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Bourdon vs Subbass

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  • Bourdon vs Subbass

    What's the difference between a 32' Subbass and a 32' Bourdon? Because I know that another name for a Subbass stop is a Contra Bourdon. At first I assumed that a Contra Bourdon was a bourdon pitched an octave lower, i.e. a bourdon would be pitched at 16' and a Contra Bourdon would be pitched at 32'. However, I've seen pipe organs that have both a 16' bourdon and a 16' subbass as separate stops. How are they different?

  • #2
    If we disregard the 16 versus 32 and whether the word "Contra" is used or not used and simply focus on Subbass versus Bourdon, I think of them as being generally interchangeable. However, if the words Subbass and Bourdon appear on the same organ, especially at the same pitch (16') on the same division, then I would think of the Subbass as being somewhat larger in scale and louder than the Bourdon, perhaps with the Bourdon having more harmonics and the Subbass being more fundamental.

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    • #3
      I agree with Menshenstimme. I think the actual results is quite variable from builder to builder, and perhaps organ to organ. And the room in which the organ is housed makes a considerable difference on the bass levels.

      I believe Subbass and Bourdon are used as roughly equal, with a softer stopped flute being a Bourdon Doux or a Lieblich Gedackt.

      The "Sub" would usually mean a sub-octave pitch, the equivalent of Contra, but the Subbass seems to be the exception--Contra Subbass doesn't seem to occur.

      Remember, there is not an ISO XXXX standard for stop names. There is only convention and the discretion of the builder.

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      • #4
        Check out: http://www.organstops.org/c/ContraBourdon.html

        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


        • #5
          I'm inclined to agree with Menschenstimme. If there is both a bourdon and subbass (especially at the same pitch), I would however be inclined to assume that the subbass is an open wood (as opposed to the bourdon which is stopped and has a lighter sound).

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Sathrandur View Post
            If there is both a bourdon and subbass (especially at the same pitch), I would however be inclined to assume that the subbass is an open wood (as opposed to the bourdon which is stopped and has a lighter sound).
            In three decades of building and servicing pipe organs throughout the eastern half of the US and the Bahamas, I have only once seen an Open Wood referred to as a Subbass, and that was in an instrument with highly unusual nomenclature. In every single other instance, the Subbass (no matter the pitch level) has been a larger-scale stopped wood rank. In organs that have both a Subbass and a Bourdon, the Bourdon is usually a smaller-scale rank, and is often (but definitely not always) brought down from the Swell into the Pedal. In cases like these I have seen the smaller rank in both wood and metal, though wood is more common.

            Of course there are exceptions to the rule. I've seen many instances where the Pedal has a Bourdon, and the Swell also has a Bourdon that, when carried down to the Pedal, is called Lieblich Gedackt or some variation thereof. Personally I find that very confusing, but once I figure it out I am able to ignore the nomenclature and use the stops appropriately.

            Kind regards,
            Shawn

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            • #7
              Our Klais has in the Pedal Division an Untersatz 32', a Subbass 16', and a Bourdon 16'; however the latter is borrowed from the Swell. I don't play the instrument, so can't say how they differ. There is also a Bourdon 8' with pipes in the Pedal Division.

              David

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              • #8
                In orchestrational terms, "bass" is the musical line at the 8-foot pitch level: cellos. "Contrabass" is the sub-octave reinforcement of that line: double basses. "Contra" of course literally means "against," but in practical terms means "below" in the case of a bass and its sub-octave.

                "Subbass," then, in organ terms, aligns nicely with the orchestral train of thought, being the sub-octave of the 8-foot musical/textural bass. The grand confusion of organ stop names then enters, where "Bourdon" is merely understood to be an 8-foot stop in the manuals, but a 16-foot stop in the pedal, since the pedal in most organs is understood to be musically grounded at 16-foot pitch anyway. Hence, a manual Contra Bourdon ought to be 16-foot, but a pedal Contra Bourdon ("Contre" to keep it all in the same language) is 32-foot.

                I suppose it all makes sense; the Germans named their stopped pedal rank Subbass (crudely, "soob-boss"), thinking in terms of the musical texture. The French named theirs Bourdon, beacuse that's what the pipes are, then left it to whomever to figure out what pitch it was sounding. Mix it all up and corrupt it for a couple of centuries, then send it to America, and you lose all meaning beyond "something low."

                I like "Untersatz." Literally, "under-sentence," but idiomatically, foundation or ground structure or substructure. That's a good name for a 32-foot flue.

                Then there's Lieblichgedeckt. "Lieblich" literally translates to "lovely," but we probably perceive it as "soft." And as a misnomer, there are certainly a lot of them that aren't a particularly lovely timbre, but are instead just dull, lifeless stopped flutes.

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                • #9
                  Would a Pedal Bourdon 8' more properly be called an √úberbourdon 8'?

                  David

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                  • #10
                    I have to agree with Trompette. An organ here in town has a soubasse which borrows from a gedackt in the manual, but to my ears it sounds like any other soubasse.

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                    • #11
                      Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we name the tones that please.

                      A Bourdon 32' would sound as sweet by any other name.

                      Isn't it human nature to over-classify things far beyond utility?

                      I'm sure the 32' Subbass proponents would fight it out to the death with the 32' Bourdon proponents. :emotion-22:
                      '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!

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                      • #12
                        My Walcker has a 16ft Subbass. Other Walckers I know well have essentially the same stop labelled Bourdon. I have seen both on the same organ where Subbass referred to the use of those with larger scales. I have never encountered a Subbass with a curved upper lip however.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Kalee21 View Post
                          I have never encountered a Subbass with a curved upper lip however.
                          I've often wondered how many pipe organ builders arbitrarily name similar stops what they want as opposed to naming them based on their construction and/or sound qualities in a given space. I don't think major builders would do this, but I do wonder about some of the smaller (re)builders.

                          For example, the upper octave or so of a 2' rank would sound much the same within the same family of stops (i.e. Flute, Diapason, Strings, etc.).

                          Have any of the builders on this Forum ever experienced such a situation? Just curious.

                          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


                          • #14
                            Our church's organ is a 2003-2004 rebuild and expansion of a 1973 Schantz. We purposely renamed approximately half of the stops in a manner that we thought more consistent overall. Both the 1973 stoplist and the 2004 stoplist are along American Classic lines. We ended up with a Krummhorn on the Swell and another Krummhorn on the Choir. We thought that two Krummhorns looked strange, so, we renamed the Choir Krummhorn "Klarinett." It does indeed sound enough like a Klarinett. And yes, we realize that our spelling of Klarinett is dialectic (intentionally).

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by myorgan View Post
                              I've often wondered how many pipe organ builders arbitrarily name similar stops what they want as opposed to naming them based on their construction and/or sound qualities in a given space. I don't think major builders would do this, but I do wonder about some of the smaller (re)builders. For example, the upper octave or so of a 2' rank would sound much the same within the same family of stops (i.e. Flute, Diapason, Strings, etc.).
                              Begin rant.

                              That is actually one of my pet peeves. If it is a Stopped Diapason at 8', it is still a Stopped Diapason at 4' (if the stops are derived from the same rank of pipes, that is). Yet how many instruments do we encounter where we find a single pipe rank with umpteen billion different names on the same instrument? In my opinion (which I claim as my own) it is misleading, confusing, bordering on dishonest, and gives the impression that an instrument is much larger than it is in actuality.

                              Some examples I have seen include:

                              SWELL
                              16' Lieblich Gedeckt
                              8' Stopped Diapason
                              4' Flute d'Amour
                              2-2/3' Nazard
                              2' Piccolo
                              1-3/5' Tierce
                              PEDAL
                              16' Bourdon
                              8' Flute
                              4' Lieblich Flute

                              SWELL
                              16' Contra Trompette
                              8' Trompette
                              4' Clairon
                              PEDAL
                              16' Posaune
                              8' Trumpet
                              4' Klarine

                              SWELL
                              8' Dolce
                              GREAT
                              8' Dulciana
                              4' Dulcet
                              2' Dolce 15th

                              SWELL
                              8' Viola
                              4' Fugara
                              GREAT
                              8' Gamba
                              4' Gambette
                              PEDAL
                              8' Cello

                              In each of these cases the various stops are derived from a single rank, and each was built by a major builder with Opus numbers in the thousands, and in no case was it a stock model or "cabinet" instrument.

                              My company would probably fall under the heading of smaller rebuilder, since that is the bulk of what we do. I have kept it small by design, since it gives us many freedoms we would not have were the company to grow larger. It allows us to work with smaller congregations that might not otherwise be able to afford a pipe organ. It also keeps us cognizant of the need to respect available resources in an existing instrument and use them (where appropriate and practical) in a manner that reflects good stewardship and quality without compromise.

                              It is the practice of our company to "call a spade a spade" when it comes to stop nomenclature. While we are sometimes criticized by our colleagues for this, if a stop is unified from a parent rank it will carry the name of that parent rank no matter the pitch. Granted, it makes for some interesting stop names, but when you sit at one of our consoles there is no doubt as to the unification. We also refrain from duplicating the names of parent ranks within an instrument. For instance, if the Great has 8' Open Diapason the one in the Swell might be called 8' Diapason. This practice is not universal for us, since we might do a solid-state conversion on an existing instrument where the client desires to retain the existing nomenclature, but we embrace this practice wherever possible.

                              For what it's worth. End rant.
                              Shawn

                              - - - Updated - - -

                              Originally posted by Kalee21 View Post
                              I have never encountered a Subbass with a curved upper lip however.
                              I encounter them with curved upper lips often, though my preference is definitely for a straight lip. It is another thing that is in the hands of the builder and voicer as to their preferences and the tone they are trying to achieve.

                              Kind regards,
                              Shawn

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