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Thread: Anatomy of an organ

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    Senior Member Brad's Avatar
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    Default Anatomy of an organ

    I have long wished to know more about how organs work. They look complicated with all of the stops and manuals and I can't figure out just by watching what everything does and when to use it. Furthermore, I'm not even sure quite how they produce sound besides something involving a billows.

    Anyway, I don't expect anyone to explain in full on here. But since I can't find a thorough yet simple explanation of these things anywhere, could someone post a link to a solid source?

    Thanks all

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Hi Brad,

    There is a ton of reference material on this subject on the web ... but I've narrowed down the search to a few sites that I fully trust and that have accurate information.

    This site: Wikipedia: Pipe Organ gives lots of information.

    For a reliable encyclopedia of the organ stops, there is this site

    As a professional organist for the past 53+ years, I absolutely love this instrument and never tire of its sound capabilities. Although I normally play on a moderate sized pipe organ for my church position, I have played many larger instruments in this country and abroad.

    Playing only looks complicated ... we organists all started out learning all the basics from the beginning and have only gotten better at it through diligent practicing, and having had lessons along the way ... years and years of lessons, mind you.

    You might have an AGO (American Guild of Organists) chapter in your area that would also be a great source of information and possibly the touring/playing of these fine instruments in your city/county/region. Our local chapter here in the southwest desert of Arizona frequently has "organ crawls" where we, as a group, travel to different cities and see, hear and play various instruments that have been installed recently or long ago.

    There is a builder of pipe organs in Ohio ... http://www.schantzorgan.com/]Schantz Organ Co in Orville ... they might be able to offer a tour of their facility.
    Kh
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    Senior Member Brad's Avatar
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    You're right, there is an overwhelming amount of information on the internet about this stuff. Now that you mention it, I suppose it would be great just to see and play one for myself. I appreciate it, Kh!

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    Senior Member ptr's Avatar
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    There's probably some kind of big church with an organ in Cincity, give the organist a call and arrange for a hands on tour of their instrument, there is no better way to get some insight in to organ anatomy!
    I do this in almost every new urban area I visit, and I've only been turned down once, and this mostly due to bad planning from my side..

    /ptr
    Je suis Charlie ~ I am a certified OrgaNut! (F.—I.W.)

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    Senior Member Blancrocher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brad View Post
    You're right, there is an overwhelming amount of information on the internet about this stuff.
    As a supplement to online articles, you might like to have a look on Youtube. There are videos demonstrating--in more or less detail--how pipe organs work and even how to build them.

    This one seems alright, and in any case should lead you to more like it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJE40ffGHqs
    Last edited by Blancrocher; May-19-2014 at 19:09.

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    Senior Member Brad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ptr View Post
    There's probably some kind of big church with an organ in Cincity, give the organist a call and arrange for a hands on
    I will definitely give this a try!

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    Senior Member Brad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blancrocher View Post
    As a supplement to online articles, you might like to have a look on Youtube. There are videos demonstrating--in more or less detail--how pipe organs work and even how to build them.

    This one seems alright, and in any case should lead you to more like it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJE40ffGHqs
    It did indeed lead me to some great videos that I will watch later! I have a new question though:

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9rmsORjN0ws

    What's the big deal about a 128' stop? What does that even mean?

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    Just imagine how low a note that would be played by a 128' - that means, essentially, a roughly 128 foot tall pipe. The longer the pipe, the lower the range. I found another video where a man synthesized 64' and 128' stops, and they were shaking the room - not very musical, especially in a smaller setting.

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brad View Post
    . . . What's the big deal about a 128' stop? What does that even mean?
    It is not a real pipe organ stop. The largest pipes of any pipe organ in the world are 64 feet in length; The Conference Center in Salt Lake City has a 64' rank, but it only goes down to G# on the pedalboard.

    There are only two organs in the world that have a true and complete (down to low C) 64' stops. One is the Sydney Town Hall Grand Organ and the other is installed in the Boardwalk Hall Auditorium organ in Atlantic City. The Boardwalk Hall Auditorium Organ is capable of creating a resultant 128' stop by combining its 64' and 4223' stops.

    Some installations may have a 64' stop in their specification, but these are 'wired' internally to sound two pipes for each note, one at the 32' pitch and the other at the 21-1/3' pitch.

    It's been said by some that the lone sound of the lowest C of a 64' Contra Trombone is akin to the flatulence of an elephant. That stop is never used by itself and then only sparingly.

    One organ I play regularly has a 10-2/3' pitched stop on the pedal division. That along with a 16' stop gives the impression of a 32' stop ... called a resultant.

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    Senior Member Brad's Avatar
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    I watched a video on the Atlantic City organ... Apparently back in the day your city wasn't complete until you had a massive organ. That was short lived.

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    So true about these organs in various cities. Where I grew up (southern California) the major high schools had pipe organs ... yes, high school auditoriums ... and many are still playing today [Fullerton High School] thanks to the ATOS (American Theater Organ Society).

    Some of the Atlantic City organ problems were man made ... after a directive to remove all asbestos from the building for health reasons, some nut with a heavy scoop on a powerful machine cut through a large umbilical cord for the organ, destroying thousands of connections from the console to the pipe chambers.

    Then after most of the asbestos was removed, the dust/dirt from the removal was still near the organ blowers (there are multiple blowers for this size of an instrument) in the basement of the auditorium, another nut decided to fire up all the blowers of the organ to see what was still playing ... yup ... all that dust and crap from the asbestos removal was sucked up by the blower intakes and then hurled into all the working organ parts. Instant irreparable damage.

    They are working to completely restore that organ, and they are making good progress, but there are funding issues that surround the project - there are lots of labour hours that are donated too.

    Atlantic City organ is the largest pipe organ in the world ... but ... that is by pipe count only, and maybe 30% playable.

    The largest fully playable/operational organ in the world is the Wanamaker organ in Macy's in Philadelphia. If you are ever there, be sure to hear it - it is played daily during regular store hours. Sign up for the extended organ tour (used to be $20 per person in 2012) and be able to see pipework and chambers, including the console, up close and personal. That tour took almost two hours and was well worth the time.

    There is a huge Midmer-Losh pipe organ here in Arizona (Phoenix): Adrian W. Phillips music studio. Adrian Phillips is a well respected pipe organ technician in the United States and has built a studio just for this organ at his residence in Phoenix.

    Kh ♫

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