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Why does one organist produce a thicker sound than another on the same organ?

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  • Why does one organist produce a thicker sound than another on the same organ?

    On my church, there are 2 organists that play at different masses. They're both very good to my ears (though I'm no musician) but one noticeable different between the two is that one organist produces a thick sound while the other produces a thinner sound. And I'm always confused why because they're playing the exact same organ.

    Here are the 2 videos of both organists. Both are playing the same hymn except one is being sung in English while the other is in Spanish.

    First Organist (this one produces a thinner sound)- skip to 2:39 to hear him play.
    https://www.facebook.com/stsebastian...3208747451205/

    Second Organist (this one produces a thicker sound)- skip to 5:12 to hear him play the same hymn as the first organist above
    https://www.facebook.com/stsebastian...0339239798393/

    So why does the second organist sound thicker? Is he using different stops? Is he using more pedals? Is he using more keys?

  • #2
    Same keys different stops. The first sounds like the full plenum (diapasons 8', 4', 2', etc.) with mixture. The second sounds like just 8' stops (probably a diapason and a reed, maybe more).
    Sam
    Home: Allen ADC-4500 Church: Allen MDS-5
    Files: Allen Tone Card (TC) Database, TC Info, TC Converter, TC Mixer, ADC TC SF2, and MOS TC SF2, ADC TC Cad/Rvt, MOS TC Cad/Rvt, Organ Database, Music Library, etc. PM for unlinked files.

    Comment


    • #3
      So is the first organist better since he is using more stops?

      Comment


      • regeron
        regeron commented
        Editing a comment
        No, each organist is good if they can lead people to sing meaningfully. They just do it in different ways. If one plays more securely with fewer wrong notes or rhythmic fluctuations, that can be easier for a congregation to follow.

        As far as 'thick' vs 'thin'. The second organist changes registration more, uses the reeds more than the first, and seems to use the mixtures less.

        I also hear the congregation singing differently. In the second video, there seem to be more people. If I played the same service twice, once with a full church and the other service half full, I'd change registration, too.

    • #4
      This is a troublesome thread on so many levels. To be brutally honest Mr. Organ, earlier posters are being very diplomatic. In absolute terms neither of those organists are "very good". They are however both quite competent. And more to the point, they are the organists you have. Why are we comparing them in this way? One of those organists is definitely 'better' but I am not going to say which it is, and I would suggest that if it is difficult to decide for a listener then it really cannot be that important. I will further suggest that it isn't the "sound" (registration) that decides that. I actually prefer the 'thinner' sound of the first organist though I am inferring from the way 'thinner' is being used that it somehow indicates a lack on the part of the organist in producing a 'thicker' texture.

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      • #5
        I don't know if I would say one organist is "better" than the other, but they are certainly talented "differently."

        When my students ask me which student is better, I ask them to be more specific. For example, one student may play better by ear than the student who requires music. Another might be a better sight-reader than someone else. One might have a good command of jazz, vs. one who plays classical music flawlessly. One must be specific when using a superlative (good, better, best) when evaluating one organist vs. another. Everyone is talented differently.

        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)
        • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

        Comment


        • #6
          I apologize, this was never meant to be a who is the better organist thread, tho I unintentionally turned it into one. My main reason for starting this thread is because I have no experience in music and whenever I attend mass at my church, it always puzzles me why two organists are producing different sounds when they are playing on the exact same organ. It's the same organ so I was expecting the exact same sound. Those two videos aren't the best sound quality, so when you hear it in person like I do, the sounds from both organists are significantly different.

          And don't even get me started on the speed. I mean, I don't understand why the second organist is playing faster than the first. Notes have time signatures and if both follow the time signature, then both should be playing at the same speed. Again, I'm not saying one or both of them are unskilled as a result of that; I'm just saying I don't understand why both are playing at different speed.

          Comment


          • #7
            Originally posted by mrorgan View Post
            I apologize, this was never meant to be a who is the better organist thread, tho I unintentionally turned it into one. My main reason for starting this thread is because I have no experience in music and whenever I attend mass at my church, it always puzzles me why two organists are producing different sounds when they are playing on the exact same organ. It's the same organ so I was expecting the exact same sound. Those two videos aren't the best sound quality, so when you hear it in person like I do, the sounds from both organists are significantly different.

            And don't even get me started on the speed. I mean, I don't understand why the second organist is playing faster than the first. Notes have time signatures and if both follow the time signature, then both should be playing at the same speed. Again, I'm not saying one or both of them are unskilled as a result of that; I'm just saying I don't understand why both are playing at different speed.
            It is the nature of organs to be able to produce a wide variety of different sounds to suit different needs and moods. In just a single service (Mass even, I have played for Catholic Masses) I employ a number of very different sounds from the one organ for different parts of the service. You haven't heard this when you attend Mass? Trust me it is very possible for those two organists to sound exactly the same with respect to the sound texture they create using the organs sounds. Or the same organist can sound VERY different, moment to moment, if he or she wishes.

            Essentially your organists are playing from the same hymn or song book that you are singing from. Do you see any speed indications in the music? There aren't any. It is totatly up to the organist or music director how fast a particular hymn should be. The speed of a hymn has nothing to do with note values. Both organists are observing the relative differences in note values to create the tune. You can easily recognize that both are playing "All Glory Laud and Honor". Is one of them playing faster? I didn't notice. It certainly is possible. There is definitely a 'range' of speeds that are more or less acceptable for a given song.

            Comment


            • #8
              An organ, even one with a basic stoplist, is likely to have several stops in each of the main tonal families. This generally gives the organist a lot of variety (volume, timbre, etc.). Even on a small organ there are hundreds of different stop combinations (many aren't noticably different and a few would be odd) which means the organ won't likely sound the same unless they coordinated their registrations. Additionally, the registration can be changed during the song for additional variety or to emphasize different phrases or ideas in the text.

              I have the registrations that I've used when I've played for church written into my hymnal. I've played several hymns multiple times and I seldom use the same registration each time.

              About the tempo: tempo markings (if the song even has them) are suggestions and most of them are a range anyway. "They're more like guidelines than actual rules." Several factors contribute to the tempo an organist chooses including: tempo marking, skill, how fast it can be sung, the portion of the meeting the song is being played during, how fast the director leads, time constraints, etc.
              Sam
              Home: Allen ADC-4500 Church: Allen MDS-5
              Files: Allen Tone Card (TC) Database, TC Info, TC Converter, TC Mixer, ADC TC SF2, and MOS TC SF2, ADC TC Cad/Rvt, MOS TC Cad/Rvt, Organ Database, Music Library, etc. PM for unlinked files.

              Comment


              • #9
                Originally posted by Leisesturm View Post

                It is the nature of organs to be able to produce a wide variety of different sounds to suit different needs and moods. In just a single service (Mass even, I have played for Catholic Masses) I employ a number of very different sounds from the one organ for different parts of the service. You haven't heard this when you attend Mass? Trust me it is very possible for those two organists to sound exactly the same with respect to the sound texture they create using the organs sounds. Or the same organist can sound VERY different, moment to moment, if he or she wishes.
                Yes I do notice it. When I attend mass, I also notice the same thing you guys do; the second organist changes registration a lot more than the first. However, no matter what sound the second organist uses throughout the mass, he always produces that “thick” sound. The first one, while he doesn’t change registrations nearly as much, always maintains the thin sound throughout the entire mass.

                Comment


                • #10
                  Take 10 drivers. Put each one in your car with you and ask them to drive you from A to B. Within reason, each might take their own route, at their own speed, with their own style of driving.

                  Take 10 cooks. Give them the same recipe and put each in the same kitchen with the same ingredients and the same equipment. Again, there will be differences in how they prepare the food and there may even be variations in what they produce.

                  Expect no less of 10 organists on one organ. We each come with our own personalities, training and experience; our own abilities and limitations.

                  I always assess my congregation before and while I'm playing a service. In doing so, I can't say that I play any two services exactly the same. How many people are present and singing? Are they strong singers or do they need more coaxing and support? If they are secure, do I have the freedom to alter what's on the page? I played a service recently where the minister chose a hymn that was unfamiliar to those gathered. I suspected that, so led it accordingly. As they started to sing, I realized that they really didn't know it all, so I switched into total 'teach while you lead' style. One member from that gathering came to me afterward and specifically thanked me for leading and teaching them while we sang. If I were not flexible in my approach, that wouldn't have happened.

                  There are people who play by formula - everything is always the same. Personally, I find that boring and would prefer at least some element of spontaneity. One of my choir members was at a funeral where the organist was one of those. Apparently they sang a hymn that no one knew (the organist assumed that everyone would know it.) But the organist never seemed to notice that no one was singing and continued with an accompaniment that made it impossible to sing along.

                  Variation and variety are part and parcel of our work. You are lucky that the church has an organ that is capable of accommodating various playing styles successfully, and that you have organists that can take advantage of that.

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    I see. Most of the organists we’ve had over the past decade play with that thin sound and the second organist was one of the few that plays with the thick sound. And that’s why I started this thread. I was curious to know what the second organist is doing differently than the others.

                    Having said that, I personally like the style of the second organist because I like the fact that he likes to change registrations throughout the hymns. Most of the organists we’ve had don’t change registrations much in the middle of the hymn. So I actually appreciate the way this guy plays because it adds excitement to the hymns when I sing. I am, in no means, saying he’s better or more skilled. I’m just saying I like his style. Though I’m sad to say that this organist recently left my church for another position and we are currently in search for a new organist. I’m crossing my fingers that they hire someone just as good.

                    Comment


                    • myorgan
                      myorgan commented
                      Editing a comment
                      When I substituted for a particular local church on an Estey, people commented on my playing because I'd use the super-couplers, then play an octave higher to get the 2' stops missing on the organ. I guess the organist who has been there for the past 65-70 years never used anything above a 4' stop–ever!

                      One wasn't better than another–we're just 2 different people.

                      Michael

                  • #12
                    Originally posted by samibe View Post
                    Several factors contribute to the tempo an organist chooses including: tempo marking, skill, how fast it can be sung, the portion of the meeting the song is being played during, how fast the director leads, time constraints, etc.
                    To which could be added:
                    How familiar the hymn is to the congregation, the age of the congregation, the accoustics of the space, the text of the stanza being sung. If the congregaton is lagging, I tend to play with less legato. I might solo the melody if a hymn is less familiar. In short, there are many factors that go into the way a hymn is played.

                    Hymn playing was a big part of my education as a young organist and one of the most satisfying aspects of the job to me as a church musician.
                    .
                    Last edited by voet; 11-26-2019, 03:09 PM.
                    Bill

                    My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

                    Comment


                    • #13
                      Originally posted by voet View Post

                      To which could be added:
                      How familiar the hymn is to the congregation, the age of the congregation, the accoustics of the space, the text of the stanza being sung. If the congregaton is lagging, I tend to play with less legato. I might solo the melody if a hymn is less familiar. In short, there are many factors that go into the way a hymn is played.

                      Hymn playing was a big part of my education as a young organist and one of the most satisfying aspects to me as a church musician.
                      .
                      To the above, add the organist's hearing. If he or she is getting a little deaf with age, that could result in louder registrations, with more treble
                      Home Organ: VPO Home-Brewed from a former Klann pipe organ console

                      Comment


                      • #14
                        Originally posted by mrorgan View Post
                        My main reason for starting this thread is because I have no experience in music and whenever I attend mass at my church, it always puzzles me why two organists are producing different sounds when they are playing on the exact same organ. It's the same organ so I was expecting the exact same sound. Those two videos aren't the best sound quality, so when you hear it in person like I do, the sounds from both organists are significantly different.
                        This is one very important aspect which sets music apart from other fine art disciplines: you can take any given piece and delver it differently. There are those in certain establishments that insist on hearing a piece of music exactly the same every time, but as one of my mentors would tell you - such an experience is an empty one. Music by its very nature can change, and it is this change that brings music to life. Another way of putting it: music is not the notes on a page, music is made when the notes on a page are interpreted.

                        Think of it as, every time you hear your favourite hymn you have something new and fresh to look forward to.
                        Last edited by quantum; 12-01-2019, 03:09 AM.

                        Comment


                        • #15
                          To me the difference is not so much in the sound, but in the harmony. The first organist plays well and, so far as I can tell, with a bright sound. That might become a little tiring if not varied, but considering that there seems to be very little singing it might have been for the best.

                          The other organist did change registration more, but he had a much more informal approach to the music on the page. He may have been playing by ear? He was using, more often than not, two chords per bar rather than 4. Much of the harmony worked well, on its own terms, but I would find it much less satisfactory to listen to. I think a majestic tune like that needs to keep that majestic feeling.

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