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Thread: Getting Into Pipe Organ

  1. #1
    Recruit, Pianissimo
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Oklahoma, USA

    Getting Into Pipe Organ

    Well folks, I posted a short blurb in the introductions forum, but it seems that here is where the real action is.

    To make a long story short, I've played piano off-and-on for the last 18 years and have always loved the pipe organ from afar. Now I've decided to dive headfirst into this king of instruments.

    I had my first pipe organ experience last week. It was an Aeolian-Skinner with 4 manuals, 6 divisions, 95 ranks, and 5557 pipes. I hobbled through half of BWV 565 and really made a mess of it. (I've been working on that piece on my piano for about two weeks.) But it was an exhilarating experience, and I have to say that at this point, I'm hooked.

    Here is the organ I played:

    Luckily, I live in the middle of what is called the "bible belt" of the USA. Churches with organs abound, and several local universities have well-maintained organs. That said, I'm still unable to find an organist willing to take on a student for private lessons. I do have some leads I'm currently following, though.

    I found a guy in my area who just happened to have a Classic MIDI Works AGO pedal unit for sale. I bought it from him with the intent to build up a Hauptwerk software rig for practice in my home.

    Two questions for the forum:
    -- If I can't find a teacher, can I develop organ technique on my own?
    -- Can anyone here comment on the Hauptwerk software?

  2. #2
    Seaman, Mezzoforte
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Chelmsford, England
    If I can't find a teacher, can I develop organ technique on my own?
    I was largely self-taught for my first 3 years of playing the organ, having played piano for many years. I had a two lessons right at the start which set the ground-work for my pedal technique, and then used the excellent Harold Gleason organ method book as the basis of developing my technique.

    When I started having regular lessons, whilst this has made a huge difference to my playing and rate of proess, I was pleasantly surprised that I had not developed too many "bad habits" which needed undoing.

    Can anyone here comment on the Hauptwerk software?
    I can't recommend this highly enough. PM me with any specific questions, or browse the very active Hauptwerk forums at

  3. #3
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Tucson, Arizona
    Hi J# Minor,

    The local chapter of the AGO (American Guild of Organists), Oklahoma City might be able to help you find an organ teacher.

    Although it is possible to be self-taught, I would recommend the procurement of a teacher when it becomes possible. As MRG has pointed out, the Gleason book is a great resource - I still have, and use, mine from the 60's.

    I am envious of all the great pipe organs that abound in your region of the country ... the largest church pipe instrument in the city where I live is about 54 rks. The church where I am the organist has a 9 rk Moller pictured here which speaks quite well in a building that seats 250. I had its wind pressure raised to 3" and a complete revoicing done several years back. It was installed in 1979.

    Let us know how things turn out, ok? `
    Kh ~~.

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

  4. #4
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Sydney, Australia
    Look, if you're fairly competent with playing piano, then the manuals (whilst quite different) should pose no problem, especially if you've played harpsichord in the past. As to the pedals, they are just a matter of getting you mental map happening.

    There is a classic text by John Stainer "The Complete Organ Method", you'll find it on Amazon ... it has an excellent introduction to the organ then starts (as most organ texts do) with extended pedal exercises. Stainer's method is particularly good because it describes how you "find" pedals by feel and has a load of (tedious) exercises to get your feet working.

    I heartily recommend it IN LIEU of an organ teacher ...

  5. #5
    Captain of Water Music Thomas Dressler's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Pennsylvania, USA
    When I started the organ, I used the Stainer book as well as the Gleason. I still teach from these books (especially the left hand and pedal exercises in Stainer!) but now I recommend another book--Organ Technique: Modern and Early by George Ritchie and George Stauffer. I think it explains technique more thoroughly, and more importantly--in historical context. I feel it is important to know BOTH kinds of technique. It is sad to me to see organists who specialize in either modern OR early technique and tend to defensively "put down" the other approach, and I teach my students BOTH techniques. Gleason is very good at modern technique, and Stainer is kind of in between--old technique moving into modern, at least concerning pedaling.

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