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Organ (music)

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Organ (music)

1741 Église Saint-Thomas, Strasbourg, France
Classification Keyboard instrument (Aerophone)
Playing range
Related instruments
see Keyboard instrument
see List of organists
see Category:Organ builders
More articles
  • Pipe organ
  • Theatre organ
  • Electronic organ
  • Hammond organ
  • Reed organ
  • Organ repertoire
Improvisation in E (Münsterorgel Dinkelsbühl)

Problems playing this file? See .

In recital instrument.


  • Overview 1
  • Pipe organs 2
    • Church organs 2.1
    • Chamber organs 2.2
    • Theatre organs 2.3
    • Other pipe organs 2.4
  • Reed organs 3
  • Chord organs 4
  • Electronic organs 5
    • Hammond organs 5.1
    • Other electronic organs 5.2
    • Digital organs 5.3
  • Steam organ 6
  • Organ music 7
    • Classical music 7.1
    • Soap operas 7.2
    • Rock music 7.3
    • Sporting organs 7.4
    • Jazz 7.5
  • Historical instruments 8
    • Predecessors 8.1
    • Early organs 8.2
    • Medieval organs 8.3
  • Various instruments 9
    • Reed organs 9.1
    • Squeezeboxes 9.2
    • Mechanical organs 9.3
    • Sound art 9.4
    • Mouth-played instruments 9.5
  • See also 10
  • Notes 11
  • References 12
  • Further reading 13
  • External links 14


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

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 free reeds.


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

The manuals) with five octaves (61 notes) each, and a two-and-a-half octave (32-note) pedal board.

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

The It consists of three separate instruments; thus, three organists can play simultaneously. [5]
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 or Jewish synagogues. The introduction of church organs is traditionally attributed to organ repertoire was developed for the pipe organ and in turn influenced its development, the line between a church and a concert organ is hard to draw.

Organs are also used to give recital concerts, called 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 applications.

Chamber organ by Pascoal Caetano Oldovini (1762).

Chamber organs

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 organs.

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 tone.

Theatre organs

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

The 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 has—for Bambuso sonoro is an experimental custom-made instrument designed by Hans van Koolwijk. The instrument has 100 flutes made of bamboo.[6]

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

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 a piano 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

The [8]

Electronic organs

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

Leslie speaker cabinet.

The Hammond organ was the first successful electric organ, released in the 1930s. It used mechanical, rotating

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 clonewheel organs that were light enough for one person to carry.

A typical combo organ. (Vox Continental)
A modern digital organ utilizing modeling and DSP technology. (Nord Electro 2)

Other electronic organs

oscillators instead of mechanical parts to make sound. These were even cheaper and more portable than the Hammond. They featured an ability to bend pitches.

In the 1940s until the 1970s, small organs were sold that simplified traditional organ stops. These instruments can be considered the predecessor to modern portable Lowrey was the leading manufacturer of this type of organs in the smaller (spinet) instruments.

In the '60s and '70s, a type of simple, portable electronic organ called the Farfisa and Vox.

separate oscillators for each note rather than frequency dividers, giving them a richer sound, closer to a pipe organ, due to the slight imperfections in tuning.


A typical Virtual Pipe Organ system. (Hauptwerk)

Digital organs

The development of the additive synthesis, then sampling technology (1980s) and physical modelling synthesis (1990s) are also utilized to produce the sound.

MIDI to access samples of real pipe organs stored on a computer, as opposed to digital organs that use DSP and processor hardware inside a console to produce the sounds or deliver the sound samples. Touch screen monitors allows the user to control the virtual organ console; a traditional console and its physical stop and coupler controls is not required. In such a basic form, a virtual organ can be obtained at a much lower cost than other digital classical organs.

Calliope on a stern-wheeler

Steam organ

The wind can also be created by using pressurized steam instead of air. The steam organ, or calliope, was invented in the United States in the 19th century. Calliopes usually have very loud and clean sound. Calliopes are used as outdoors instruments, and many have been built on wheeled platforms.

Organ music

Classical music

The organ has had an important place in French Classical school also flourished.

After Bach, the organ's prominence gradually lost ground to the piano. Felix Mendelssohn, A.P.F. Boëly, and César Franck led a resurgence in the mid-19th century, leading a Romantic movement that would be carried further by Charles-Marie Widor, Louis Vierne, and others.

In the 20th century, early-modernist Marcel Dupré and Olivier Messiaen also added significant contributions to the organ repertoire.

Some composers incorporated the instrument in symphonic works for its dramatic effect, notably Camille Saint-Saëns, Richard Strauss, Edward Elgar, and Francis Poulenc.

Because the organ has both manuals and pedals, organ music has come to be notated on three staves. The music played on the manuals is laid out like music for other keyboard instruments on the top two staves, and the music for the pedals is notated on the third stave or sometimes, to save space, added to the bottom of the second stave as was the early practice. To aid the eye in reading three staves at once, the bar lines are broken between the lowest two staves; the brace surrounds only the upper two staves. Because music racks are often built quite low to preserve sightlines over the console, organ music is usually published in oblong or landscape format.

Soap operas

From their creation on radio in the 1930s to the times of television in the early 1970s, orchestras, which in turn were replaced with more modern pop-style compositions.

Rock music

A modern digital Hammond organ in use

Church-style pipe organs are occasionally used in Danielle in 2000 for the album Open the Door.

On the other hand, Bob Dylan, Counting Crows, Pink Floyd, Hootie & the Blowfish, Sheryl Crow, Sly Stone and Deep Purple.

Recent performers of popular organ music include Jimmy Smith was a famous jazz organist of the 20th century.

The American Theater Organ Society (ATOS) has been instrumental in programs to preserve the instruments originally installed in theatres for accompaniment of silent movies. In addition to local chapter events they hold an annual convention each year, highlighting performers and instruments in a specific locale. These instruments feature the Tibia pipe family as their foundation stops and regular use of tremulants. They were usually equipped with mechanical percussion accessories, pianos, and other imitative sounds useful in creating movie sound accompaniments such as auto horns, doorbells, and bird whistles.

Sporting organs

Nancy Faust playing at the Chicago White Sox

In the United States and Canada, organ music is commonly associated with several sports, most notably baseball, basketball and ice hockey.

The baseball organ has been referred to as "an accessory to the overall auditory experience of the ballpark."[10] The first team to introduce an organ during breaks of play (before and after games, in between innings, and during longer stoppages) was the Turner Field, even going so far as to promote his Twitter feed to take requests from fans.


The electronic organ, especially the Hammond B-3, has occupied a significant role in jazz ever since Jimmy Smith made it popular in the 1950s. It can function as a replacement for both piano and bass in the standard jazz combo.

Historical instruments

Panpipes Hydraulis
Portative Positive
Regal (after the 16th century)[11]


  • Panpipes, pan flute, syrinx, and nai, etc., are considered as ancestor of the pipe organ.
  • Aulos, an ancient double reed instrument with two pipes, is the origin of the word Hydr-aulis (water-aerophone).

Early organs

  • 3rd century BC - the [12]
  • 1st century (at least) - the Ptera  and the Pteron, ancient Roman organ similar in appearance to the portative organs[13]
  • 2nd century - the [16][15][14]
  • 9th century - the Banū Mūsā brothers

Medieval organs

  • Portative organ, a small portable medieval instrument
  • an obelisk of the 4th century)
  • Regal, a small portable late-medieval instrument with reed pipes and two bellows.
    16th century - useless resonance pipes were removed, and regal became a beating-reed organ.
    It may be seen as the ancestor of the squeezebox'

Various instruments

A harmonium.

Reed organs

  • Harmonium or parlor organ are a reed instrument, usually with many stops and two foot-operated bellows.
  • The American reed organ is a foot bellow or electric reed keyboard similar to the Harmonium, but that works on negative pressure—i.e., it sucks air through the reeds.
  • The Melodeon (not to be confused with the Diatonic button accordion of the same name) is a reed instrument with an air reservoir and a foot operated bellows. It was popular in the USA in the mid-19th century.


Mechanical organs

  • organ grinders in its portable form, the larger form often equipped with keyboards for human performance
  • Organette—small, accordion-like instrument manufactured in New York in the late 1800s
  • Novelty instruments or various types that operate on the same principles:
    Dance organ—these pipe organs use a piano roll player or other mechanical means instead of a keyboard to play a prepared song.
Barrel organ
from Germany
Band organ
from USA
Fairground organ
Dutch street organ
Dance organ
from Belgium

Sound art

Mouth-played instruments

  • Pan flute
  • Mouth organs such as:
    • pipe organ.
    • mouth organ;
    • Bagpipes
    • Asian reed organ.

    See also

    • Closed tube
    • Electronic organ
    • Hydraulis
    • Hydraulophone
    • List of organ builders
    • List of organ composers
    • List of organists
    • Open tube
    • Organ recital
    • Organ repertoire
    • Organ tablature
    • Organist
    • Organum
    • Pipe organ
    • Residence organ
    • Street organ


  • ^ Organon, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus project
  • ^ The organ developed from older musical instruments like the panpipe, therefore is not the oldest musical instrument.
  • ^ The Wanamaker Organ is built from the 2nd to 7th floors.
  • ^ -The King of Instruments National Catholic Register
  • ^ (English) Mirosław Gieroń. "The Bernardine Monastery in Leżajsk". Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  • ^ "Hans van Koolwijk homepage". 
  • ^ Laurens Hammond, Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2009 - His later inventions included the chord organ (1950, i.e. Hammond S-6 chord organ).
  • ^ Magnus Organ Homepage - In the 1960s, Magnus introduced their famous Electric Chord Organs to compete with Hammond.
  • ^ Synthetic Radio Organ Church Diagram French Print 1934, The ILlustration Newspaper of 1934, Paris
  • ^ Arrangement of Hazard (Richard Marx) - Ballpark Organ on YouTube
  • ^ Landkreis Bad Kreuznach - Regal (1988, Gebr Oberlinger) - Copy of an instrument by Michael Klotz, ca. 1600
  • ^ The Ancient Hydraulis and its Reconstruction
  • ^ Greek and Roman Pipe Organs, Bellum Catiline - two items from "The Story of the Organ"  by C.F. Abdy Williams, published in 1903 by Walter Scott Publishing.
  • ^ The Music of the Bible by John Stainer, M.A.
  • ^ Hunt 2008
  • ^ Barnes 2007
  • References

    • Barnes, William Harrison (2007). The Contemporary American Organ - Its Evolution, Design And Construction. Barnes Press. p. 376.  
    • Hunt, Henry George Bonavia (2008). A Concise History of Music. BiblioLife. p. 137.  

    Further reading

    • Willis, Stephen Charles. Pipes and Pedals: Chronicles of Canadian Organs and Organists = Tuyaux et jeux: pages d'histoire de l'orgue au Canada. N.B.: Prepared for an exhibition, of the same English and French titles, at the National Library of Canada, opening on 16 May 1983; some copies include, as laid in the document, the published list, by C.-P. G. Parker of the recorded music played as background for the exhibit and also a listing of organ recitals played as ancillary events. ISBN 0-662-52397-0

    External links

    • Organ Music of the Day - Discover fascinating world of organ through Organ Music of the Day. Read about and watch performances of some of the most exciting organ works. Updated regularly.
    • [1] Organ Library of the Boston Chapter, AGO. 45,000 items of organ music.
    • Music and organ recital at Notre-Dame de Paris
    • - Regularly updated list of over 1600 hand-crafted links to websites covering all aspects of classical organs and organ music
    • – Homepage of the National Pipe Organ Register of the British Institute of Organ Studies, with extensive information on and many audio samples of original instruments
    • Encyclopedia of Organ Stops – Information on construction and sound of various organ stops
    • Pipe organs
      • ibiblio: The Organ UK Quarterly Magazine about pipe organs
      • ibiblio: The Pipe Organ
      • The American Guild of Organists – A professional association serving the organ and choral music fields
      • The Incorporated Association of Organists - UK umbrella organisation for 90 affiliated organists' associations and 6,000 individual members
      • The Organ Historical Society – The Society promotes a widespread musical and historical interest in American organbuilding through collection, preservation, and publication of historical information, and through recordings and public concerts.
      • – Over 15,000 tracks of free organ music, delivered via streaming audio
      • – Free Baroque organ music, delivered via streaming audio
      • Pipedreams – organ radio broadcasts, articles, and more
      • Pipe Organs 101
      • The World's Largest Organs
      • – a vast website that chronicles in detail the installation of a pipe organ in New Zealand
      • A Great Dom-Bedos Roubo Organ Project in Italy
    • Theatre organs
      • American Theatre Organ Society
      • The Walker Digital Unit Orchestra
    • Electronic organs
      • Allen Organ Company history
      • Hammond organs history
      • Electronic Organ Constructor's Society
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