Five swallows darting
Having no knowledge about
Organ stops. Oh, well...
Today's question was sent by Ugochukwu. He wants to know about the different families of organ stops and how they work.
Listen to our full answer at #AskVidasAndAusra
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Vidas: We're starting the 23rd episode of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today's question was sent by Ugochukwu and he asks about the organ pipe families. What are they, and how do they work?
Basically, Ausra, that's four or five families of organ stops, isn’t it?
Vidas: So, what's the most common family people should know about?
Ausra: Definitely principals.
Vidas: They are usually positioned in the facade.
Ausra: Usually they are made from metal.
Vidas: And how do they sound, basically?
Ausra: Clear and bright, I would say.
Vidas: And firm sound because their scaling is quite medium, not like the second type. The second family is flutes, right?
Ausra: Yes. And actually, usually if you want to tune the organ, you tune them according to the principal.
Vidas: Principal 4’.
Vidas: Of that particular division. Yeah, by the way, never tune your organ based on any principal, based on any division. You choose, for example, to tune stops from the Hauptwerk, let's say, from the Great and you tune it to the Principal 4’ or octave four, of that division. Not from the Swell, not from the Positive, but from the same division, because sometimes those divisions might be a little bit off.
Vidas: And you have to really check its tuning, at which foot level. They have to fit together.
So back to the families of stops. Then, there is probably the next type, flutes, right?
Vidas: Flutes can be made out of metal and ...
Ausra: and wood.
Vidas: They are different from the principals in a few ways.
Ausra: Yes. Sometimes, you can have like covered flute, like Gedackt would be, in German. Or you could have, like a Chimney Flute.
Vidas: Chimney flute you mean, in German, a Rohrflöte, right?
Ausra: Yes. Rohrflöte. That's right. It's has a certain chimney at the top of the pipe.
Vidas: Yeah. I was looking for the right word. And what kind of sound does it make?
Ausra: They have a softer, and gentler sound comparing to the principals.
Vidas: But flutes might be different, right?
Ausra: Sure, yeah.
Vidas: They all resemble, in one way or another, some kind of flute, but their character might be different, right?
Vidas: Then there is a third family. Maybe, let's say strings, right?
Vidas: And strings are?
Ausra: They are actually similar to principals in construction. Except that, string stops are sort of narrower. Pipes are narrower, so they make a different sound comparing to principals, and it sounds a little bit like string instruments. Because it has that subtle vibration in their sound.
Vidas: But you mean vibration when you mix, let's say, viola and viola Celeste sound, right?
Vidas: Two stops. Then the celeste sound might be tuned a little bit sharper or flatter, and therefore, they make vibrations. I would say that string sounds not only are narrower, but they're very gentle, right?
Vidas: Softer than the principals usually are.
Ausra: Sounds nice for romantic music, like slow movements.
Vidas: Then the fourth family is, of course ...
Vidas: The reeds. Have you seen reeds in the facade?
Ausra: I don't think I had, but there are sometimes in the Spanish organs, yes. They have those, you know, horizontal reeds, Chamades.
Vidas: Yes, they are mounted on the facade, and they face the altar. Therefore, they are very loud.
Ausra: But it's not common in other instruments. And, you know, what is interesting about the reed stops, of course we have tuned them a lot, because we are getting out of tune pretty fast, at least some of them. But actually, they resemble those ancient instruments, wood instruments, like cromorne, clarinet, and others.
Vidas: Yes. And you mentioned Chamade in Spanish organs. Nowadays, many modern organs have them, too.
Vidas: Which have some Spanish elements, and some French elements, and some German elements. They are eclectic instruments, right?
Vidas: There are two kinds of reeds, right? Chorus reeds and solo reeds.
Vidas: Chorus reeds mix well with the ensemble of other stops, like trumpet.
Vidas: Right? Bombarde.
Vidas: Yes. They have long resonators, usually. And solo reeds have shorter resonators, and they don't mix particularly well with the other stops.
Ausra: Yeah, so you use them as solo voices.
Vidas: Yes, like Oboe, Cromorne you mentioned, right?
Ausra: Yes Cromorne.
Vidas: Vox humana, right?
Ausra: Schalmey maybe?
Vidas: Yes. Vox humana in German is not the same as Voix humaine in French. A little bit different sound in French because, in French tradition, it's very nasal, and even softer, I would say. In Cavaille-Coll’s organs, they usually like to use it with the tremulant, right?
Ausra: And I think we also have to talk a little bit about mutation stops.
Vidas: Mutations. It's like a fifth group, right?
Ausra: Yes. Well, actually their pipes are made as in principals.
Vidas: Or flutes, too.
Ausra: Those two groups, but here every key, every sound has a few pipes, so by pressing one key, you get several different notes.
Vidas: You're talking about compound mutations.
Ausra: Yes. Compound mutations.
Vidas: What about, like a fifth, or the third stop? Just simple mutation. It sounds, not at the eight foot pitch level, but at another interval, right?
Vidas: Like a fifth, or third?
Ausra: Yes. And you can, yes, you can play, for example, a C on the key and it sounds as the G above C.
Vidas: And are there any other besides fifth and thirds?
Ausra: Yes, of course.
Vidas: Which ones?
Ausra: I think you want to tell about it.
Vidas: Yes. There are some interesting experiments, I would say, done in the 20th century with sevenths and ninths. They are very squeaky, and you can look them up online how they sound.
Ausra: But it's not that common as fifths and thirds.
Vidas: So compound mutations, usually have a few rows of pipes. Like Cornet.
Vidas: And Cornet usually has five rows of pipes.
Ausra: Yes. Usually five, but I think you could get even more than five.
Vidas: 8’, 4’, 2 ⅔’, 2’ and 1 ⅗’. That's the usual composition of the Cornet. But it is, it sounds like a wind instrument when you play it like that.
Vidas: And it's usually constructed from flutes pipes.
Good. So guys, go ahead and experiment with your organs and find out other families that they have. Principals, flutes and compare them how they sound. Flutes, they sound wider, because their scaling is wider than the principals, and gentler, of course. Check for strings, and check for various kinds of reeds. It's really fun to experiment with organ stops. You can even create specific organ demonstration for your congregation just from demonstrating separate organ family stops, right?
Ausra: Yes. I think they would benefit from that a lot.
Vidas: You could explain to them how they work, how they sound, how they're constructed. I wouldn't let them touch the pipes, but maybe look at them from up close, if they are in the organ balcony. Sometimes you can even blow a wooden pipe yourself. That's really fun. And really, people will get a great interest in the organ, in the construction of the organ this way, right?
Vidas: It's especially interesting for children, too.
Vidas: So, it's a lot to think about, how many possibilities you have to encourage a young generation to get interested in pipe organ and how it works. And maybe you will get some future organists this way.
Alright, this was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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