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When does an organist start needing three manuals?

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  • When does an organist start needing three manuals?

    I shared in another thread that a three-manual Rodgers organ may soon be coming up for sale and I'm first in line if it comes to that.

    The truth is that I already have a perfectly good two-manual organ right now ... but I'm still a beginner in the first few months of learning how to play this thing. I can't even fathom right now needing a third manual. I've never even sat at a three-manual before.

    I do understand that some music is specifically written for three-manual organs ... although there seem to be much fewer three-manual organs in the world compared to two's, which are common. So I assume most organists that don't have access to three manuals are using a quick punch on a preset button to get the same effect? If that's true and if it's that easy, is it worth the great cost and hassle to go from two to three?

    Those of you who are further along in your studies than I am and long for a three-manual instrument ... or those of you who HAVE one ... is it really that big a deal? Does it change your whole playing and musical expression and satisfaction and all that?

    If someone asked me if they should step up from spinet pedals to AGO's ... I know enough to say that you can't progress on the organ until you have 'em. It's not optional. Sell your kids if that's what it takes to get the AGO's. I don't know the extent to which that's true about moving from two manuals to three, as I don't have any experience with them and I'm not playing on that level yet.

    I'm just wondering if I should go through the huge hassle and considerable expense of positioning myself for the future by doing everything it takes to get a three manual? Or if I'm getting all excited about something that's never going to make THAT huge of a difference. (Again, I've got a perfectly good AGO two-manual.)

    I know it would be "better" to have three manuals. I'm just asking if it's really a BIG deal once a player is at that level of ability, or just a slightly added benefit.

  • #2
    I'm replying to your thread but NOT from an experienced educated view but from a guy FIXATED and obsessed with organs since I was 8 years old. I honestly don't think you will NEED a 3 manual organ unless you really get into significant classical and theatre organ pieces. You may, but honestly I think I know how your thinking and it's because 3 manuals is just plain cooler then 2. Do you need it?. Not really. Is it something that at some point may make a difference to your in your life of music. Maybe, but I'm not sure how likely. I have a Hammond M-111 with a 44 Leslie speaker. It's plenty for me as I actually just recently decided to take lessons and I'm not a "young" guy. However that said, I just saw a CONN 650 white with gold trim - 3 manual refurbished and exterior re-finished about 150 miles from me. I do NOT need it and I'm trying to figure out how to get it in the house ( haven't bought it yet or even made the offer), without my girlfriend knowing about it prior to her coming home and seeing it. At first I think she will probably flip a bit, but then she'll calm down and hopefully start yelling at me while she's making dinner. Key word dinner. Okay, so I really want this beast, but for no reasonable reason other then just like cars I LOVE and am somewhat obsessed with these things. Now what to do with the Hammond...... GET IT and LOVE the hell out of it. My excuse is I don't have children and we can splurge. We don't live forever, get it and have a blast.

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    • #3
      Loaded question, but I'll try.

      For most organists who pursue non-theatre or non-classical music, there probably isn't much need for more than 2 manuals. That said, however, I recently had the opportunity to play the Symphony's 3 manual for the first time in a year--I was replacing a card in the cage.

      Long story short, I played some of my classical literature (Franck-Prelude, Fugue, and Variation, Dupre-Cortege et Litanies, Saint-Saens-Fantasie in Eb). I found it quite liberating to be able to use the third manual vs. changing registrations constantly. In Romantic era music especially, one needs to use the swell boxes more than usual, so removing the need for constant registration changes really helps. In that particular era, the music utilized more of the organ's resources than previous eras, thereby requiring physically acrobatic feats on the part of the organist.

      So, it depends on how serious you are about organ study, and how far you are willing to go. If you have the desire to play concert music, then you will eventually need access to a 3 manual instrument. How soon? That depends on you. In my case it was about 1-2 years of college study before I began playing music that required 3 manuals. I had no organ lessons before college.

      Hope that helps somewhat.

      Michael

      - - - Updated - - -

      Originally posted by ggolds5 View Post
      At first I think she will probably flip a bit, but then she'll calm down and hopefully start yelling at me while she's making dinner.
      At the very least, you'll find out how much she likes you!O:-)
      Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
      • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
      • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
      • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos

      Comment


      • #4
        I don't think I (or anyone) can improve on Michael's reply. I play a historic 2M tracker organ at church which I respect greatly, but it "doesn't want to play" many of the major organ works.
        Bill Miller, Phila PA

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        • #5
          I can only add that for Theatre organ, 3 manuals is definitely an advantage--like classical romantic music, the registration changes come too fast for easy playing on 2 manuals.

          Personally, I have arthritis and getting my hands to the 3rd manual is difficult at worst and uncomfortable at best, so I'm doing a virtual organ in a 2-manual console.

          Comment


          • #6
            I believe that the time to move to a larger organ is when you are beginning to feel the short-comings in the one you already have. Not that I have ever done this personally. I love the hunt. My observation is that Bach plays on two manuals and French stuff plays on three. I do the Toccata from Symph #5 (Widor) on a small Atelier. It has only one full length manual and 20 pedals. The swell is missing the bottom octave. That piece has the manuals indicated in the score but it only requires an extra registration change to do it on two manuals. A bit of the pedal part has to drop an octave. Nothing wrong with learning to make such compromises. You'll know when it's time to stop compromising and get something proper for the job. Or else a great deal will come along and you'll buy something you may never use, such as my Allen 3 manual shown in the Avatar. I've played thirty times more music on the smallest Atelier than I ever played on that lovely AGO Allen.
            Roland Atelier AT-90s, AT-80s, AT-70, 30, and 15. Roland VR-760 combo
            Yamaha S-90, Kurzweil PC-3x, Casio Privia PX-330, Roland E-80, G-70, BK-5, Leslie 760, 820
            Moved on:
            Allen 3MT/Hauptwerk, Technics GA1, Yamaha HX1, AR80, numerous Hammonds, including 2 M's, an L, 2 A-100's, XP-2, XM-1/1c, & an XK-3. Roland Atelier AT-30, 60r, 80, & 20r(2 units), and a slew of Leslies (147, 142, 760, 900, 330).
            Korg Triton Le-61, Casio Privia PX-310 & 110, and Kurzweils: PC-2x, SP-88, Pro-III, K1000

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            • #7
              Can't add much more to what's been said except for the fellow (a professional theater organist) that voiced my organ said that it is not easy to compress a 3-manual arrangement to fit a 2-manual organ.
              John
              Allen MDS-317 at home / Allen AP-16 at Church / Allen ADC-3100 at the stake center

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Neumie View Post
                The truth is that I already have a perfectly good two-manual organ right now ... but I'm still a beginner in the first few months of learning how to play this thing. I can't even fathom right now needing a third manual. I've never even sat at a three-manual before.
                From your description, I reckon that it will be quite some time before you actually need a three-manual organ. These organs are used to play specific repertoire that beginners are not going to come across; unless you have already extensive experience in piano playing and you can advance quickly.

                Originally posted by Neumie View Post
                I do understand that some music is specifically written for three-manual organs ... although there seem to be much fewer three-manual organs in the world compared to two's, which are common. So I assume most organists that don't have access to three manuals are using a quick punch on a preset button to get the same effect? If that's true and if it's that easy, is it worth the great cost and hassle to go from two to three?
                This depends on the organ specifications and in particular on the stop configuration. In some pieces from the French baroque you can easily run into the limits of a two-manual organ, even using its memories to quickly switch stop combinations. For example, let's take a composition explicitly needing three manuals, offering the Cromorne, the Cornet and the Grand Jeu separately. What can you do then if the Cornet of your organ is located in the manual that has the stops for the Grand Jeu? You will have to substitute the Cornet with something else in the other manual, if for some passage you have to use the Grand Jeu and the Cornet at the same time. A Quinte 2 2/3' in the other manual would be helpful in this case but certainly not the ideal solution.

                Originally posted by Neumie View Post
                Those of you who are further along in your studies than I am and long for a three-manual instrument ... or those of you who HAVE one ... is it really that big a deal? Does it change your whole playing and musical expression and satisfaction and all that?
                I had a two-manual organ for the biggest part of my studies and only last year, in the beginning of my final year in the academy, I upgraded to a three-manual organ. I could not be more happy because the two-manual one that I had already showed its limits in the way I described before. Also, if you are sensitive about reproducing as faithfully as possible the character of historical compositions, you may be interested in organs with changeable stops and dedicated memories for programming your own temperaments. The effect of such adjustments is quite evident in the last recordings that I have in my youtube channel.

                Originally posted by Neumie View Post
                I know it would be "better" to have three manuals. I'm just asking if it's really a BIG deal once a player is at that level of ability, or just a slightly added benefit.
                From my personal experience, I would say that for an advanced organist it is really important to have three manuals. It is not exactly about having more stops but about having more versatility. You can have a three-manual organ with fewer stops than an overloaded two-manual one, yet the former can be more versatile than the latter with the numerous combinations it allows. It is a liberating experience.

                Comment


                • #9
                  The correct answer to this question is that you start to "need" three manuals when you've got two. Just like you "need" two when you've only got one.
                  Martin Hartley
                  Choral Scholar at St Patrick's Cathedral, Parramatta, Australia
                  Student at Campion College, Australia
                  Assistant Organist at St Margaret Mary's Catholic Church, Merrylands, Australia

                  The Novice Organist: http://noviceorganist.blogspot.com.au

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    It just popped into my head that the/an organist does not need/require additional manuals.

                    The piece being played is the driving factor.

                    That being said, every organist dreams to have mastery over the Wanamaker organ and the ability to play it to it's full potential.
                    'Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.' --N. Bonaparte

                    My friends call me Steve, won't you be my friend?
                    The cast, in order of appearance:
                    Kawai K5, Yamaha PSR-85, Thomas Trianon A-6820, Gulbransen 621-K, Conn 580 T-2, GEM WK1 ST
                    Hammond H-112, Ser. #16518, from 8/16/1971
                    Oh, and let's don't forget the Jaymar!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      i think the REAL question your asking is "can you guys give my a good justification/need for a 3 man' organ that would impress my girlfriend?"
                      the correct answer to that is "NO", she's going to light you up for hauling that 3 headed pig in the house. only acceptable course of action is to bring home jewelry with the organ!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by SBurton View Post
                        It just popped into my head that the/an organist does not need/require additional manuals.The piece being played is the driving factor.
                        Excellent point! It is definitely the piece that dictates the number of manuals. Of course, a very talented organist may be able to sneak by with only 2 manuals and creative registration changes, but in general the rest of us would require 3 to play certain pieces.

                        I wish I'd have thought of that pithy comment!:-B

                        Michael
                        Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
                        • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
                        • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
                        • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          For most liturgical purposes, two manuals suffices. When you've got general and divisional pistons the need is reduced. I've found that playing an Allen CF15 I now do most of my playing on the Great Manual. It's only when you get into the more complex classical repertoire that 3 manuals becomes handy. There is also very little music that could not be played on a well-spec'ed 3 manual organ.
                          Martin Hartley
                          Choral Scholar at St Patrick's Cathedral, Parramatta, Australia
                          Student at Campion College, Australia
                          Assistant Organist at St Margaret Mary's Catholic Church, Merrylands, Australia

                          The Novice Organist: http://noviceorganist.blogspot.com.au

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