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How loud is the average pipe organ at the operator's ear?

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    How loud is the average pipe organ at the operator's ear?

    I've always wondered how many dB pipe organs are at the organist's ears, the kind where you play right infront/below the pipes. I see some people wear earplugs and some don't. They don't need to be too loud up close, but loud enough for the hard of hearing to hear in the back of a room full of people.
    Allen 530A

    #2
    Hello, earplugs would be a good investment especially if it's a very well-endowed organ. The organ I play on is a little large for the chapel it's in, and playing full organ can be quite deafening itself without considering the echo (about 3 seconds). I've had listeners tell me that it can get quite uncomfortable below (it's open to visitors), and the sound of the organ can be heard outside the chapel, so the hard of hearing in the back should probably have no trouble at all. And there's still an 8' Posaune on the Bombarde manual I have yet to draw on.

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      #3
      There is a rebuilt Skinner organ in perkins chapel that one could hear quite well OUTSIDE with no trouble.
      Jerry F Bacon-Dallas,Tx

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        #4
        Generally most traditional worship services I've attended have had an average of mid to 80's dB SPL A-weighted with peaks in the low 90's. (Most contemporary services aren't actually that much louder - in fact I know of a few places which actually have a traditional service louder than the contemporary one) The volume at the console will vary based on the location of the console and of course the organist him/herself. The inverse square law for acoustics is that the SPL (sound pressure level, i.e. "volume") diminishes by 6dB with the doubling of the distance from the sound source. So, let's say you have a 100' long room with no variations in sound propagation and pipes at the far end, and the console 25 feet from the pipes - if the sound at the other end of the room from the pipes is 80dB, then at the console it would be 92dB. Of course, rooms like that don't exist, so this is only an approximation.

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          #5
          The annual "O Come All Ye Faithful/Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" battle at midnight mass between the congregation and the organist always gets pretty loud. The organist usually plays fair, but if there is a big congregation that year, we have this awesome Swell Double Trumpet 16' that comes in handy. Unfortunately, we often get complaints about the use of this stop from the surrounding suburbs...

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            #6
            Originally posted by Nutball View Post
            I've always wondered how many dB pipe organs are at the organist's ears, the kind where you play right infront/below the pipes. I see some people wear earplugs and some don't. They don't need to be too loud up close, but loud enough for the hard of hearing to hear in the back of a room full of people.
            Your question is a loaded question. I once played a Hook & Hastings tracker regularly. Since the pipes spoke over the console and beside the console, most of the sound I heard was reflected off the back wall. I played another Hook & Hastings tracker (3 manual), and ran into the same issue with that organ--the pipes were not speaking directly in my ears, therefore, it was not loud at all.

            OTOH, I've played another small tracker recently, and the pipes' mouths were just slightly above the music rack, and I ran into some interesting sounds there. It was in a small practice room, so it wasn't voiced loudly, but some of the voices/sounds were strident, at best. That was probably because it was going out of tune.

            I have a dosimeter I could use at home, where the speakers are less than 10' away from my ear, but I haven't tried it yet. It's also important to know whether you're rating the dB on the A-weighted scale or the C-weighted scale. The numbers can be vastly different on either scale.

            It's been my experience the congregation spreads themselves around wherever they get the sound they like. If they want it loud, they'll find a spot where that's what they will hear, and then sit there every Sunday. If they think the organ is too loud, they'll also adjust their seating position. I wouldn't worry too much about it, as long as the dB you use/choose stays within OSHA guidelines (no more than 90db+ for prolonged periods).

            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)
            • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 4 Pianos

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              #7
              'battle....' takes me back to a school concert with full orchestra, full choir and me at the organ. Totally impossible for me to judge what level I'm playing at in rehearsals, let alone on the night with the massed parents' 'choir' also joining in. So I asked the conductor to give me some signals to help. I was expecting subtle hand signals, but there he was on the rostrum, waving both arms around histrionically, shouting "More organ, I want more organ, give me more organ!"

              And you might consider this, just in case you play a little too 'tutti'....

              https://app.box.com/shared/24t68g7qub

              It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

              New website now live - www.andrew-gilbert.com

              Current organ: Roland Atelier AT900 Platinum Edition
              Retired Organs: Lots! Kawai SR6 x 2, Hammond T402, T500 x 2, X5. Conn Martinique and 652. Gulbransen 2102 Pacemaker. Kimball something-or-other.
              Retired Leslies, 147, 145, 760 x 2, 710, 415 x 2.

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                #8
                Originally posted by myorgan View Post
                . . .Since the pipes spoke over the console and beside the console, most of the sound I heard was reflected off the back wall . .
                Similar issue I had when playing the Mormon Tabernacle organ ... the pipes speak over the console. Not the best place to hear that wonderful instrument.

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                  #9
                  Originally posted by Piperdane View Post
                  Similar issue I had when playing the Mormon Tabernacle organ ... the pipes speak over the console. Not the best place to hear that wonderful instrument.
                  Piper,

                  Fortunately, with that organ there is at least some space between the pipes and the console (the choir loft). In my case with the tracker, it was only 1'-2' away. I would think that also with the Mormon Tabernacle organ, the acoustics would be much better than in a smaller church.

                  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)
                  • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 4 Pianos

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                    #10
                    Isn't that instrument the only one with cylindrical wooden pipes?

                    David

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                      #11
                      Originally posted by TSPhillips View Post
                      Generally most traditional worship services I've attended have had an average of mid to 80's dB SPL A-weighted with peaks in the low 90's. (Most contemporary services aren't actually that much louder - in fact I know of a few places which actually have a traditional service louder than the contemporary one).
                      Here are some typical sound levels measured at 1 meter from the source:

                      Vacuum cleaner 75 dBa
                      Passing diesel truck 85
                      Lawn mower 90
                      Motorcycle 100
                      -----------------
                      Johannus Opus 1100 (ca. 1990)

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                        #12
                        This isn't related, but this thread reminds me of a dream I had just last night:

                        I woke up in bed to Buxtehude's Ciacona in C, I could recognize the organ was from a chapel about 2 miles away. I said to my dreaming self that I must find out what stops they were using, because I never could get that organ to play so loud!
                        Then the music stopped and someone playing a Hammond B-3 appeared in my room, which must have put me to sleep within my dream because I don't think anything else happened.

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                          #13
                          Originally posted by davidecasteel View Post
                          Isn't that instrument the only one with cylindrical wooden pipes?

                          David

                          So they say, though I would not guarantee it. I believe that is all that is left of the original organ.

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                            #14
                            The facade pipes are the ones on question - a 32' Open Diapason. They are built like a barrel, with staves. They are gold leaf on the outside. There were other organs in ages past with small flute stops with cylindrical wooden pipes, I remember reading about them, but I couldn't tell you where or if they still exist.

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                              #15
                              I get about 83-85db at the console about 20 feet away from the organ room at home.

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