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Adjusting Overall Volume of Pipe Organ

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest commented on 's reply
    My residence organ is around 85db, I have no swell shades, I don't find it loud, 85db is not abnormal at all for a pipe organ on full, you have to remember that near the organ its going to be very loud to you but 75 feet below in the pews it's far less db

  • Leisesturm
    replied
    Originally posted by APipeOrganist View Post
    It could be that the blower was installed incorrectly. The organ that I play on recently had the polarity of the blower input reversed after the new tuner discovered that it had been running the wrong way since about 2007. The Great Claribel is sounding a lot less airy now, which is very nice.
    So ... in other words, the organ doesn't suck anymore?

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  • APipeOrganist
    replied
    It could be that the blower was installed incorrectly. The organ that I play on recently had the polarity of the blower input reversed after the new tuner discovered that it had been running the wrong way since about 2007. The Great Claribel is sounding a lot less airy now, which is very nice.

    Leave a comment:


  • cham-ed
    commented on 's reply
    You are sure right in regard to hearing aids. I don't have that kind of money for hearing aids. So I am switching them on and off. On for speech and off for music. Fortunately I don't have a large hearing loss so it is not too bad. And with the right person speaking and our audio system, I can leave them off. And it sure would be nice to have a real good pair.

  • Pipeorganbuilder
    replied
    Michael,

    I agree with everything you said. My teachers taught me the same. Then I got worked for Moller and was surprised to find so many different organs that were voiced either so loud or too soft across all of the stops that you had to decide to use the swell shoes.

    Michael 2

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  • myorgan
    replied
    Originally posted by Pipeorganbuilder View Post
    I have seen many organist that use the shades wide open and never adjust them throughout the piece.
    Michael,

    That's actually much like how I was taught.

    In my training, the organ was supposed to be voiced so it would support a full congregation (if in a church), or orchestra (if in a Symphony Hall), with a full house plus a little extra. For those organs, one can register a Diapason Chorus on the Great, and that would support most average singing/playing.

    To wit, the boxes would be opened completely, and stop changes would provide the variation in volume. It was not until the Romantic era, the use of the Swell boxes to control volume came into more popular use.

    Unfortunately, there are several schools of thought on the above amongst organ builders. The result is that moving from one organ to another sometimes results in consternation when registering in a new venue. One pipe organ I play regularly has more than enough volume with only Principal 8' and 4' on the Great, and anything additional (i.e. Mixtures, Mutations, Reeds, etc.) overpower the listeners. Just a week ago, I accompanied the final hymn on 8' & 4' Principal with 2' Gedeckt, and there were observations the organ was too loud for all 400+ parishioners singing heartily. Personally, I think the organ would be more useful if voiced softer, but . . . .

    If you've made it this far...I agree with Michael's assessment. Definitely use the Swell shades rather than messing with the pipe work. That's a recipe for disaster–though tempting sometimes!

    Michael

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  • Pipeorganbuilder
    replied
    Swell shade usage may be a simpler solution if available. I have seen many organist that use the shades wide open and never adjust them throughout the piece.

    Michael

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  • Tertia
    replied
    From an organ builder's point of view, any particular flue stop that sounds too loud or soft within the ensemble can be regulated by adjusting the size of the pipe foot by opening or closing it slightly, usually with a male/female tuning cone. However, I would not recommend anyone who has no experience in doing this should attempt it because this kind or regulation is very difficult because if it's not done properly can seriously affect the intonation of the entire rank. For this reason every pipe within the rank needs to be regulated so it doesn't sound either too loud or too soft throughout the compass. Sometimes, however, this may well be the problem, that the treble may need to be increased whereas the bass does not or vice versa. At any rate, if any regulation of the rank in question needs to be adjusted, I would suggest that the organ tuner be requested to do it. As regards regulating the reeds, then to attempt such an exercise should always be left to a competent professional.

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  • Benpeters
    replied
    Well like many have noted, the best is to try readjust your stops settings a bit. Watch that for a while and notice if there is any difference.

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  • regeron
    replied
    Originally posted by thatdarnfish View Post
    Is it possible to adjust the overall volume of a pipe organ through a manipulation of the blower or some other aspect of the instrument? I ask because the organ in my church recently had some blower work done, and now it sounds much louder. Is this possible, or maybe it's just my imagination? Thanks for any information you can share.
    I'm still curious to hear what work was done on the blower and what symptoms made it seem necessary or desirable.

    Leave a comment:


  • toodles
    replied
    I wear hearing aids because of some noise-induced hearing loss as well as an overall loss of sensitivity, probably congenital. The noise induced loss causes a drop in sensitivity between 1,000 Hz and about 4,000 Hz, but by 6,000 Hz my hearing is back to the same sensitivty as below 1k Hz.

    So my hearing aids are digital and have several "programs". The best for music is one that has generally flat overall response with a boost for the noise induced loss. So the higher pitches don't cause me problems with music if I use the appropriate program. If I use my normal speech enhancement program with background noise reduction, then music is a little dull to my ears. I can also set the overall gain of my aids, all this by a couple of push button switches on the aids themselves.

    But I suspect a lot of people don't buy the best hearing aids for their particular situation, and they may not be able to afford what would be best for them. There are no technical specifications available to purchasers of hearing aids to help them decide what is best--purchasers are at the mercy of their audiologist. I happened upon a really good group of audiologist, so I guess I am lucky. My hearing aids were about $3500 for the pair. I suspect a lot of purchasers go for lower cost devices without the potential for customization. My audiologist doesn't think I should upgrade until a newer model can provide a significant "wow" in the improvements.

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  • jbird604
    replied
    Great discussion going on here! Confirms some things that I'd been suspecting at my own church. A few years back a nice guy who is very supportive of the music ministry but not a musician himself came up to me after the service and remarked that the organ had been hurting his ears. He wondered if I'd changed anything. I had in fact just recently tinkered with the voicing and upped the volume of some high-pitched stops because I thought the organ needed the "definition" or something. I re-worked it during the following week, rolling back the treble boosts, and he told me the next Sunday that it was fine. He does wear hearing aids!

    As has been said above, and as I admit to having done in the past, the LOUD registration of the organ has been overused, and is best left to the absolute climax of a program or service. I used to think that just about every hymn needed to end on a near-tutti, but now realize that was counter-productive and indeed made my tuttis less impactful.

    In order to be able to use fewer stops and still effectively lead my congregation, I recently RAISED the volume of some stops. I raised the great principal chorus quite a bit because I realized that it has not been strong enough to stand alone, and consequently I have been tacking on everything but the kitchen sink just to get a mezzo-forte. Then I was piling on the mixtures and reeds at the end of many hymns to get that big ending I wanted. I now find, with the principals of adequate volume, I can sometimes play a hymn with just the 8' and 4' great principals and a balancing pedal, thus leaving far more avenues to a crescendo than just piling on the whole works!

    I made it LOUDER so I can play SOFTER!

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  • Leisesturm
    replied
    Originally posted by thatdarnfish View Post
    Thanks, all, for your very helpful comments. I spoke with our organists about their registration choices (fun!), but they took it well. It helped that I also took dcbl readings to prove my point.
    I've played organ professionally for a long time. In the early days I couldn't play loud enough. Congregations couldn't get enough rompin and stompin on the pedals with the 16' Bombarde for the last verse of 'And Can It Be'. These days, not so much. I've been given lists of stops by name, that are not to be used, ever, during job interviews in recent years. I've negotiated the right to use whatever registration I want during Postludes. If no, I won't take the position, there are limits by gum. It makes no sense in my opinion to insist that an organist use only half of an instrument that is undersized as it is!

    Here is the problem: in the 20th and 21st Centuries all churches of more than ~30 congregants have invested in 'Hearing Assist' systems and a good portion of the congregation of any church of any size already invest in personal hearing assist systems. The primary function of both systems is to boost higher frequencies that carry vital information about the sibilants used in speech to the hard of hearing. Anything higher than a 4' stop is rich in these frequencies and make most music but especially organ unpleasant to listen to with hearing aids in.

    I wouldn't bet on it but I'm fairly confident that those churches with massive pipe organs and 50 piece orchestra accompaniment are packing them in. If you do not learn to adjust your hearing assist devices you will not enjoy service at these churches because they are not catering to a minority of the congregation even if it is a significant minority. I can't prove it, but I don't think that the fact that many organists in mid-size churches have been brow-beaten to never using anything more powerful than an 8' Diapason. Some places not even that! I don't think that makes for the most stirring of Worship experiences and most of the young and middle age congregation leave. The left behind wonder what would 'bring the young people back'. Hmmm.

    Personally I do not think the repairs to the organ restored things to optimal pressure (and volume). More likely they restored a previously inoperative 2' stop or maybe Mixture or Reed. That's all it would take to increase the overall sound level by many decibels. Organ pipes are very resistant to volume change by pressure. They are more like Recorders, the pitch rises as the pressure increases but not so much the volume. Then at some threshold the pipe 'overblows' and you definitely know it. The volume goes way up but also the pitch breaks to a different octave altogether and the pipe(s) would be unusable. Skilled organists usually do not go in for excessive volume in registration. Unskilled ones usually err towards too little volume. FWIW.

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  • voet
    replied
    Other posters more knowledgeable than I have already addressed the more technical aspects in this thread. I would like to share something that I learned from one of my teachers. Years ago I sought the help of a great musician to prepare for an organ concert. Not only was she an good organ teacher, she also was a string player and taught me a great deal about playing musically. Like many young organists, I loved to hear full organ. She gave me some great advice. She said, "if you play full organ too often, it looses its impact."

    As we worked together on my concert, I began to think about registrations not only for each individual piece, but we also thought about the arc of registration for the concert. Which piece would use the full resources of the organ and which pieces would be held back. We decided to save the fullest registration for Franck's Chorale No. 3 in A Minor, which was the last piece on the program. Because I waited until the end to feature the tutti of the organ, it had much more impact than if I had used it on a couple of earlier pieces as well.

    I use this approach even for registering a church service. I decide what is going to be the arc of the service. I also look at each hymn and try to let the text of each stanza determine the registration. Sometimes I have the congregation sing a verse a capella. Earlier in my career, I would sometimes get complaints about the organ being too loud. When I started using this subtler approach to registration, I almost never heard that complaint.

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  • Terpodion
    replied
    Originally posted by thatdarnfish View Post
    Thanks, all, for your very helpful comments. I spoke with our organists about their registration choices (fun!), but they took it well. It helped that I also took dcbl readings to prove my point.
    I have restored a few organs that had been tampered with and were on the wrong pressure.

    Changing the pressure to other than that which the original builder intended usually plays havoc. Reeds are probably the most drastically affected. They won't hold their tuning. You may be able to get them in tune, but it will not hold. Flues (as already stated) may overblow and some may not speak properly otherwise- particularly strings.

    Lowering the pressure on an electro-pneumatic instrument may cause problems with the action. Remember, EP action works better as the wind pressure increases.

    Often the cause of dropped wind pressure is due to the blower turning in the wrong direction. I have come upon this several times. This happens with a three phase motor when someone reverses two of the legs and this usually happens when electricians come in and work on the buildings electrical system. Usually they are correcting mistakes that someone made years or decades ago. Blowers will still produce plenty of wind when turning in the wrong direction but the pressure will be lower.

    Holes in the gussets of a regulator bellows have to be pretty big to cause a drop in pressure. They can usually regulate around it. However a more frequent cause of pressure problems is a broken or jammed curtain valve or butterfly valve. Skinners will do this; the chain will break or get stuck on the pulley race.

    Suffice to say that any organ needs to be on the right pressure. One needs to check and see if the builder marked it on the regulator bellows. It needs to be checked with a water gauge ( I have found Magnahelics inaccurate) and the organ needs to be thoroughly tuned. You cannot just use wind pressure like a volume control.

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