SOPP324: I have heard it is possible to create the illusion of a 32' by playing two notes on a 16' in the pedals
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 324 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Dieter and he writes:
Good evening Ausra and Vidas.
Just recently something electrical malfunctioned on our Churches organ. As a result we lost the 32' and 16' ranks in the pedals. Only 8' and 4' left.
I have heard it is possible to create the illusion of say a 32' by playing two notes on a 16' in the pedals. I am not averse to playing a two note chord in the pedals, as long as it is not too complicated for hymn accompaniment, a bit like a drone.
Question is which two notes?
V: Which two notes, right Ausra?
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: Have you heard about that anywhere?
A: I have heard with my one ear.
V: And what did that ear tell you?
A: I think from what I know I think it might be a similar effect as we have in our church at St. Johns’. That we have that historical timpani stop. There are two wooden pipes, one is slightly higher than the other and then you pull out that timpani and they both sound at the same time and reverberate with each other and this gives that effect of a drone.
V: But not very low drone.
V: What about trying to play an interval of the fifth?
A: With these kind of things you need to experiment and see what really happens because I think it might differ from one church to another depending on the organ, depending on the acoustics. But you know he wrote that actually he doesn’t have 16’ anymore in the pedal too so how would he achieve?
V: You’re right, only 8’ and 4’ are left.
A: So I think the best solution would be to call a technician. That’s why I don’t like these electrical things because you never know what might happen and you cannot be able to fix them for yourself. Because when you have mechanical instrument somehow you will find out what is wrong with your organ.
V: Even pneumatical organ you can figure out.
A: Yes, but not an electrical.
V: Unless you are good with electricity.
A: Which we are obviously not.
V: You should be really experienced with electricity just to try to fix it because if you’re not good and inexperienced you might die, right?
A: So don’t do it yourself.
V: Unless you really know what you are doing. Unless you take all the precautions.
A: Actually I know even some professionals who actually died doing their job.
V: Right. And if you don’t know what you are doing with mechanical organ the worst that could happen is that you might break things, right?
V: Of course this is also nasty and maybe you could break things and nobody could repair them, right, especially if it’s a historical instrument. So you need also to know what you are doing with mechanical organs. And to tell you the truth real organ builders don’t like organists looking and figuring out in the organ themselves. They would rather you call professionals to do this and I understand them. But, sometimes technicians and organ repairmen and organ builders are so far away, and maybe you just have one tiny cipher you just need to screw one small thing and it will be fixed if you know what you are doing, right Ausra?
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: Maybe you don’t need the entire cavalry of organ builders working on your little cipher.
A: Now, let’s go back to the question. Do you think it’s possible to make that illusion of 32’ sound with only 16’ stop?
V: On Monday when I go to our church in the morning I will definitely try to play an interval of the fifth with the stop of 16’, not with 8’ obviously because if you play with 8’ that would probably be illusion of 16’ (one octave lower) or not?
A: Well, I’m not quite sure if this would work.
V: You know what would happen probably a very rich foundation.
A: I think you would rather create illusion of 32’ with 16’ but not illusion of 16’ with 8’.
V: Umm-hmm. Maybe this will only sound muddy.
A: Could be.
V: Uhh-huh. When you don’t have 16’ in the pedals what about 16’ in the manuals? Maybe he should have 16’ in the manuals because originally this organ had 32’ in the pedals.
A: Well then the possibility would be to put the 16’ in the manual and couple it to the pedal. That way you would have 16’ in the pedal until your organ would get fixed.
V: Oh, that’s right. That’s possible.
A: That’s what I would do if I was in his shoes.
V: But if he is only playing hymns, right, so why don’t he even to play with hands only.
A: Yes, that’s a possibility too but then everything would be with 16’, soprano and alto and tenor and bass. And if you want to diversify more then actually it would be probably better to put 16’ in the pedals and to play your hands on another manual if you have at least two keyboards.
V: And definitely he should have more that one keyboard with that kind of disposition.
A: That’s right.
V: Nice. Nice solution Ausra, I haven’t thought about that.
A: Thank you.
V: I hope Dieter will get help from this and other people who are struggling with this question today or in the future.
A: So, and which two notes he also asks. Which two notes would you try to play in the pedal to get that illusion? You said you would do a fifth.
V: Open fifth, yeah. Like C and G, D and A, E and B, F and C, G and D.
A: Don’t you think another interval would fit better?
V: If you’re playing C and you’re suggesting a third for example, right?
V: Or which one, a fourth?
A: C and D. (laughs.) Or C and C#.
V: That would be like a drum, like a timpani.
A: I know, that would be like a timpani. Well I guess you just need to experiment.
V: Umm-hmm. I might be able to tell you more on Monday when I go to church.
A: We will see.
V: Thank you guys for sending those thoughtful questions. Sometimes we don’t always know the answers, right? But maybe your questions raise even more questions to us.
A: That’s very good. We like that.
V: It’s an exercise for our brain too.
A: That’s right.
V: To improve our memory. I keep forgetting things, Ausra. Are you forgetting things too?
A: Not as much as you do.
V: Are you forgetting my name, Ausra?
V: Are you forgetting your name?
V: Not yet.
A: Not yet.
V: Wait and see. If you are eating that much cheese you might forget your name too.
A: I’m not eating much cheese.
V: So who has eaten all that cheese from our table?
A: What cheese?
V: OK, that was me. Sorry guys, family investigation about the nonexistent cheese is developing but remember when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
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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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