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Re: Unit organs

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  • Re: Unit organs

    here is the dispostion of the 5 Ranks of Pipes unified to 32 stops over 2 manuals and pedal on my unit organ:


    1. Bourdon 16'
    2. Lieblich Gedeckt 16' (works via a Lieblich Gedeckt mechanism which lowers the wind pressure to just the bottom octave of pedal notes, i.e. the Bourdon 16' extention of the Gedeckt rank).
    3. Diapason 8'
    4. Bass Flute 8'
    5. Cello 8'
    6. Dolce 8'
    7. Octave 4'
    8. Oboe 8'


    1. Bourdon 16'
    2. Contra Viole 16'
    3. Diapason 8'
    4. Gedeckt 8'
    5. Salicional 8'
    6. Dulciana 8'
    7. Flute D'Amour 4'
    8. Violina 4'
    9. Nazard 2 2/3'
    10. Flautino 2'
    11. Orchest'l Horn Syn. 8' (Syn. is for Synthetic stop)
    12. Oboe 8'
    13. Tremolo


    1. Diapason 16'
    2. Open Diapason 8'
    3. Gedeckt 8'
    4. Salicional 8'
    5. Dulciana 8'
    6. Octave 4'
    7. Flute 4'
    8. Violina 4'
    9. Dulcet 4'
    10. Contra Oboe 16'
    11. Oboe 8'
    12. Clarion 4'
    13. Chimes

    Oboe (73 pipes)
    unified pipe rank for the Contra Oboe 16', Oboe 8' & Clarion 4' on the Great, Oboe 8' on the Swell, and Oboe 8' on the Pedals

    Gedeckt/Bourdon (85 pipes)
    unified pipe rank for the Bourdon 16, Lieblich Gedeckt 16', & Bass Flute 8' on the Pedals, Bourdon 16', Gedeckt 8', Flute 4', and Flautino 2' on the Swell, Gedeckt 8' and Flute 4' on the Great.

    Dulciana (73 pipes)
    unified pipe rank for the Dolce 8' on the Pedals, Dulciana 8' on the Swell, Dulciana 8' and Dulcet 4' on the Great.

    Salicional (73 pipes)
    unified pipe rank for the Cello 8' on the Pedals, Contra Viole 16', Salicional 8' and Violina 4' on the Swell, Salicional 8' and Violina 4' on the Great.

    Diapason (73 pipes)
    unified pipe rank for the Diapason 8' on the Pedals, Diapason 8' on the Swell, Diapason 16', Diapason 8' and Octave 4' on the Great.

    There is one synthetic stop: Orchest'l Horn Syn. 8' which just combines the Nazard 2 2/3' which works off the Gedeckt, and the Salcional rank...i.e.. throwing that tab is the same as throwing the Nazard 2 2/3' and Salicional 8' in combination.

    The bottom octave on all 16' stops on the manuals does not play, including the Bourdon 16' even though there are pipes for that. I've noted that is the same on some non-unit organs I have played in NYC on the manuals, where the bottom 16' octave does not play and was told it was to prevent the sound from being muddy and to keep the pedals distinct?

    There are no pistons, just a swell (not used) and a crescendo pedal which is wired up in a way that allows the stops to be engaged in a hard wired order. Interestingly the swell pedal operated the swell shutters in a similar fashion as the crescendo pedal, so in theory I could have the swell pedal wired up to be a 2nd cresendo pedal wired to a different order if desired?

    I remember getting this organ over a year ago and not knowing a thing about how it operated. I was so puzzled about all the stop tabs and only the 5 ranks of pipes, thanks to people here on this forum I figured it out. I've learned so much.... I laugh at myself now for when I went to the church to play the organ there for the last time, I didn't even know to open up the swell shades! I'm not totally sure they even opened though as the organist never played the organ very powerfully. It was only when the swell shades were open that you could see the diapason rank behind them from the pews, and I recall seeing those only a few times when I was a kid.

    There are two instances of stop names being different on each manual even though they are exactly the same stop: The Flute 4' is called the Flute D'Amour 4' on the swell, and the Diapason 8' is called the Open Diapason 8' on the Great even though when the organ was in the church it was all in the swell box, but I guess as you can register those stops differently on each manual and I guess that justified the name change. (laughing).

  • #2
    Re: Unit organs

    Good evening,

    Were the NYC organs that you played without a bottom octave for the Manual 16's tracker organs? A lot of 19th Century trackers I have played have a split Swell Bourdon rank with a knob for the bottom octave and the rest on the another knob (They did this with 8' reeds too). It comes in handy because you can draw the Swell Bourdon to borrow to the Pedal while drawing something completely different to play on the manuals. Sort of a one-octave Pedal borrow I guess!

    If they weren't trackers, were you thinking of the sub couplers not playing in the bottom octave? I haven't experienced a straight E-P organ in which the manual 16's do not carry through the bottom octave; one would hope that they would be appropriately scaled as to not be too muddy.

    Maybe the 8' rank plays at 16' pitch?




    • #3
      Re: Unit organs

      Hi Nathan, yes, one was a old 19th century tracker, it was a marvelous Odell. The organ was playable but alot of it was not functioning, so what you say on the split Bourdon rank probably explains it! Fantastic accoustic so it still sounded wonderful despite being probably only 60% playable with alot of missing pedal notes. A little movie of me playing it this summer: There is a stop list on it from that page.

      I myself like 16' stops on the manuals so when I add the 2nd console to my unit organ maybe I'll see about having that bourdon 16' play on all octaves, perhaps wiring the bottom octave to actually play the lieblich gedeckt 16's as that would make the octave agreeable with the remainder of the gedeckt rank it is unitized from.

      There is one work of music I think would sound nice on my unit organ that I do need the bottom octave for, that is the Jig Fugue (G Major Bach)... , I register it with only the Diapason 16' on the Great, and when I hit the notes that go down to the bottom octave I play them on the Lieblich Gedeckt 16' on the pedals.....believe it or not it actually sounds pretty good that way! So there are some workarounds..., I could probably add the lieblich gedeckt 16' bottom octave hard wired to the diapason 16' to complete it on the great manual as well as I really love the diapason 16' on this organ.

      Hopefully adding MIDI will allow me to put the piece together in a easier fashion for playback when I record that someday.


      • #4
        Re: Unit organs

        I don't mind unit organs in general.
        But I want at least a Great and a Swell.
        Two separate divisions, two separate sets of pipes.
        Preferably Swell enclosed and Great open.

        Moller and Wicks both made little organs that way.
        6 ranks isn't quite enough, but 8 works pretty well.

        I remember a small Zimmer in a fairly large church.
        3 unit ranks on the Great plus a real 3 rank mixture.
        4 ranks in the Swell, a unit flute plus 8 foot
        String, Celeste, and a big Trompette.
        10 ranks altogether and a huge sound.



        • #5
          Re: Unit organs

          Although not unit organs in any sense of the word, the German mid-19th century organ-builders were using extensions on the pedal organs, and even duplicating stops on other manuals by doubling up actions etc.

          Robert Hope-Jones showed that telephone-exchange technology could be used as a a "logic circuit" for the organ, and thus was born the "unit orchestra" which eventually became the splendid Wurlitzer (and other) theatre organs in the first half of the 20th century.

          I personally adore theatre-organs, but if we look at them as "classical" instruments, they are woefully inadequate for the purpose.....which is not a criticism. They are essentially an early attempt at musical orchestral-synthesis and not, in way, designed as classical instruments.

          The theatre-organ is really a collection of individually colourful voices; some of which blend well, and others which don't. Herein lies the danger for anyone who would build a classical-style unit organ, because it requires a very sophisticated "ear" to generate the "illusion" of a bigger instrument.

          Whatever the magnificent qualities of Wurlitzer and American unit-organs generally, IMHO, only a very few organ-builders have ever succeeded in the task of creating thoroughly musical instruments which operate as unit-instruments, and without doubt, we were extremely fortunate in the UK to have John Compton; the true master of the "smoke and mirrors" approach to organ-building.

          I could not possibly begin to describe John Compton's tonal techniques, and certainly not within the scope of a posting to "Organ Forum". However, what can be stated, is that John Compton spent many, many years investigating tonal-synthesis, and the ways in which he could tease Mixtures from String units and Tierce voices from undulant Celestes so that the tuning is more or less correct.

          For anyone who wishes to become a successful builder of unit-organs, I would suggest that a careful study of John Compton and the organs he built (many of which remain in fine condition) is essential reading/listening.

          To play a 140-stop Compton organ, with perhaps 20 ranks, is an extraordinary experience, because it is quite difficult to know that the instrument is perhaps a fifth the size of an instrument with a similar number of stops, and THAT is the indication of the man's genius.



          • #6
            Re: Unit organs

            Dear List,

            The new J.W. Walker studio organ at Hope College in Michigan is an example of thoughtful (and highly successful) borrowing:


            Great Organ
            Open Diapason 8' 61 pipes
            Gamba 8' 61 pipes
            Stopped Flute 8' 61 pipes
            Principal 4' 61 pipes
            Harmonic Flute 4' 61 pipes
            Twelfth 2 2/3' 61 pipes
            Fifteenth 2' 61 pipes
            Furniture IV 1 1/3' 244 pipes
            Trumpet 8' 61 pipes

            Swell Organ
            Chimney Flute 8' 61 pipes
            Salicional 8' 61 pipes
            Voix CĂ©leste (from F) 8' 56 pipes
            Geigen Principal 4' 61 pipes
            Open Flute 4' 61 pipes
            Nazard 2 2/3' 61 pipes
            Flageolet 2' 61 pipes
            Tierce 1 3/5' 61 pipes
            Mixture III 1' 183 pipes
            Bassoon 16' 61 pipes
            Hautboy 8' 61 pipes
            Tremulant (affecting Swell and Choir)

            Choir Organ
            Stopped Diapason* 8' 37 pipes
            Gemshorn** 4' 37 pipes
            Spire Flute*** 4' 37 pipes
            Fifteenth 2' 61 pipes
            Larigot 1 1/3' 61 pipes
            Piccolo 1' 61 pipes
            Cremona 8' 61 pipes
            * Pipes 1-24 borrowed from the Swell Chimney Flute
            ** Pipes 1-24 borrowed from the Swell Geigen Principal
            *** Pipes 1-24 borrowed from the Swell Open Flute

            Pedal Organ
            Subbass 16' 32 pipes
            Principal (from Great) 8'
            Violoncello (from Great) 8'
            Bass Flute (from Great) 8'
            Fifteenth 4' 32 pipes
            Fagotto 16' 32 pipes
            Trumpet (from Great) 8'
            Tremulant (affecting Pedal and Great)

            This organ is absolutely amazing, and if one were to record it and maybe put the reverb up a hair, one would be hard-pressed to tell this organ apart from a large Church instrument.

            The Choir and Swell are in the same box, and the Choir and Pedal borrows are accomplished with Walker's nifty double-pallets.

            I can't say enough about this one!

            - Nate


            • #7
              Re: Unit organs

              Speaking of units....

              I had posted about a synthetic Quintadena on another list. This stop appears on a Harry Hall organ here in CT, and makes use of a string and flute (I need to find out the exact composition), but it really is highly effective and suggestive of the tone of a Quintadena.

              What is the synthetic stop like on your Reuter?

              Also, there is a once-beautiful 1920's Moller in CT that was hacked to pieces by Moller itself in the 60's, in which they added a 32' Pedal "Grand Cornet V" resultant to it. It operates solely from the pedal Bourdon (as Moller removed all traces of any 16' Diapason from the organ), and among the mutations, gives the sound of having a (albeit out of tune because it is from the unison rank) Septieme. Nevertheless, the sort of "Count Basie chord" that results creates an extremely effective thumping 32' tone, although the rest of the organ is now so gutless, that the Grand Cornet absolutely drowns it out. The higher you go, the more it sounds like a fog horn... A curiosity.

              - Nate


              • #8
                Re: Unit organs

                Moller and Wicks both made little organs that way.

                Actually the Wicks organ that I'm referring to (I have no idea what "model" it is) has everything enclosed, except for the lowest notes of the 16' stop and the lowest octave of the 8' principal rank (it wasn't stopped or anything).

                I actually want to do the same thing, and then also branch off from that a little. Make a nice case with swell shades in front. Put the 16' stop on the sides, and some nice stopped metal pipes in front of the swell shades just to make it look nice (well keep them playable). Then they don't look too bad because it takes most of the focus off the swell shades behind the facade pipes.

                I also want to make some organs that have an unenclosed GR but an enclosed SW.
                I really like the design above, but if you could have a detached console, move the SW and GR down just a tad so it's a little bit shorter, and scale the entire instrument down a smidge - I think it would be a nice looking instrument. It's pleasing to look at, plus, you'd get an unenclosed Gr over the swell box. It's not just like a plain box with shutters on it. Something like that...

                Or, do everything unenclosed with maybe 3 ranks just for homes and SMALL chapels.

                6 ranks isn't quite enough

                Remember, we're not talking about a concert organ that you would play full recitals on... We're talking about a simple organ for a small church with no money and hardly any space, or for home practice with the same conditions. In my opinion, 6 ranks work just fine! The bigger the church, the more ranks you'll need to add, but for who I want to target, 6 ranks is perfect.

                Hmmm... I'm interested in this Compton guy. I've heard of him but didn't really know anything about him. After doing some google searches, I've found that this is the type of thing I'm talking about. Not the theatre organs, but the same idea. He spread 5 ranks over 3 manuals, and if he can do it and it sounds good, like you say, I can do it!.

                Where is the 140 stop Compton organ with only 20 ranks? I imagine he did something like what was mentioned earlier... never unifying at the octave on the same division. That seems like it would work really well if you had a bigger organ, but seems like it wouldn't work as well for a smaller organ (in terms of ranks)

                The higher you go, the more it sounds like a fog horn...

                Haha, not exactly what I want in [/i]my[/i] organs some day.

                Sorry for the long post! I hadn't been able to reply in a while!


                • #9
                  Re: Unit organs


                  In answer about the synthetic orchestral horn on my unit organ, I think it sounds like a nasal string, which it is..i.e. a combination of the nazard & salicional 8'. I made a recording of just that stop on the organ a few months previous to the organ being repaired, so it is actually working better now, but you can listen to that old recording at:


                  It actually sounds better now that the Nazard is working correctly (at that time there were several notes not playing correctly on the Nazard 2 2/3' which have since been fixed). I'll re-record all the stops once I figure out how to better capture the bass of the organ.. you can hear the other stops at:


                  my thoughts on possible additions I would make to this organ when it is reinstalled in the church someday which is my goal:

                  1. An addition of a rank of exposed diapason pipes (unitized 16' 8' & 4", possibly 2') that the congregation could see... keeping one set in the swell box for use on the swell and having the Great diapason open as it should be. With how my church is layed out I will put the pipes in a nice display along the high back wall to give the organ more of a spatial sound to the church. I think it is important to have the exposed pipes to keep awareness to the congregation that it is a pipe organ. If everything is hidden behind a screen as my unit organ was, it makes it easy to forget... the individual pipes being seen by the people I think would be a good thing... to connect that it is a pipe organ and also for the sound to be more open and spatial.

                  2. An addition of a partial celeste rank to the strings...and possibly a gemshorn also exposed.


                  • #10
                    Reuter 822

                    I'm here to say that that stop, given the bugs at the time, as recorded sounds mighty fine to me. I'm sure that it sounds like $1,000,000 now. That would be very nice on a tremolo... It sounds like the Nazard is playing at 1 1/3 pitch, is that correct?

                    - Nate


                    • #11
                      Re: Reuter 822

                      Are there chimes as well? It sounded like it had chimes in the far distance with that horn...

                      I was actually surprised at how it sounded. I was expecting something much, well, "less"...


                      • #12
                        Re: Reuter 822

                        nate & Sound: its sounding much better after we go the rank of pipes working for the Nazard... the Nazard 2 2/3' is unitized off the Gedeckt rank, specifically the "Flautino 2'"..

                        specfically the same note in the organ is sounded by depressing the middle F on the Nazard 2 2/3' as the middle C on the Flautino 2'.

                        As to chimes, there are Deagan chimes that came with the organ, you can hear those at: They are just in the beginning of that arrangement of Joy to the World played by David Lamb on the Reuter 822. Right now the chimes are downstairs so they are very "distant" in the recording, we are going to be moving the chimes closer to the organ so they record a bit better at some point, hopefully in time to do more Christmas music. :o)


                        • #13
                          Re: Reuter 822

                          Heh, that's an idea. Buy a 6 rank model and we'll throw in the chimes for free

                          ; )


                          • #14
                            Re: Unit organs

                            There are any number of Compton instruments with a large number of stops and only a relatively few ranks. If you check out the organ of Wolverhampton Town Hall in the on-line archives of the NPOR (National pipe-organ register) here in the UK, it makes interesting reading.

                            I'm no expert, but what Compton did was so very clever; choosing registers which could blend at various pitches and tail off into high-pitched upperwork.

                            Of course, with a seperate Swell organ, some Compton organs are quite substantial, with extended ranks only found on Great, Choir/Positiv and Pedals. There is a fine 5-manual organ by Compton at Wakefield Cathedral in the UK which is typical of his work.

                            John Compton was, so far as I aware, the originator of the 32ft Harmonics "Cornet," which sounds for all the world like a 32ft reed being added. He also devised the polyphone....a valved "box" which could produce real 32ft pitch. He was imitated to some extent by a number of US builders.

                            The trouble is, a proper study of Compton's tonal genius is not best served by an analysis of his derivations and stop-lists, which are probably similar to the work of many other builders; esepcially in the US. One needs to sit at a console and HEAR how the ranks are voiced and how they blend so superbly.

                            A fascinating man, who pushed the knowledge of organ-builders further than most , and was also a pioneer in electronics. The quality of the workmanship was to a very high standard indeed.



                            • #15
                              Re: Unit organs

                              made a recording of my attempt at a Resultant 32' using the Bourdon 16's:


                              starts out low C on the Bourdon 16', then G, then together for the Resultant note on low C. does that sound correct?