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Thread: Organ problem - help!

  1. #1
    Lieutenant Commander, Concertmaster
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    Organ problem - help!

    Hi all

    Can you help with this - I've just finished practising and when i stopped a note stayed on all on its own even without any keys being depressed.

    What is wrong and how do you fix it?!

    Help!

  2. #2
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    You have just experienced a "Cipher" - Every organists nightmare. The most common problem is a stuck valve in the pipe chest - remedied by your organ technician/tuner. You will need to isolate which rank is affected, and as a temporary measure, carefully and without pinching or grabbing too hard, remove the ciphering pipe until repairs can be made. If the pipe is too large to remove, a non-lint clean rag placed in the mouth of the pipe might silence it enough.

    Sometimes the offending air valve will reset itself after the pressurized wind inside the chest has been removed. On a old 5 rk Wicks (horseshoe console, 15 inches wind) in the church where I played 40 years ago, I had to deal with a cipher for about 3 weeks until the next monthly tuning/repair visit by the technician - yes, this "Wicked" had to be tuned once a month - It was a high F on the (what else) reed rank - couldn't be a quiet string, nnoooo ... the solution was to tap the two adjacent notes below and above that note like 5 times. It got to be rather funny having to do this in a church service after every hymn ...

    Another time we had one of the blades break off inside the blower while running full speed - of course during a quiet prayer time in the middle of the service - yow, what a racket that was. We eventually replaced that pipe organ with an Allen 44 rk digital.
    Kh ~~.
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  3. #3
    Lieutenant Commander, Concertmaster
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    what tends to cause this problem - and many thanks!

  4. #4
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Hi Bach>Meer,

    Basically, there is little anyone can do to prevent a cipher from occuring. Anything man made can fail at any time for any reason - for instance, some light bulbs burn for years and yet others last only for a few months.

    Dust around the pipe organs worst enemy - the general rule applies around pipework ... Let Sleeping Dust Lie. If the dust around the pipes is disturbed regularly, small particles that are able to seep into the chest can wreak absolute havoc over time.

    I'm assuming the organ in question has Electro-Pnuematic or Direct Electric action? Tracker organs use a different method of activating the valves - I'm not versed well enough on trackers to know what would cause a cipher on those instruments.


    The Möller pipe organ at the church where I've been employed for the past 25 years had yet to have any ciphers, knock on wood. The only mechanical problems have been a couple swell shade motors that were replaced.
    Kh ~~.
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  5. #5
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    As Krummhorn said you have a cipher. Without knowing what type of organ you are playing it is hard to determine anything further. Call your organ technician. Some organs are more prone to ciphers than others. Wicks are rather famous for them. I've never seen one on the slider chests like Schlicker used. (Although I've seen other headaches).

  6. #6
    Captain of Water Music jvhldb's Avatar
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    I know the feeling. During the prelude of a wedding one of the pipes on the piccolo rank did it to me. It was no fun hunting down somebody with a key for the organ chest, getting somebody small enough to crawl in and tap the pipe with a shoe (all we could find) while the bride was driving round the church. That was two years ago, since then I haven't touched the picolo stop again, not even during practice, nobody bothered to have the organ serviced again, the custodians recon that we know how to solve the problem if it happens again so why waste money getting the problem fixed?

  7. #7
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jvhldb View Post
    . . . . was two years ago, since then I haven't touched the picolo stop again, not even during practice, nobody bothered to have the organ serviced again, the custodians recon that we know how to solve the problem if it happens again so why waste money getting the problem fixed?
    Curious ...

    No service or routine tuning in two years either? Whoa - Is this a cost issue? I would tend to think that the organ tech could easily fix this with little effort during a routine tuning session. It's a real shame that you cannot use the entire organ to its full potential because of a small mechanical valve that nobody wants to get fixed.

    Probably a good thing I am not the organist there as I would make sure to use that stop during services - eventually it would become annoying enough that someone might suggest that it be repaired. or I would lose my job ...
    Kh ~~.
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  8. #8
    Captain of Water Music jvhldb's Avatar
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    We know of only three organ builders in South Africa and none of them close to us. Taking into account their traveling expense, labour charge etc, we usually wait for one of them to visit this part of the country (usually once every 3-4 years). With so few tuners/techs (or what ever their called) it can take weeks for one to show up, even if there is an emergency.

    Fortuanetly, only being a student, I seldom play in public. Only the odd wedding that the regular organist can't get to. She is taking revenge on the powers that be by using the stop as often as possible (without getting the "sticky note" for some or other reason), but drawing special attention to the out of tune C and E notes, unfortuanately they are on the same frequency as the fillings in my teeth so I DON'T appreciate this at all.

  9. #9
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso methodistgirl's Avatar
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    organ problems

    Don't scare me Mr. Krummhorn! The pipe organ at my church is a wicks.
    This organ was purchesed somewhere in either the eighties or nineties.
    It is fairly new right now. I hope there won't be any problems. I hope
    if it did happen that one of the church musicians were playing it instead
    of me. I would feel responsable for it. I wished you could see it. Even
    though the organ is fairly new and a bit small. The pattern of the pipes
    and the size of the console is real pretty together. Bach-Meer, I hope
    you can get the problem fixed in no time!
    Judy tooley

  10. #10
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by methodistgirl View Post
    Don't scare me Mr. Krummhorn! The pipe organ at my church is a wicks.
    Not to worry ... the Wicks I was referring to was built in the early 1900's and was originally a Theatre organ with a horseshoe console, high wind pressure - the church acquired it in 1951. The beast had been neglected and was silent in the theatre for about 26 years, so we inherited lots of problems from the get-go. Because of where the pipes were located, in a high chamber and no air conditioning in the church, the organ had to be tuned and repaired monthly. When the organ technician died, I took over all the repairs and tunings myself - even swapped out a couple ranks over the years with other pipework from friends I knew that had theatre organs in their homes.

    Present day Wicks organs are considered to be quite reliable. My Möller pipe at church has yet to have any ciphers, and it is coming up on its 29th birthday next year.

    Nobody can predict with any realibility when a cipher will occur - nor can any prevention methods totally guarantee the absence of a stuck valve in the pipe chest - stuff happens, and when it does, it is dealt with.

    I do feel for the situation of 'jvhldb' and that instrument. At least their regular organist is trying to get the matter resolved
    Kh ~~.
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    fessional musicians practice until they can't get it wrong ...


  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by methodistgirl View Post
    Don't scare me Mr. Krummhorn! The pipe organ at my church is a wicks.
    This organ was purchesed somewhere in either the eighties or nineties.
    It is fairly new right now. I hope there won't be any problems. I hope
    if it did happen that one of the church musicians were playing it instead
    of me. I would feel responsable for it. I wished you could see it. Even
    though the organ is fairly new and a bit small. The pattern of the pipes
    and the size of the console is real pretty together. Bach-Meer, I hope
    you can get the problem fixed in no time!
    Judy tooley
    Don't worry Judy. If well-maintained modern Wicks organs are considered very reliable instruments. The troubles come in when an organ has been added onto, transplanted three times, never maintained and is over 50 years old. And there are a lot of old Wicks organs that have been transplanted and so on. Wicks made a lot of small unit organs that transplant easily. That is where some word of mouth reputation comes from. But you've got a pretty new instrument, so don't worry about it.

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