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Thread: Coupling

  1. #1
    Lieutenant Commander, Concertmaster
    Join Date
    Sep 2007


    Hi all

    when you couple to the great - do you tend to use swell suboctave and swell super octave to great and do you use choir to great and choir suboctave and choir superoctave to great?
    what combos tend to be the best - i know nothing about registration - how can i learn apart from trial and error?

    Nicht Bach sondern Meer

  2. #2
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Tucson, Arizona
    When registering, I personally try to utilize the stops at hand using only unison couplers. Most organ divisions have 16' and 4' stops, both of which will couple 'naturally' when using the unison coupler. When I said 'naturally', I meant that using the unison coupler a 16' will couple as a 16' pitch as will a 4' stop.

    Overuse of sub couplers will tend to muddy the sound, especially if the manual you are coupling to already have 16' pitches drawn. Of course, each instrument is different and some of this is by trial and error.

    Judicious use of couplers at all pitches will result in a pleasing sound to all listeners ... and remember that the average listener in the pews is music illiterate and if it sounds a little 'muddy' to you, it is ten-fold that to the music illiterate person.

    On organs where there are only 8' stops, and I have played many of those during my career as a church organist, then one must use couplers at other than unison pitch in order to achieve brighter sounds for hymn singing.
    Kh ~~.

    Amateur musicians practice until they get it right ...
    fessional musicians practice until they can't get it wrong ...

  3. #3
    Midshipman, Forte
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    I really don't know that I've ever used 16 or 4 couplers. It gets pretty complicated. And as Lars pointed out, it doesn't sound particularly good in most situations. And as for swell/choir or both, it really all depends on the organ. The instrument at my church doesn't have a choir division, but on some organs I've played in recitals on I have brought the choir up to the great because it had some brighter sounds I wanted to integrate. Swell to great is good when you want to use reeds. I often use couplers for pedal purposes (my organ has just one weak reed sound in the pedal). Just try it out on the organ you play most and see what you like best. There's no right or wrong answer as long as it sounds good!


  4. #4
    Commodore con Forza
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    As mentioned, so much of this depends on the organ. You take what you get.

    Something interesting: Take a look at the specs of almost any Cavaille-Coll organ, and there are always "octaves graves" couplers on the manuals. That would mean "sub-octave", but you rarely if ever see super-octave. As for the "tirasses" (manual to pedal), they are always unison pitch. All of these were done with small pedals above the pedalboard, so running out of room could have been a factor.

    Much of this could have simply been the style at the time, or C-C's way of building organs. Nowadays, especially on larger organs, there are often complete sets between all suitable manuals at all three pitches. Notice that some five-manuals have two whole rows of couplers about the 5th manual.

    I have sometimes wondered if a four-manual could benefit from having couplers at all three pitches and all manuals, including Great, to the fourth manual, so it could be used as a coupler manual. They usually tend to be the reverse, to the Great. This would seem to be part of the reason for the famous "Grand Choeur" manual on the St. Sulpice organ. It's the only manual that all the others couple to, but it is also a part of the Grand Orgue division, with the reeds and upper work there and the other flues on the second or "Grand" manual.

    Needless to say, organ builders all have their own ideas, so unless one is in the happy process of calling the shots on a new organ, there may not be much choice.

  5. #5
    Ensign, Principal
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Worcestershire UK
    An interesting post, D11927. The use of a particular manual as a 'coupler' manual adds an extra dimension to performance. To give an example off the top of my head, if you are playing a fugue (not Bach;-) left or right hand can move to the choir manual for the re-entry of the subject with the Gt + Sw effect while the other continues on the Great until required.

    Subs and octaves on particular manuals are useful, if the stops are not on unit chests (might as well have the octave coupler renamed 4ft Tuba then...) but need to be used with caution when the dynamics are high and chords are involved. Their use on softer stops is interesting e.g. String tones or a celeste, but again, use with caution!

  6. #6
    Commodore con Forza
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    It might pay to keep in mind that the acoustics of a given location play almost as much a part as do the specifications of the organ. What works in one place may sound like the crucible of Hell in another.

    This is why, if a company built two organs exactly identical in all specs and installed them in two locations, they would probably not sound just the same. But it might be a toss-up, or personal opinion, which one sounded "better".

    Most organs tend to favor the Great manual when it comes to couplers, but the same would probably also be said about crescendo pedals and tuttis or sforzandos, at least as far as the pedals are concerned. Hit the tutti, and the pedals would probably overpower the swell manual. I guess that's why an organ console can almost look like the cockpit of a 747. But then again, what about a French tocatta with most of the theme work in the pedals? You may need all the resources the pedal division has, unless, of course, there are 38 stops on it.

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