hauptwerk too, I have tested Hauptwerk on an AMD Athlon II x2 250 CPU, with 2GB of ram and it works fine. AMD are considerably cheaper than Intel and a good alternative for someone on a budget.

Laptop Requirements

I run Hauptwerk 4 on my old DELL Inspiron 640m laptop. This laptop is still alive as it is based on a Core2Duo CPU running at 2.0ghz, with 2.5GB of DDR2 RAM. I updated it a while ago, so if you have a DELL Inspiron 640m or 6400 with an older Core Duo CPU, it might be worth swapping it out for a Core2Duo, which will improve performance a bit.

To achieve MIDI connectivity on my laptop, I use a USB 11 MIDI interface, available for a few pounds through eBay. These are not really recommended by Hauptwerk, but I can tell you that they do the job very well and are easy to set up. Windows automatically installs the drivers for these MIDI devices.

Regarding the sound card in a laptop, I use the integrated sound with the Asio4all driver, which works brilliantly on my DELL’s SigmaTel integrated sound card. Ideally, a USB or FireWire solution would be better, such as the external M-Audio 2496 or the M-Audio FireWire 410 interface. The EMU 0404 USB would also be a good choice. I would avoid the external Audigy USB NX Soundblaster as it does not have ASIO!

MIDI keyboard controllers

If you don’t have a digital or electronic home organ with MIDI yet, then M-audio’s keystation Es series controllers are good for Hauptwerk controllers.

I have played Hauptwerk successfully using my Wersi Arcus as a controller, although I cannot use a full pedalboard with this. I will have to be satisfied with 13 notes for now.

MIDI bass pedal board

If you’re not looking for a full-blown church or theater organ pedalboard, there are a few alternatives available, new or used.

Roland PK5-A 13-Note MIDI Pedalboard

Hammond XPK100 13-Note MIDI Pedal

Hammond XPK200 20-Note MIDI Pedalboard

Hammond PK25XKP 25-Note MIDI Pedalboard

MIDI Note Pedalboard Studiologic MP-113 13

Studiologic MP-117 17-Note MIDI Pedalboard

Sound card – Audio interface

Hauptwerk does not recommend the use of Creative Audigy or Soundblaster cards, but I can confirm that the FREE sample set runs smoothly on the Creative Audigy 2 Platinum card, so all is not lost if you have one of these cards. I have one of these on hand, this is what I will use for this article. Now they are easy to buy second hand and can be bought on eBay for around 25. Now is a good time to install the sound card. Since there are so many different types, I can’t cover all of them here as it is beyond the scope of this article, so check your sound card manufacturer’s documentation.


Hauptwerk recommends using a good Hi-Fi system or powered monitors will be good too. I use a Technics receiver with Wharfedale speakers to good effect. I only use stereo and not surround sound, however you can use surround sound if you want, but this is not covered here in this article.

Controlling the Hauptwerk

The most basic way to control Hauptwerk on the screen is with the PC mouse. If you are using Hauptwerk without a touch screen, I recommend a wireless mouse as the cable will not get in the way.

The most common practice is to use a touch screen, although they can add a bit to the cost, but it is very intuitive and easy to use compared to a mouse.

Console assembly and component locations

I have my M-audio 61ES keystation on top of my Yamaha P-155 digital piano, on its own stand. This is a good setup, as it allows bass pedals underneath. Photo coming soon …

The PC base unit I placed on the right or left side of the Piano and M-audio 61, with the monitor on a suitable shelf.

Connecting it all

Make sure your sound card is installed and fully operational and that your PC is connected and configured. The M-Audio is easy to use as I only need to connect a USB cable to the PC and install the drivers. The keyboard is USB powered so you don’t need a separate adapter. I connect the P-155 to MIDI-IN on the pedals, and MIDI out of the pedals to the MIDI cable of the M-Audio 2496. MIDI is connected ‘out’ of the pedals ‘in’ to the sound card.

Hauptwerk installation

For the purposes of this article, I will assume that we are using Microsoft Windows 7, as it is the current version of Windows and recommended by Hauptwerk. Download the FREE edition of Hauptwerk 4 from the Hauptwwerk website.

Run the setup file you just downloaded and click Done when done. You should now have a system ready to go, plus the finer points of setting up the MIDI hardware in Hauptwerk, that is, telling the software what hardware you’re using and what MIDI channels it’s all on. This is now much easier in Hauptwerk 4, as the Hauptwerk developers introduced a MIDI learning function, which automatically detects MIDI settings and eliminates the headache of setting it up manually.

Stay tuned for the second part of this article, the MIDI setup. Photos and videos to follow!

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