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Thread: How to select registration

  1. #1
    Lieutenant, Associate Concertmaster AllanP's Avatar
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    How to select registration

    One of the least documented topics in organ playing is the subject of registration. The question is "How to select registration?"

    Some issues are
    1. When to use a diapason chorus?
    2. When to use a single diapason as a solo stop?
    3. Do you ever use a flute chorus? Are all stopped flutes used together, are all open flutes used together, or use a mixture of stopped and open flutes?
    4. Are flutes added to diapasons, at all pitches or just a few pitches.
    5. When are 8' stops combined? (My first teacher said never)
    6. When using trumpets, what added stops are used? For example 8' stops to make the trumpet more like a Tuba, 4' stops with 8' trumpet, and/or higher pitches such as mutations and mixtures.
    7. When are 16' manual stops appropriate?

    There is very little literature on the subject of registration selection. It is generally left to the student to learn from the teacher by a process akin to osmosis following the teacher's selection. I am learning a piece written by Richard Purvis, my teacher who studied with Mr. Purvis told me "this is how he played the piece", thus registration is handed down by word of mouth.

    Are there general rules that give guidance?

  2. #2
    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    Hi there. I'm not very experienced with organs having only played less than a year, and this is my first post in this forum, but here's what I've found out so far.

    The one registration rule of thumb I have learned so far is that you always start with a 8' stop and never use combinations that lack a 8'stop. Other than that I go by ear. I usually add atleast one 4' or 2' stop before adding a mixture or a diapason. Diapasons go great with reeds, making them less wood-wind and more brass-instrument, or if you want to create a reed-like sound without reeds (which I must do in one of the two organs I have access to, as the reeds are severely out of tune). I've never heard that you shouldn't combine 8' stops, I do it all the time, but if you want a softer dynamic it's good advice. And often some 8' stops aren't heard when combined with other 8' stops anyway. I wish I had more 16' manual stops, there's only one at one of my two organs. I think it works best in combination with reeds and/or mixture in louder dynamics.

    I would think that the difference between instruments is too great to allow a detailed set of rules. You simply have to try out which combination that works. It will be interesting what other more experienced organists has to say about this. :-)

  3. #3
    Commodore con Forza
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    Quote Originally Posted by AllanP View Post
    5. When are 8' stops combined? (My first teacher said never)

    Ah, yes: the famous Äqualverbot. Well, first of all there is the romantic literature, where many composers (especially the French) explicitly ask for 8' stops (even all 8' stops) to be combined.

    But even in the baroque repertoire, I have my doubts about what, say, Bach really did (will we ever know?) vs. what the neobaroque dogma of the 1960s dictates. For example, doesn't one often think that "romantic organs have many 8' stops whereas baroque organs only have a few"? Well, if you look at the specifications of, say, Altenburg (Trost 1739), Naumburg (Hildebrandt 1746), or Ottobeuren (Riepp 1766), with three, four, or even five 8' stops on some manuals, it makes me think again (BTW, J.S.Bach knew, and much appreciated, the first two of these instruments). Heck, even most Cavaillé-Coll's don't have five 8' stops in a single manual!

    So I'm very sceptical about the idea that you never combine 8' stops.

  4. #4
    Admiral Honkenwheezenpooferspieler Corno Dolce's Avatar
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    Ach Du Liebe - All that Neo-Baroque and Orgelbewegung Dogma - GAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!

    This period of organ history is the saddest - so many beautiful Skinners, Aeolians, Hook and Hastings, Jardines etc. etc. etc. have gone to waste because of the crooks in the orgelbewegung and neo-baroque movement.

    Let history abort, terminate and forget that most shameful movement.
    *If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks* -Abba Zeno-

    *Protagoras: "Truth is subjective. What is true for you, and what is true for me, is true for me. Your opinion is true by virtue of its being your opinion."

    *Socrates: "My opinion is: Truth is absolute, not opinion, and that you are in absolute error. Since this is my opinion, then according to your philosophy you must grant that it is true."

    "Improvisational Art": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSxVO3EoCRM

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AllanP View Post
    One of the least documented topics in organ playing is the subject of registration. The question is "How to select registration?"

    Some issues are
    1. When to use a diapason chorus?
    2. When to use a single diapason as a solo stop?
    3. Do you ever use a flute chorus? Are all stopped flutes used together, are all open flutes used together, or use a mixture of stopped and open flutes?
    4. Are flutes added to diapasons, at all pitches or just a few pitches.
    5. When are 8' stops combined? (My first teacher said never)
    6. When using trumpets, what added stops are used? For example 8' stops to make the trumpet more like a Tuba, 4' stops with 8' trumpet, and/or higher pitches such as mutations and mixtures.
    7. When are 16' manual stops appropriate?

    There is very little literature on the subject of registration selection. It is generally left to the student to learn from the teacher by a process akin to osmosis following the teacher's selection. I am learning a piece written by Richard Purvis, my teacher who studied with Mr. Purvis told me "this is how he played the piece", thus registration is handed down by word of mouth.

    Are there general rules that give guidance?

    Hi AllanP,

    During my years of private organ study, I was given basic ideas for registrations. Then it was up to us to "fill in the blanks" given the tonal resources of what our primary instrument had to offer. Few of us have ever had (or will ever have) the vast number of ranks to use as Mr. Purvis had at his disposal.

    Does this mean that we should never attempt a given piece for lack of sufficient organ ranks? IMHO, certainly not ... just because the composer calls out a 32' pedal stop and we don't have one should never preclude our playing of that piece on the organ we have at our disposal. My church instrument is but 9 ranks, basically a "service instrument" in all respects, but despite is humble size, I've managed to romp out such pieces as the Franck Chorale No.3 in A Minor, and Mendelssohn Sonata I in concert performances over the years with lots of imagination in registration and tricky stop changes with only four general pistons below the Swell keyboard.

    As to 8' stops being combined ... I try to avoid it unless the two or more stops at the same pitch compliment each other and don't "muddy" the sound too much. In my own church instrument there are 5 - 8' pitched stops:
    • 8' Principal (Gt)
    • 8' Gedeckt (Gt
    • 8' Spitzflöte (Sw)
    • 8' Gemshorn (Sw)
    • 8' Trompette (Sw)
    I seldom merge the Principal and Gedeckt, as it becomes too muddy, but the Gedeckt and Gemshorn make for a nice warm complimentary sound.

    Stopped & Open flutes. My church instrument has but two ranks of flutes: 1) Sw: Spitzflöte wired @ 8', 4' 2' Metal pipes - Open
    2) Gt: Gedeckt wired @ 8', 4', 2' Metal pipes - Stopped
    I will use them together sparingly, perhaps like this:
    • Sw 8' & 2' Spitzflöte coupled to Gt 4' Gedeckt
    With the swell shades open partially, I have a nice contrasting registration between the two manuals.

    When pulling the reed into the ensemble mix, I cancel the 8' Principal and draw its 4' counterpart instead - keeps things from getting too "hooty", at least on this instrument. The acoustical properties of my church have the same properties as a loaf of bread. Musicalis, a member here, has added some reverb into a MP3 recording I did for him recently, and the result was fantastic.

    So, basically, for registration, we organists are pretty much left on our own, especially those of us with limited tonal resources.
    Kh ~~.
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  6. #6
    Commodore con Forza
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    Quote Originally Posted by Corno Dolce View Post
    Ach Du Liebe - All that Neo-Baroque and Orgelbewegung Dogma - GAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!

    This period of organ history is the saddest - so many beautiful Skinners, Aeolians, Hook and Hastings, Jardines etc. etc. etc. have gone to waste because of the crooks in the orgelbewegung and neo-baroque movement.

    Let history abort, terminate and forget that most shameful movement.

    Hi Corno,

    Well, I wouldn't put it that harshly. Besides its aberrations and exagerations, the neobaroque mouvement has had a lot of good insights I'm not ready to throw away. Don't forget that it started as a reaction to the romantic schools, which could sometimes be equally dogmatic (e.g. Dupré's rules about playing Bach), and which had its own history of wasting good instruments for pure matters of taste (falsely disguised into "objective" arguments). Maybe we're just less aware of this because it goes back further into the past.

  7. #7
    Admiral Honkenwheezenpooferspieler Corno Dolce's Avatar
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    Hi ACC,

    I will gladly entertain your thoughts on this subject anyday of the week. Yes, the romantic school could be equally dogmatic. However, I'm a bit more lenient towards the romantic school since some really great ideas for different pipe sounds came out of that school of thought. I consider Cavaille-Coll organs to be in the romantic vein but with classical restraint. I can't view the neo-baroque movement showing any restraint. *Shriekwerks* come to mind.

    Humbly,

    CD
    *If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks* -Abba Zeno-

    *Protagoras: "Truth is subjective. What is true for you, and what is true for me, is true for me. Your opinion is true by virtue of its being your opinion."

    *Socrates: "My opinion is: Truth is absolute, not opinion, and that you are in absolute error. Since this is my opinion, then according to your philosophy you must grant that it is true."

    "Improvisational Art": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSxVO3EoCRM

  8. #8
    Commodore con Forza
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    Hi CD,

    My personal taste tends to agree with yours about "shriekwerks". But then, when I try to take a step back and look at the situation, the previous generation (i.e. the one who introduced those "shriekwerks") made similar complaints about romantic organs being "too dark", and considered their predecessors to be much better. It seems that any generation N has had problems with generation N-1, blaming them for wasting the organs of generation N-2 which were sooo much more beautiful than those of generation N-1. As a result, they in turn start wasting the organs of generation N-1, for which they then get blamed for by generation N+1 on the same grounds, etc.
    Last edited by acc; May-28-2008 at 22:18.

  9. #9
    Admiral Honkenwheezenpooferspieler Corno Dolce's Avatar
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    Most honorable ACC,

    Oh yes, I do like what you shared since it lets me reflect on some of the issues. For *Baroque* organs I have always marveled at the work of Joseph Gabler like the masterpiece in Weingarten - He's got these huge multi-rank mixtures but they never shriek. But then Maitre Aristide's work turns upside down the dogmatic antics of those who argued for a romantic or orgelbewegung school. Is there any reconciling to be done betwixt the excesses of orgelbewegung and romantic organ? At this moment none is apparent. Therefore, I'm forever grateful for what Aristide bequeathed unto the world.

    Humbly,

    CD
    *If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks* -Abba Zeno-

    *Protagoras: "Truth is subjective. What is true for you, and what is true for me, is true for me. Your opinion is true by virtue of its being your opinion."

    *Socrates: "My opinion is: Truth is absolute, not opinion, and that you are in absolute error. Since this is my opinion, then according to your philosophy you must grant that it is true."

    "Improvisational Art": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSxVO3EoCRM

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    Lieutenant, Associate Concertmaster AllanP's Avatar
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    Thank everyone for these comments. I will try out the suggestions on my own organ and see how it works. My instrument has 6 8' stops
    Trumpet
    Diapason
    Tibia
    Salicional
    Flute (open, wood inverted mouth)
    Vox Humana

    We had a Christmas carol sing last year with an accomplished church organist who played the accompaniment. He used 8' Diapason, 8' Tibia, 4' Flute, 2' Piccolo which combination sounded good with the shutters mostly closed. I had thought that the Tibia was too heavy, but his combination worked very well with the singers.

    I fully agree with the neo-baroque comments having started learning to play in the mid 70's. At that time classical organists had no tolerance for any music later than Bach and any organ that wasn't shrill.

    Thanks again for your help.

    Allan

  11. #11
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AllanP View Post
    Thank everyone for these comments. I will try out the suggestions on my own organ and see how it works. My instrument has 6 8' stops
    Trumpet
    Diapason
    Tibia
    Salicional
    Flute (open, wood inverted mouth)
    Vox Humana

    Allan
    Hi AllanP,

    Your stoplist closely resembles and old Wicks theatre organ that I played for 7 years in my 2nd church position. It was 5 rks, but didn't have the Trumpet as part of the original spec.

    In that organ, I found little use for the Tibia as it was voiced way too hooty - eventually traded the Tibia for a Cornopean 4' rank, and installed it myself (re-drilling [enlarging] the toe boards, etc). The organ could finally be heard at the rear of the nave .

    I also closed the caps on the VH, and tuned that rank sharp to the Salicional, rendering a cheap celeste - strange in sound, but very effective especially with the theatrical trem. That instrument ran on 15" wind - needed constant tuning, which I also did after the regular organ tech died (nobody else in the state would touch that beast).
    Kh ~~.
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  12. #12
    Lieutenant, Associate Concertmaster AllanP's Avatar
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    The chamber is temperature controlled and the tuning is quite stable. I find the combination of the Vox and Salicional give somewhat of a celeste action especially like all short resonator reeds, the Vox is always slightly out of tune. It does not really sound like a true celeste but serves the purpose. The wind pressure is the standard Wurlitzer pressure of 10", with the Vox on 6".

    Your comment about the Tibia also applies to my Tibia, in classical ensemble combinations it usually does not blend. A nice combination is 8' Tibia and 2' Piccolo for a lighter tone.

    When would 8' and 4' diapasons be used alone? Should the pedal also be 16' and 8' diapasons to match or use a 16' Bourdon and 8' Diapason for more solid sounding bass?

    AllanP

  13. #13
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Hi AllanP

    When I register the 8' & 4' Principals, I use the 16' Bourdon and 8' Principal in the pedal. In my church instrument the Bourdon (actually a 12 note extension of the Gedeckt, except it is wood as opposed to the rest of the rank, which is metal) is my only 16' register for the pedal, besides the mitred reed rank extension in the box.

    How fortunate you are to have the Diapason at 16' ... that would be a nice addition for my church that would really help the bottom end. The Diapason seems to have lots more projection into a room, where the Bourdon rather sits somewhat dormant, but does render more bass "feel" than the open metal pipe of the same length.

    Before I traded out the Tibia in that organ, I used it at 4' pitch as a solo stop against the Melodia and Salicional. During practice sessions when I was alone in that church, I would throw on the theatrical trem, pull the Tibias and such and just romp away on the beast - it was great fun. That organ also had Second Touch on one of the manuals, with its own stop rail section ... ahh, to reminisce about the old days of yore.

    The church replaced that beast with an Allen digital in 1972 - soon afterwards a group of parishioners exclaimed "when are we going to get rid of this new contraption and get something more practical, like a <shrug> Hammond?" Music aficionados, no doubt
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  14. #14
    Lieutenant, Associate Concertmaster AllanP's Avatar
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    The 16' octave of the diapason is really a metal diaphone which when combined with an 8' Diapason makes an acceptable pedal. Adding the 16' Bourdon gives more body to the tone. The Diaphone looks like a mitered 16' reed but uses beaters rather than metal reeds which gives a more mellow sound. The 8' Diapason seems to help ear confirm that it is a Diapason sound. Conversely, adding an 8' Trumpet makes the ear think more of a 16' reed sound.

    My teacher almost invariably uses the 16' Bourdon with either the 8" Flute or the 8" Diapason. She does not normally use the diaphone, I don't know why.

    Too bad the church replaced a fun pipe organ with a very early digital. It sounds like it was quite a versatile instrument.

  15. #15
    Admiral Honkenwheezenpooferspieler Corno Dolce's Avatar
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    Hi AllanP,

    Here's a *Primer On Organ Registration* by Gordon Nevin Balch you might be interested in:

    http://ia340917.us.archive.org/2/ite...00neviuoft.pdf

    Cheers,

    CD
    *If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks* -Abba Zeno-

    *Protagoras: "Truth is subjective. What is true for you, and what is true for me, is true for me. Your opinion is true by virtue of its being your opinion."

    *Socrates: "My opinion is: Truth is absolute, not opinion, and that you are in absolute error. Since this is my opinion, then according to your philosophy you must grant that it is true."

    "Improvisational Art": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSxVO3EoCRM

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