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Thread: advice on how to play a pipe organ

  1. #1
    Recruit, Pianissimo
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    advice on how to play a pipe organ

    My sister and I have begun to play our church's pipe organ (the previous organist is no longer available) and would appreciate any suggestions anyone could give us to be able to produce the best sound for different pieces/occasions.
    We are complete beginners and although we are both piano players neither of us can manage to play with both hands and feet on our own so at the moment it's a bit of a double act! - me on the bass pedals and stops and my sister on the manual keyboards.
    We have so far managed to (through trial and error) produce a good sound, but we wondered if anyone could suggest any specific combinations of stops that would produce a sound that fulfils the organ's potential?
    Also, although we are achieving a reasonable sound, our organ is in particularly bad condition and wondered if anyone could shed any light on the pros and cons of switching to a digital organ? Would it compromise on sound? Is it easier to play? Could it be fitted into the existing console?
    Are there any organs that would be piano player friendly? i.e. that incorporate the bass pedals into the manual keyboard, rather than having to play bass pedals with our feet?
    Also, any advice on how to achieve a smooth transition between stop combinations?
    Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Midshipman, Forte
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    Quote Originally Posted by hshaplan View Post
    We are complete beginners and although we are both piano players neither of us can manage to play with both hands and feet on our own
    The contrary would surprise me! Being a piano player does not automatically makes you an organ player, it just eases learning of the organ, since you already know 1/3 of organ playing (the other 1/3 is playing with precision the pedals solo, and the rest is playing the combo hands-feet; actually the proportions may be different, but you get the idea).


    Quote Originally Posted by hshaplan View Post
    Also, although we are achieving a reasonable sound, our organ is in particularly bad condition and wondered if anyone could shed any light on the pros and cons of switching to a digital organ?
    There are today some very nice digital organs that reproduce very closely the real organ sound, to the point that often even a specialist couild not tell the difference. There is however one thing that a digital organ could never achieve (or better, it does not make sense to implement in the visible future): having the thousands of audio channels of a real organ (which are its own pipes!).

    Quote Originally Posted by hshaplan View Post
    Would it compromise on sound?
    See above. Also, a good installation of external speakers can enhance greatly the sound reproduction.

    Quote Originally Posted by hshaplan View Post
    Is it easier to play?
    Compared with a completely mechanical organ console, probably yes. Today's digital organs have several automation mechanisms to make playing easier.

    Quote Originally Posted by hshaplan View Post
    Could it be fitted into the existing console?
    I think there should be some solution for this, not sure though. I know that some manufacturers (parhaps all major ones today) offer the possibility to connect their digital organs to an existing pipe installation. But I don't know if they would fit the electronics into the guts of a machanical console, if that's what you ask.

    Quote Originally Posted by hshaplan View Post
    Are there any organs that would be piano player friendly? i.e. that incorporate the bass pedals into the manual keyboard, rather than having to play bass pedals with our feet?
    No one that I am aware of.

    Quote Originally Posted by hshaplan View Post
    Also, any advice on how to achieve a smooth transition between stop combinations?
    Have an assistant to do this, unless you play relatively simple music that leaves you a chance to take care of that alone, in which case it is a matter of skill development. In complicated works it may be impossible to change alone the registration without interrupting playing.

  3. #3
    Lieutenant Commander, Concertmaster FinnViking's Avatar
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    I warmly recommend that you get a teacher to show the basics of organ playing. It is the only way to get to know the instrument at any level.

  4. #4
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    The Method of Organ Playing by Harold Gleason is a wonderful source for those learning the organ. Although I had 6 years of piano study before my organ studies began, that book was a valuable aid to my learning years, and in present times when I feel my playing technique getting too sloppy.

    The book starts out with just the manuals, then moves on to the pedals later, then combinations of the two gradually.

    There are numerous 'manuals only' pieces for organ, too - I use those occassionaly in church to get away from the drone of the pedal notes being used for every piece all the time.

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