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Organ (music)

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1741 pipe organ in glise Saint-Thomas,Strasbourg, France


Keyboard instrument(Aerophone)

Playing range

Related instruments

see Keyboard instrument


see List of organists


see List of pipe organ builders andCategory:Organ builders

More articles

Pipe organ
Theatre organ
Electronic organ
Hammond organ
Reed organ
Organ repertoire
Organ music sample


Improvisation in E

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Carol Williams (organist) performsFlight of the Bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov at the United States Military Academy West Point
Cadet Chapel.

In music, the organ (from Greek organon, "organ, instrument, tool")[1]is a keyboard instrument of one or more pipe
divisions, each played with its own keyboard, played either with the hands on a keyboard or with the feetusing pedals. The
organ is a relatively old musical instrument,[2] dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria (285222 BC), who is invented
the water organ. It was played throughout the Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman world, particularly during races and games.

During the early medieval period it spread from the Byzantine Empire, where it continued to be used in secular (non-

religious) and imperial court music, to Western Europe, where it gradually assumed a prominent place in the liturgy of
the Catholic Church.[3]Subsequently it re-emerged as a secular and recital instrument in the Classical music tradition.



2Pipe organs

2.1Church organs

2.2Chamber organs

2.3Theatre organs

2.4Other pipe organs

3Reed organs

4Chord organs

5Electronic organs

5.1Hammond organs

5.2Other electronic organs

5.3Digital organs

6Steam organ

7Organ music

7.1Classical music

7.2Soap operas

7.3Rock music

7.4Sporting organs
7.4.1National Hockey League

8Historical instruments


8.2Early organs

8.3Medieval organs
9Various instruments


9.1Reed organs


9.3Mechanical organs

9.4Sound art

9.5Mouth-played instruments

10See also



13Further reading

14External links


Interior of the Seville Cathedral, showing the pipes of the organ.

Pipe organs use wind moving through pipes to produce sounds. Since the 16th century, pipe organs have used various
materials for pipes, which can vary widely in timbre and volume. The pipes are divided into ranks and controlled by the use
ofhand stops and combination pistons. Although the keyboard is not expressive as on a piano and does not
affect dynamics (pressing a key only turns the sound on or off), some divisions may be enclosed in a swell box, allowing the
dynamics to be controlled by shutters. Some organs are totally enclosed, meaning that all the divisions can be controlled by
one set of shutters. Some special registers with free reed pipes are expressive. These instruments vary greatly in size,
ranging from a cubic yard to a height reaching five floors,[4] and are built in churches, synagogues, concert halls, and homes.
Small organs are called "positive" (easily placed in different locations) or "portative" (small enough to carry while playing).
Increasingly hybrid organs are appearing in which pipes are augmented with electronic additions. Great economies of space
and cost are possible especially when the lowest (and largest) of the pipes can be replaced.
Non-piped organs include the reed organ or harmonium, which like the accordion and harmonica (or "mouth organ") use air
to excite free reeds.
Electronic organs or digital organs, notably the Hammond organ, generate electronically produced sound through one or
more loudspeakers.

Mechanical organs include the barrel organ, water organ, and Orchestrion. These are controlled by mechanical means
such as pinned barrels or book music. Little barrel organs dispense with the hands of an organist and bigger organs are
powered in most cases by an organ grinder or today by other means such as an electric motor.

South corp in the Duomo di Milano. The history of this large organ (now with about 16,000 pipes) began in 1395, and it was continuously
remodeled until 1986. The present decoration is from the 16th century.

Pipe organs[edit]
Main article: Pipe organ
The pipe organ is the grandest musical instrument in size and scope, and has existed in its current form since the 14th
century (though other designs, such as thehydraulic organ, were already used in antiquity). Along with the clock, it was
considered one of the most complex human-made mechanical creations before theIndustrial Revolution. Pipe organs range
in size from a single short keyboard to huge instruments with over 10,000 pipes. A large modern organ typically has three or
four keyboards (manuals) with five octaves (61 notes) each, and a two-and-a-half octave (32-note) pedal board.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart called the organ the "King of instruments".[5] Some of the biggest instruments have 64-foot pipes
(a foot here means "sonic-foot", a measure quite close to the English measurement unit), and it sounds to an 8 Hzfrequency
fundamental tone. Perhaps the most distinctive feature is the ability to range from the slightest sound to the most
powerful, plein-jeu impressive sonic discharge, which can be sustained in time indefinitely by the organist. For instance,
the Wanamaker organ, located in Philadelphia, USA, has sonic resources comparable with three simultaneous symphony
orchestras. Another interesting feature lies in its intrinsic "polyphony" approach: each set of pipes can be played
simultaneously with others, and the sounds mixed and interspersed in the environment, not in the instrument itself. (Contrast
this with digital organs, where the electronically produced sound comes from loudspeakers.)

Church organs[edit]

The Baroque Leajskorgan (:De), built by Stanisaw Studziski and Jan Gowiski in 1693, has mechanical (tracker)action and 75 voices
played from three manuals and pedal.[6]

Inner view of organ

mechanism assembly
undergoing overhaul.

Organ parts undergoing

overhaul (Augusta Victoria
church - Jerusalem, 2009).

Most organs in Europe, the Americas and Australasia can be found in Christian churches. The introduction of church organs
is traditionally attributed to Pope Vitalian in the 7th century.[citation needed] Due to its simultaneous ability to provide a musical
foundation below the vocal register, support in the vocal register, and increased brightness above the vocal register, the
organ is ideally suited to accompany human voices, whether a congregation, a choir or a cantor or soloist. Most services
also include solo organ repertoire for independent performance rather than by way of accompaniment, often as a prelude at
the beginning the service and a postlude at the conclusion of the service.
Today this organ may be a pipe organ (see above), a digital or electronic organ that generates the sound with digital signal
processing(DSP) chips or a combination of pipes and electronics. It may be called a church organ or classical organ to
differentiate it from the theater organ, which is a different style of instrument. However, as classical organ repertoire was
developed for the pipe organ and in turn influenced its development, the line between a church and a concert organ became
harder to draw.
Organs are also used to give recital concerts, called organ recitals. In the early 20th century,symphonic organs flourished in
secular venues in the United States and UK, designed to replace symphony orchestras by playing transcriptions of
orchestral pieces. Symphonic and orchestral organs largely fell out of favor as the orgelbewegung (organ reform movement)
took hold in the middle of the 20th century and organ builders began to look to historical models for inspiration in
constructing new instruments. Today, modern builders construct organs in a variety of styles and for both secular and sacred

Chamber organ byPascoal Caetano Oldovini (1762).

Chamber organs[edit]
A chamber organ is a small pipe organ, often with only one manual, and sometimes without separate pedal pipes that is
placed in a small room, that this diminutive organ can fill with sound. It is often confined to chamber organ repertoire, as
often the organs have too few voice capabilities to rival the grand pipe organs in the performance of the classics. The sound
and touch are unique to the instrument, sounding nothing like a large organ with few stops drawn out, but rather much more
intimate. They are usually tracker instruments, although the modern builders are often building electropneumatic chamber
Pre-Beethoven keyboard music may usually be as easily played on a chamber organ as on a piano or harpsichord, and a
chamber organ is sometimes preferable to a harpsichord for continuo playing as it is more suitable for producing a sustained

Theatre organs[edit]
Main article: theatre organ

Theatre organ in State Cinema, Grays. (Compton Organ)

The theatre organ or cinema organ was designed to accompany silent movies. Like a symphonic organ, it is made to replace
an orchestra. However, it includes many more gadgets, such as percussion and special effects, to provide a more complete
array of options to the theatre organist. Theatre organs tend not to take nearly as much space as standard organs, relying
on extension and higher wind pressures to produce a greater variety of tone and larger volume of sound from fewer pipes.

Marimba in the solo chamber at Ann Arbor's Michigan Theatre (3/13 Barton)

This extension is called "unification", meaning that instead of one pipe for each key at all pitches, the higher octaves of pitch
(and in some cases, lower octaves) are achieved by merely adding 12 pipes (one octave) to the top and/or bottom of a given
division. Assuming there are sixty-one keys on an organ manual (a common number in concert organs and in North
America), a classical organ hasfordiapason stops at 8', 4' and 2' pitch183 pipes (61 plus 61 plus 61). The same chorus
of diapasons on a theatre organ has only 85 pipes (61 plus 12 plus 12). Some ranks, such as the Tibia Clausa, with up to 97
pipes, allow the organist to draw stops at 16', 8', 4', 2', and mutations from a single rank of pipes.
Unification gives a smaller instrument the capability of a much larger one, and works well for monophonic styles of playing
(chordal, or chords with solo voice). The sound is, however, thicker and more homogeneous than a classically designed
organ, and is very often reliant on the use of tremulant, which has a depth greater than that usually found on a classical
organ. Unification also allows pipe ranks to be played from more than one manual and the pedals.

Other pipe organs[edit]

The bamboo organ called Bambuso sonoro is an experimental custom-made instrument designed by Hans van Koolwijk.
The instrument has 100 flutes made of bamboo.[7]

A harmonium. Operation of the two large pedals at the bottom of the case supplies wind to the reeds.

A chord organ with array of chord buttons on left side.

Reed organs[edit]
Main article: Pump organ

The pump organ, or harmonium, was the other main type of organ before the development of electronic organs. It generated
its sounds using reeds similar to those of apiano accordion. Smaller, cheaper and more portable than the corresponding
pipe instrument, these were widely used in smaller churches and in private homes, but their volume and tonal range was
extremely limited, and they were generally limited to one or two manuals, pedalboards being extremely rare.

Chord organs[edit]
Main article: Chord organ
The chord organ was invented by Laurens Hammond in 1950.[8] It provided chord buttons for the left hand, similar to an
accordion. Other reed organ manufacturers have also produced chord organs, most notably Magnus from 1958 to the late

Electronic organs[edit]
Main article: Electronic organ
Since the 1930s, pipeless electric instruments have been available to produce similar sounds and perform similar roles to
pipe organs. Many of these have been bought both by houses of worship and other potential pipe organ customers, and also
by many musicians both professional and amateur for whom a pipe organ would not be a possibility. Far smaller and
cheaper to buy than a corresponding pipe instrument, and in many cases portable, they have taken organ music into private
homes and into dance bands and other new environments, and have almost completely replaced the reed organ.

Hammond organs[edit]
Main article: Hammond organ

Hammond B3 organ, and Leslie speaker cabinet.

The Hammond organ was the first successful electric organ, released in the 1930s. It used mechanical,
rotating tonewheels to produce the sound waveforms. Its system of drawbars allowed for setting volumes for specific
sounds, and it provided vibrato-like effects. The drawbars allow the player to choose volume levels of 0-8 for each of the
members of the harmonic series starting from 16'. By emphasizing certain harmonics from the overtone series, desired
sounds (such as 'brass' or 'string') can be imitated. Generally, the older Hammond drawbar organs had only preamplifiers
and were connected to an external, amplified speaker. The Leslie speaker, which rotates to create a distinctive tremolo,
became the most popular. The three most popular models of Hammond organs were the consoles: the B-3, C-3, and A-100.
Inside all three models, the tone generators, drawbars, and keyboards were identical. The B-3 cabinet stood on 4 legs, the
C-3 was an enclosed "church" model, and the A100 series had built in amplifiers and speakers.
In addition to these console models, Hammond also produced spinet models, which differed from the consoles in the size of
keyboard (44 keys per keyboard versus 61 for the consoles, and 12 or 13 pedals instead of 25) and the absence of foldback
and scaling in the keyboards making them cheaper to manufacture. Other features of the console organs such as vibrato or
percussion were included in the spinets; all the spinet models featured a built in amplifier and speaker; when used with the

external amplified speaker (e.g.: Leslie) they sound similar to the console models. These smaller all-in-one organs were
intended primarily for use in homes or very small churches.
Though originally produced to replace organs in the church, the Hammond organ, especially the model B-3, became popular
in jazz, particularly soul jazz, and in gospel music. Since these were the roots of rock and roll, the Hammond organ became
a part of the rock and roll sound. It was widely used in rock and popular music during the 1960s and 1970s by bands
like The Doors, Pink Floyd, Procol Harum, Santana and Deep Purple. Its popularity resurged in pop music around 2000, in
part due to the availability of clonewheel organs that were light enough for one person to carry.

A typical combo organ. (Vox Continental)

A modern digital organ utilizingmodeling and DSP technology. (Nord Electro 2)