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Thread: Courses on organ building

  1. #1
    Lieutenant Commander, Concertmaster
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    Courses on organ building

    Hi all

    Not posted for a while - good to be back!
    I want to be an organ builder and would like to know what qualifications you have to have or courses you have to go on and all the details. I'm based in Manchester UK.

    How much do organ builders earn on average annually (I'd do it for free for my church and for the love of it too obviously :-) )

    thanks all!
    Nicht Bach sondern Meer

  2. #2
    Lieutenant Commander, Concertmaster
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    PS I want to be able to repair and tune organs too :-)
    Nicht Bach sondern Meer

  3. #3
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso Dorsetmike's Avatar
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    Have you tried writing to one of the established organ building companies? Google has quite a list. Willis and Go-Organs both have Liverpool addresses, I didn't go far down the list, there could be one closer to you.

    http://www.google.co.uk/#hl=en&sourc...ec045743156be6
    Cheers MIKE.

    How many roads must a man walk down ... ... before he admits he's lost?

  4. #4
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bach>Meer View Post
    Hi all

    I want to be an organ builder and would like to know what qualifications you have to have or courses you have to go on and all the details. I'm based in Manchester UK.

    How much do organ builders earn on average annually (I'd do it for free for my church and for the love of it too obviously :-) )

    thanks all!
    I think you'll find you need to be granted an apprenticeship with a firm so be prepared for a large drop in income. As to the tuning, this is taught on as part of your apprenticeship. This is how it works in Australia, can't imagine it being too different in the U.K.

    One piece of advice, the smaller the firm the more you'll end up doing.

    As to salary: organ builders earn their income two ways. 1) by commission (whether that be building from scratch or rennovating an existing organ) and 2) from regular maintenance contracts with parish churches or civic halls.
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

  5. #5
    Commodore con Forza Soubasse's Avatar
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    I almost went into organ building before I finished school as I was fascinated by the mechanics and designs of the King. The builder informed me at the time that I'd need to do a course in cabinet making along with some other carpentry skills (which would have taken at least a year) and then apply for an apprenticeship with him. I did a few weeks of work experience with him but ended up finishing school and going on to University because I realised I loved playing them far more than wanting to build them!

    I suspect that in Europe and UK, there is a little more respect and tradition given to the craft and so the income may possibly be a little more realistic (on the other hand it could be little different despite that). The info David provided above is certainly true, be prepared to enjoy a "tuning run" - I certainly enjoyed it, and depending on the size of the city and number of organs therein, you could end doing some basic tuning and maintenance on upwards of 4 instruments per day for several weeks on end.
    Music is made to transform the states of the soul, for an hour or an instant (J. Alain)

  6. #6
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Unlike my partner, I have absolutely NO skills or aptitude for carpentry. As much as I'd love to be an organ builder because I'm so in awe of the King, I just don't think I have the mentality for that sort of fine work.
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

  7. #7
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    If you have the skill set you can learn the art from books. I found the most difficult part was building the casting table and learning to cast pipe metal precise enough to not need to be planed to thickness. The next was mastering pipe metal soldering. Fortunately I found an elderly pipemaker in the next town that helped me master both. For Books, I'd recommend "The Art of Organ Building" by George Ashdown Audsley and "The Art of Organ Voicing" by L. G. Monette.
    My initial objective was to build my own instrument, as electronics and pipe organs were prohibitably expensive to a youngster of 22. Thirty five years and a career in engineering later it's finally done. A life long labor of love.
    I agree with the advice to seek out a small firm. This will allow you to experience the whole process rather than run the risk being permanently assigned to the first "niche" you apear skilled at. I've never encountered anyone just in it for the money. All were dedicated to their art.

  8. #8
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    I wonder how the old (Renaissance and Mediaeval) organ builders coped with casting of metal for their pipes?
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

  9. #9
    Commodore con Forza Soubasse's Avatar
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    Fair point - that's possibly why there were often more wooden pipes in those instruments (I have read that some Medieval pipes were even made from glass but I don't know how true that is).

    As far as I'm aware, the builders down here in SA don't actually make their own pipes but order them from Australian Pipe Organs (and I don't think all of theirs are made in house either. I believe Knud Smenge "rolls his own" (as it were!), I certainly know he makes his own reed resonators.
    Music is made to transform the states of the soul, for an hour or an instant (J. Alain)

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Contratrombone64 View Post
    I wonder how the old (Renaissance and Mediaeval) organ builders coped with casting of metal for their pipes?
    The same way they do it today, cast on a linen covered table. Pounded or scraped to thickness and soldered with an iron made of a chunk of copper fixed to an iron rod with a wooden handle. Tallow candles were and are used as flux. The process is ancient, however the materials and energy sources have improved. I purchased a modern electric pipe soldering iron, but surprisingly ended up using the old style copper iron for all but the smallest pipe soldering. It held heat better and wouldn't need to be fed solder as often.

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