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Questions about the Pipe Organ


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Hello 

I am writing a piece for the Pipe Organ and I have some questions:

1. Are these stops possible: Swell = Oboe 8', Great = Principal 8', Choir = Bass Flute 16' Pedalboard = Principal 16'?

2. Can an organist change stops halfway through a piece?

3. Which manuals can be coupled to which manuals?

4. Are dynamics easy to perform on an organ?

5. Where do I write on the score which manuals are being used and the stops used on them?

6. Can more than one stop be used on one manual at a time?

Edited by aMusicComposer
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On 10/24/2017 at 9:02 AM, aMusicComposer said:
1. Are these stops possible: Swell = Oboe 8', Great = Principal 8', Choir = Bass Flute 16' Pedalboard = Principal 16'?

Sure. Depends on what organ you are playing (writing for.) You cannot count that each organ will have those stops, nor have them in the same configuration and style. IF you write stops, write them as indications of the type of sound you want, rather than something concrete.

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2. Can an organist change stops halfway through a piece?

Yes. Modern organs are built for this with lots of stop combination change buttons and so on. Unless you're writing for a historical organ which has the stops away from the organist, then this isn't a problem.

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3. Which manuals can be coupled to which manuals?

Depends on the organ style and construction. Modern organs can couple everything with everything else, but a 18th century German baroque organ maybe can't. Also, coupling is best left to the discretion of the organist. Instead, write which stops you want and let them figure out how to play them together (or if possible at all.)

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4. Are dynamics easy to perform on an organ?

No. You have two choices when it comes to dynamics. Either you use the swell box (Vierne was pretty fond of this effect) or you simply act out your dynamic in terms of stop changes. Remember: The organ's construction does not allow for keyboard-activated dynamics like in a piano. The other much much less common third option is to use an organ that can "half activate" stops. Some modern organs can do this, but also many older ones too. You need to check for yourself if this is possible where you're playing. I wouldn't count on it tho in writing, but you can write it anyway just in case someone can do it.

If unsure, just write normal dynamic marks and let the organist deal with how to do them! That's probably what will end up happening anyway.

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5. Where do I write on the score which manuals are being used and the stops used on them?

I've seen this done in different ways, but often you can just stick that information above the staff. Name of the stop is enough, as you don't know which manual that stop can be at, or if the organist can couple it, or whatever other organ-specific thing may happen. Remember: Organs are annoying to write for because almost each instrument is unique. Don't give information that's too specific, such as which manual. It's much better to just write what your idea of dynamic/timbre should be like and let the organist deal with it. If you can write stops, that should be good enough.

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6. Can more than one stop be used on one manual at a time?

Yes.

 

If you have further questions, I'd rather you went and looked at organ scores from Louis Vierne as he's pretty good at it, I'd say. He often writes what registers should be on what manual/pedal directly above the staff and then indicates inside the staff where the changes should happen.

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