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Does a pipe organ get better with age?

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  • myorgan
    commented on 's reply
    The pipes retained their original voicing-only the mechanics has been updated. An original voiced Skinner of that era is very nice. Very glad you updated to the newer switching system. The old mechanicals often make the organ less desirable to play.
    Michael,

    From your perspective, your statement is mostly true, however, I have heard some organs where the "mechanics" have been updated, and the voicing changed slightly as a result of either better, more-even winding, switching, or other parameters from the process. An example would be tubular pneumatic (with leaks in the conduits) vs. solid state switching.
    An experienced person like you would take that into account, but some don't, unfortunately.

    Michael

  • samibe
    replied
    I can't think of much that gets better with age (or at least extensive age). Many things function much better after an initial wearing-in period where materials conform to their purposes better, imperfections get worn off or worked out, and major issues get resolved. Often things can run smoothly with minimal effort for years after that. Eventually, the inevitability of time, wear, and entropy bring everything down unless effort is expended in upkeep.

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  • regeron
    replied
    This might not qualify because it involves working on the organs, but I know a couple instances where an organ was built at a time when certain practices and materials were 'normal'. With the passage of time, however, most would agree that there were flaws in some of what was done. New, better materials and parts were substituted. The organs now sound and function as they never had in the past.

    The two examples that immediately come to mind are:
    1) Pedal reed boots (non-metal) being made of something too thin. This was replaced with better, thicker wood boots. The tone was hugely better.
    2) Computer boards for a memory capture system. The organ was built with what people later realized was a below-average quality product. It didn't take long before the system was completely unreliable. New components were put in and have worked perfectly ever since.

    This might not qualify for this thread, except that I think that the passage of time allowed for improvements to be made. Those improvements could not have happened at any time prior. I will concede, however, that these are not instances of the organ "just improving on its own" after the passage of time.

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  • Pipeorganbuilder
    replied
    Originally posted by cham-ed View Post
    Not quite what probably matches the idea behind the thread, but if I push the "better" concept. When our Skinner was 75 years old the wiring insulation was disintegrating. So that didn't get better. But we did have it redone with new MIDI based control system and that certainly made it better. 99 levels of combination instead of one. The ability to drive other instruments from the instrument etc. And it is no longer fixed to the floor so we can move it out front and center for recitals. And when we do move it out, our organists love to play it there. It normally is under one pipe chamber, so you need to play mind games to make the congregation hear a balanced sound. Not what one hears from the console normally. So over all, mechanically they have gotten better. And we no longer have a set of ears (or a recording) that heard it 95 years ago to compare. But we do love its' sound today.
    I agree with you completely. The pipes retained their original voicing-only the mechanics has been updated. An original voiced Skinner of that era is very nice. Very glad you updated to the newer switching system. The old mechanicals often make the organ less desirable to play. The builders 75 years ago would have loved to have what we have today.. Thanks for sharing.

    Michael

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  • musicmaker84
    replied
    Originally posted by Pipeorganbuilder View Post
    I had rather think the virtual organ folks know more about recording than pipe organ construction. It is just a matter of taste of who is recording. Their samples for the most part are not played back as the pipe sounded in the building it was voiced for. A beautiful theater organ in a large theater will always sound better than in someone's home no matter how much reverb etc. is added. Just my two cents.

    Michael
    That is so true.

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  • cham-ed
    replied
    Not quite what probably matches the idea behind the thread, but if I push the "better" concept. When our Skinner was 75 years old the wiring insulation was disintegrating. So that didn't get better. But we did have it redone with new MIDI based control system and that certainly made it better. 99 levels of combination instead of one. The ability to drive other instruments from the instrument etc. And it is no longer fixed to the floor so we can move it out front and center for recitals. And when we do move it out, our organists love to play it there. It normally is under one pipe chamber, so you need to play mind games to make the congregation hear a balanced sound. Not what one hears from the console normally. So over all, mechanically they have gotten better. And we no longer have a set of ears (or a recording) that heard it 95 years ago to compare. But we do love its' sound today.

    Leave a comment:


  • Pipeorganbuilder
    replied
    I had rather think the virtual organ folks know more about recording than pipe organ construction. It is just a matter of taste of who is recording. Their samples for the most part are not played back as the pipe sounded in the building it was voiced for. A beautiful theater organ in a large theater will always sound better than in someone's home no matter how much reverb etc. is added. Just my two cents.

    Michael

    Leave a comment:


  • musicmaker84
    replied
    Well, many virtual organ folks swear by sampling that catches the fine nuances (possibly some slight detuning?) and imperfections of pipe organs that might have developed after decades of service, despite maintenance, I guess. To them, a „perfect“ organ is just „not real“ enough.

    So, in a way, they do get better?!?

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  • andijah
    replied
    I don't think organs get better over time, but if properly maintained, they will last for a very long time. "My" main organ is 161 years old and now needs some extra attention to last another 160 years. It's purely mechanical which I think helps.
    Another organ I play is 108 years old and due to its pneumatics, there's a lot more that breaks from time to time. But other than that, no problems.
    However, I don't think organs are like single malt whisky, so if we want them to last, we need to take good care of them.

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  • Pipeorganbuilder
    replied
    I have not found that they do. A properly voiced and tuned pipe organ that is kept mechanically correct should sound the same for decades. Many times the original sound is what folks want to hear after a total rebuild without touching the pipe voicing.

    Michael

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  • Dewey643
    started a topic Does a pipe organ get better with age?

    Does a pipe organ get better with age?

    Wondering,...if a pipe organ is well maintained,kept clean,and tuned,...do you feel they only get better as they age? I know some are rebuilt after 50,60,or even 70 years,....but overall,...again,...do you feel they only get better as they age?
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