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Thread: Pianist playing an organ

  1. #1
    Recruit, Pianissimo
    Join Date
    Apr 2010

    Pianist playing an organ

    Hi there. Hopefully someone will be able to help me. I am a competant pianist and have been voulenteered by family to play something at my grandma's funeral next week on the church organ. I'll hopefully be able to practice at least once on the organ. I have a few questions that maybe some of you can help me with, and any advice would be appreciated. I am a novice, so please excuse me if the answers to these questions seem very blatant.

    The organ has three manuals and is electric, that's about all I know about it. Does an organ like this have a similar sound and impact to that of a pipe organ?

    I've chosen to play Pachelbel's Chaconne in F minor, as it's managable for me to learn and seems fitting. I've listened to various recordings, and can hear the voices changing all the time. I have no idea whether this is the organist pulling out and pushing in stops or changing manuals. How and when do you decide which manuals to play on (since it's not marked on the notation), or is that at the organist's descretion?

    I'm right in that the organ's keyboard is not touch sensitive and that there is an expression pedal. Is there way to create your own balance between different manuals? Can the keyboard action be likened to that of a digital keyboard?

    Generally, are there any dos and don'ts to organ playing?

    Thank you for reading!


  2. #2
    Admiral Maestoso marval's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Hello Ella, welcome to the forum, I am sorry to hear about your grandma. Do stay around and I am sure one of our many talented organists will be able to help you.


  3. #3
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Sydney, Australia
    You'll find preset knobs (white ones) beneath each manual, these are set by the manufacturer and are supposed to be pleasant combinations of ranks to produce differing levels of volume, I suggest you play around with these and pick ones that you might think are suitable.

    For soft playing avoid Principal or Diapason pipes (as they tend to be more fuller in tone).
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

  4. #4
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso wljmrbill's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Taylors, South Carolina, USA
    Might(help) also listen to this video and follow your music and can get ideas of manuals to play sections on, registrations sounds to use and can mark your score as you go along... Are you using an organ or piano score?

    Good Luck...
    ....To play only what is written is the domain of science. To realize what is not written is the domain of art."
    - Jean Langlais

    I wish you the Best for each day, now and always.


  5. #5
    Ensign, Principal
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    You will find detailed registrations for this piece:

  6. #6
    Commodore con Forza
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Why do they do such things when it's going to be with an audience?

    First off, the touch is different, as you wll quickly find out.

    Second, those "knobs" below the manuals are called pistons, and if it's any kind of organ, you set them yourself. Many organists keep the "how" as a trade secret unless the organ has different "levels".

    On most three-manuals, the first and third manuals have expression pedals. That should help the "balance" matter. (Manuals are counted from the LOWEST up.)

    Good luck, and I hope everything sounds acceptable.

  7. #7
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Tucson, Arizona
    Hi Ella,

    Welcome to the forum . Please accept my condolences on the loss of a beloved family member.

    Most electronic/digitals with 3 manuals also have a stop tablet labeled "All Swells to Swell" ... I would certainly strongly recommend that you utilize this if it's available. All the expressions will then be controlled by one pedal, the swell pedal. The Swell shoe, if it's an American organ, should be located between the middle D# and F# of the pedalboard (per AGO specs).

    Another alternative to manually selecting stops is to utilize the Crescendo shoe (pedal) which slowly adds stops from pp to fff as it is moved.

    You can experiment with the pistons ... some organists will set those in such a manner that a lower number will engage fewer stops (a quieter registration) and a higher number will engage more stops.

    I hope these, and the other suggestions above are helpful to you. Please feel free to ask any additional questions - we are all here to help one another.
    Kh ~~.

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

  8. #8
    Rear Admiral Appassionata (Ret) Ghekorg7 (Ret)'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Athens, Greece
    Hi Ella and welcome !

    Our friends here gave you the best advice there is.
    I'll add something here to your post, that I think you'll find interesting.

    As I'm a keen piano player who loves most the pipe organ and studies it for years, I know exactly your kind of situation . It happens that I also work these days on Pachelbell's Ciacona in Fm - I downloaded the score from IMSLP - and I believe it's a work that inspired many others to come to our days.

    I stuck with Helmut Winter's performance in February 1965 because he builds the whole work as a real story : starts ppp goes to fff and gradualy returns to ppp to fade. I believe it's the best approach to tell the story. See it as a Chopin's Nocturne, regarding the dynamics, and you'll be ok.

    As for the registrations, Winter starts with a simple 8' flute and adds a stop (4' then 2' then a fifth ect untill the peak of the work (the one with the pedal movement adding chords) where he adds the mixture. Best way to do this is the use of pistons, as Krummhorn says, they can do small miracles just to push one with one of your fingers as you play, given that you prepared them before.
    Goin' to the end Winter start to close one by one to the closing theme repeat, playin' it with the first 8" flute.
    I hope I helped

    best regards

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