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Great vs. Swell registration in "soft" pieces

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  • Great vs. Swell registration in "soft" pieces

    How does one registrate "soft" pieces that are mainly chord based, with a single solo voice without too much harmony going on? E.g. Bach's "Air on the G-string," Morricone's "Gabriel's Oboe" etc.

    Depending on the organ, the Great division usually has quite powerful stops, with the Swell containing beautiful soft and singing stops like oboe, vox celeste, viola da gamba etc. and sometimes even has more stops than the Great (is there a reason for that?).

    I like playing the melody in these pieces using these singing voices, playing the chords on a different manual to have a good harmony/melody separation. Careful registration of the "chord manual" is mandatory, otherwise the melody would be blown away by powerful diapasons or principals. Sometimes I can't accomplish this, mainly on the virtual organs out there, as the Great becomes too loud/rich too quickly.

    At the church I'm used to play, I play the melody of these pieces on the Great, using a nice sweet sounding 8" trumpet, which is positioned quite deep into the organ, plus some fundamentals. The chords are played on the Swell, usually using 8" gedackt, 4" rohrflote and 2" waldflote with tremulant on the whole organ.

  • #2
    A solo stop can be found on any manual; likewise an accompanimental stop.

    Most people think of the Swell on a two manual organ as being the source of solo stops simply because the Swell is "expressive" and the Great usually is not. But in music such as you mentioned, the Swell pedal is not normally needed anyhow.

    If you use a solo stop on the Swell, usually the Great 8' Flute is a good accompaniment. Many older organs often had a dulciana of something similar on the Great that would be a good accompaniment choice also.

    As far as the Swell having more stops than the Great, that is up to the designer of the organ. But from my experience, that is the norm especially if the organ is designed in the American Classic tradition.


    My home organ is a Theatre III with an MDS II MIDI Expander.