john Ourensma that Dobson Organ home builders tests the brand-new organ at the Kimmel facility in Philadelphia.

You are watching: How many keys does an organ have

Evelyn Taylor

The organ has been described, together with the clock, as the most complicated of all mechanically instruments arisen before the industrial Revolution. Mozart dubbed it the king of instruments.

The largest concert-hall organ in the United says — every 32 loads of the — recently made the debut at Philadelphia"s Kimmel facility for the Performing Arts.

See more: What Is The Difference Between Clastic And Chemical Sedimentary Rocks

"Millions of human being hear the organ every weekend ... In church, yet how the thing works does stay kind that mysterious," music commentator miles Hoffman says.

Book Excerpt: "The smashville247.net timeless Music Companion"

Facebook Twitter Flipboard Email
June 5, 20065:36 afternoon ET

miles Hoffman



It to be none other than Mozart who an initial declared the body organ the "king the instruments." He to be most likely swayed, together so many others have been, by the immensity and also nobility of the organ"s sound, and by the tremendous selection of sounds the instrument can produce. Mozart was likewise certainly mindful of the organ"s lengthy history, and of that leading duty in the advancement of such crucial musical creates as the fantasy, the prelude, the toccata, and the fugue.

The body organ is a hybrid, a combination wind instrument and also keyboard instrument. It"s a wind instrument because it produces sound by method of air vibrating in pipes. And also it produces various notes (that is, note of different pitch) by setup the waiting vibrating in pipe of different lengths: the much longer the pipe, the longer the vibrating wait column and the lower the pitch. The much shorter the pipe, the greater the pitch. The tube of an body organ sit on a "wind chest." There space various species of organs, yet they all have actually some mechanism to pressure air at steady pressure right into the wind chest and from the chest right into the bottoms of the pipes. Come play the instrument, the organist provides keyboards and pedals. The pedals are like an extra set of keys, however played v the feet. (Their duty is not in any method related to that of piano pedals.) In reality the keys and also pedals room really simply one finish of a mechanism of valves that open and also close the pipes in ~ the bottom, permitting forced waiting in or shutting that out.

But what around the "tremendous selection of sounds" one organ can produce? on a piano, the way the player depresses the tricks (the "touch") determines the quality of the sound. But on an organ, this is not the case: the function of the keys is strict to regulate which pipes will certainly be opened. With certain minor exception (and no exception in the case of organ keyboards that run electrically), the touch has actually nothing to execute with exactly how the notes will sound.

The "how" is figured out by the pipes themselves. Sport in the materials, shape, and functional architecture of organ pipes can produce effects ranging from subtle gradations the tone shade to drastic differences in volume and also character of sound. The factor the organ provides such a impressive panoply of sounds is that numerous different varieties of pipes can be offered -- independently or simultaneously -- come play the very same notes.

Most organ pipes are metal, some are wood. They selection from the size of a pencil to monsters that space thirty-two feet (or even sixty-four feet) long and a foot and also a half to two feet in diameter. The pipes are arranged in set of similar type and sound quality called "ranks," with most ranks encompassing the entire range of notes on the keyboard, one pipe every note. (Some ranking cover only the note played through the pedals.) many organ keyboards span sixty-one notes, and also a big organ may have as plenty of as fifty, seventy-five, or one hundred or an ext separate ranks. The result? several pipes.

To offer a simplified example: if an organ has actually eighty ranks of pipes and a keyboard expectancy of sixty-one notes, and if each rank consists the entire keyboard span, that body organ will have almost five thousand pipes. 4 thousand eight hundreds eighty, to be exact, or 80 × 61, not counting the pedal ranks. Some very large organs have actually as countless as ten thousands pipes, or even twelve thousand.

In fact, everything about the organ has to be simplified to discuss at anything much less than book length, since the tool is so complicated. Also, although there are specific conventions in organ structure and specific general types (based top top the nature of the keyboard/valve systems), over there is no such point as a traditional organ. The body organ builder -- in consultation through the client and after ~ considering such components as the size, acoustics, and also design that the church or concert room for i beg your pardon the tool is to plan -- identify the size, shape, pipeline arrangement and exterior decoration, internal works and mechanisms, kinds of pipes, number of pipes, and possibilities of combining pipes for each individual organ.

Here are a few important body organ terms:

STOP: A protect against is a collection of pipes. It may consist the one rank of pipes, or the may incorporate multiple ranks. If an organist selects a avoid that combines ten ranking of pipes, because that example, climate depressing any crucial on the key-board will open up ten pipe (all tuned come the very same note) simultaneously. Due to the fact that the ranks every have various sounds, the stop an organist chooses will determine the organ"s sound at any type of given moment. Stops have names that reflect either what type of tube they"re written of or just how they sound. Few of these names room simple, choose Flute, or Trumpet, but others are a bit an ext esoteric: Nazard, for example, or Furniture IV, or Contra Salicional, or Tierce, or double Open Diapason.

To complicate matters, stop is additionally the name for the knob or other an equipment (mechanical or electric) the controls the flow of air come the collection of pipe in a specific stop. A stop controls a stop, in various other words, bringing that "on-line" or taking it "off-line" by opening or closeup of the door the air i to the pipes. Stops room arrayed top top the organ console, or control board: mechanical stops are usually knobs, and electric stops space usually tabs or buttons. Mechanically stops, which are attached come rods and levers, room pulled out to open up stops, and also pushed in come close them. The expression "to pull out all the stops" comes from organ terminology, and is thought to have been first associated v Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach was renowned in his time not just as a great organist, but also as a good organ tester, and whenever that tried a brand-new organ his practice was to start off through playing through all the stop pulled out, the is, v every rank of tube on-line in ~ once. (Just to be clear: if one organ had actually fifty ranks, then because that each keep in mind Bach play on the keyboard fifty pipes would certainly sound simultaneously. If he play ten note at once, five hundred pipes would certainly sound.) In this way, that said, he could see what type of "lungs" an instrument had.

REGISTER: it is registered is an additional word for the complete collection of tube -- one location or multiple ranking -- that makes up one stop. The is, register is one more word for stop.

REGISTRATION: The it is registered is the specific set of stops and stop combinations provided to beat a piece, or passage, that music. It is registered is also the arts of selecting stops, of discovering which type of sounds will occupational most successfully with a specific piece or passage and also which combine of pipes will create those sounds. Before the nineteenth century, composers rarely indicated which registrations to usage in their compositions. Registration was considered part of the art of the performer, not of the composer, and also for the most component was left as much as the organist. This attitude changed considerably throughout the food of the nineteenth century, however, and contemporary composers have tendency to be rather fastidious about specifying registrations.

MANUAL: manual is an additional word for keyboard, but specifically one played with the hands. (The array of pedals is dubbed the "pedal keyboard," and usually consist of thirty-two notes.) most organs have actually at the very least two manuals, however there are often as numerous as four, and also sometimes up to seven. Each hand-operated controls a various "division" the the organ, an interpretation a various group that stops. Manuals can also be "coupled," however, so the one manual"s regulate is prolonged over other divisions.

BELLOWS: Organs have actually existed in one kind or one more for over 2 thousand years. The faster organs, those of the ancient Greeks and also Romans, supplied hydraulic press -- created by water rising and also falling in a closed mechanism of tubes and also reservoirs -- to pressure air into pipes. Later on organs all depended upon bellows for their pressurized waiting supply. Part bellows to be operated through hand, some by foot, however either way, the organist himself didn"t operate them. Someone rather did, or, in the instance of big organs through multiple bellows, a entirety team of people did. By the revolve of the twentieth century, bellows systems had actually given way to electrical blowers, and also organists to be finally free to beat their tools without assistance.

TRACKER ORGAN: An body organ whose keyboard/valve mechanism is mechanical, as opposed come electric. A tracker is a rod, typically of wood, the connects a key or pedal through the valve the opens and also closes a pipe. From about the fourteenth century till the age of electricity, every organs to be tracker organs. Tracker organs dropped out the fashion for a number of decades in the wake of the commercial revolution, yet they have made a solid return, and are wanted by many contemporary organists and also organ builders. Perhaps the best reason for their renewed popular is that v "tracker action" there"s a straight (mechanical) connection in between how fast the tricks are depressed and also how rapid air is permitted into the pipes, which enables the organist somewhat more control of the sound.

ELECTROPNEUMATIC ORGAN: An organ whose keyboard/valve device is operated by a mix of electricity and air pressure. The keyboard features as a type of electrical switchboard. Boring a an essential closes an electric circuit, which activates a magnet, i beg your pardon deflates one air-filled leather pouch, i m sorry pulls down a "pallet," or valve, which opens up a pipe. As soon as the vital is released, the circuit opens, the bag reinflates, the pallet walk up, and the pipeline is closed.

ELECTRIC ORGAN: In some organs, the keyboard/valve system is strict electric. The crucial closes a circuit, i beg your pardon activates a magnet, which traction a valve directly to open up a pipe.

ELECTRONIC ORGAN: A key-board instrument that sounds like an organ however produces sounds electronically, without pipes.