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typical cost to tune 30-rank organ?

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  • typical cost to tune 30-rank organ?

    As we continue to make great progress on the restoration of our 1875 Henry Erben organ (electrified in 1923), my expectation is that we'll have all 4 divisions functional by the end of 2022. The next step will be to get a pro to tune it, which hasn't been done in c. 30 years. As one would expect, some regulating also will be needed (i.e. whatever is reasonable to do on site). So what should we expect to pay for this tuning/basic regulating service? (And yes, I soon will post a detailed update of our work on the Swell division which I plan to complete this week. Next up: the Choir division. After all 4 divisions: a new control system, installed by a pro.)
    Last edited by ChristopherS; 10-25-2021, 07:25 AM.

  • #2
    I guess that's going to vary greatly depending on location and proximity of capable tuners, plus the fact that the organ hasn't been tuned for some 30 years.

    Here's one guide from The Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America for regularly-maintained organs, that may give you a ballpark idea of what will be involved, time and cost wise, before factoring in your organ's particular circumstances:

    As a general rule of thumb, a pipe organ is tuned twice a year, either at the change of seasons from hot to cold, and cold to hot, or before Easter and before Christmas. The cost of this biannual tuning will vary depending on the size of the pipe organ and area in which the pipe organ is located. In general, tuning and maintenance will require roughly one hour for every six stops in the organ. Hourly rates will vary from $85.00 per hour to $125.00 per hour.
    http://apoba.com/resources
    -------

    Hammond M-102 #21000.
    Leslie 147 #F7453.
    Hammond S-6 #72421

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks gtc ! So I'm thinking we should budget c. $600.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by ChristopherS View Post
        Thanks gtc ! So I'm thinking we should budget c. $600.
        I'd be inclined to maybe triple that number to allow for the fact that some ranks may be way out of tune, and hence take longer given that it has not been maintained regularly, plus travel both ways if the tuner is distant. Also, I'm assuming that someone from your team will be available to assist -- if not then you need to budget for two people.
        -------

        Hammond M-102 #21000.
        Leslie 147 #F7453.
        Hammond S-6 #72421

        Comment


        • myorgan
          myorgan commented
          Editing a comment
          I agree with GTC. Plan for the worst and hope for the best-especially if regulation is involved.

          Michael

      • #5
        myorgan "Plan for the worst and hope for the best". Ha ha, that's been our guiding principle for this entire project.

        Comment


        • #6
          Tuning a pipe organ is not rocket science, and if you are comfortable moving around in the chambers, you can save a lot of money doing most of it yourself. Begin by making or acquiring a proper tuning knife and then download a tuning app. ClearTune is a very impressive and versatile tuner with a clear and precise display. My favourite, however, is PitchLab. It's a well reviewed and well engineered piece of software that tells you all you need to know. Try to tune within one cent, but two cents is considered an acceptable error.

          NEVER, EVER just walk into an organ with the tuner set to A440 and start tuning. You'll end up having to tune every pipe in the instrument. Your first job, always, is to sit down at the console and determine the overall pitch level of the instrument on that day, at that temperature. And if one division has been overheating due to an incoming sun or another division has spent the night soaking up the cold from an exterior wall, you might want to come back once the temperatures in the various divisions have equalized. Now perch your iPad on the music rack and with the tuner set to A440, try out some ranks (flues only) and get a sense of the general pitch level of the instrument. Then pick a pipe whose tuning agrees with the general consensus of the other pipes and adjust your tuner to this reference pitch. This is done by having it “listen” to that note or you can type in its frequency, 437.8 Hz for example if your reference tone happens to be middle A.

          For the amateur, a visible tuner has several advantages. Even just sitting at the console, you can quickly run through a rank and determine where the tuning problems are. Since you are always only tuning a single pipe at a time against the tuner, tuning errors cannot “percolate” through the organ. A visible tuner can be a real asset when tuning harmonic-corroborating stops. Also the tuner always indicates whether the pipe you are tuning is sharp or flat, so if it is flat, for example, you know right away that the collar on a flue pipe, or the tuning wire of a reed, needs to be tapped down. And finally something worth considering when you are tuning reeds: you can wear hearing protection when using a visible tuner which will save your ears.


          Now go into the chamber and start tuning, holding the tuning knife loosely in your hand while you gently tap the collars on the flues up or down. Leave the reeds until last, for a day when the chamber temperature is around 72 degrees. On the reeds, do not attempt to adjust the canisters on the tops. If a reed doesn't sound, lift it out of its boot and examine the reed for dirt between the reed and shallot. Dirt is best removed sliding a dollar bill under the reed where the lightly textured surface of the bill will clean out any dirt. While tuning, make a list of all the pipes that are problematic and bring the professional in to deal with those only.

          Comment


          • #7
            Coenraads Thanks again for your helpful advice! At some point I think we'll want to get a pro to do some "regulating" but I think we should be able to handle the basic, first-in-30-years tuning.

            Comment


            • #8
              Originally posted by Coenraads View Post
              Tuning a pipe organ is not rocket science, and if you are comfortable moving around in the chambers, you can save a lot of money doing most of it yourself. Begin by making or acquiring a proper tuning knife and then download a tuning app. ClearTune is a very impressive and versatile tuner with a clear and precise display. My favourite, however, is PitchLab. It's a well reviewed and well engineered piece of software that tells you all you need to know. Try to tune within one cent, but two cents is considered an acceptable error.

              NEVER, EVER just walk into an organ with the tuner set to A440 and start tuning. You'll end up having to tune every pipe in the instrument. Your first job, always, is to sit down at the console and determine the overall pitch level of the instrument on that day, at that temperature. And if one division has been overheating due to an incoming sun or another division has spent the night soaking up the cold from an exterior wall, you might want to come back once the temperatures in the various divisions have equalized. Now perch your iPad on the music rack and with the tuner set to A440, try out some ranks (flues only) and get a sense of the general pitch level of the instrument. Then pick a pipe whose tuning agrees with the general consensus of the other pipes and adjust your tuner to this reference pitch. This is done by having it “listen” to that note or you can type in its frequency, 437.8 Hz for example if your reference tone happens to be middle A.

              For the amateur, a visible tuner has several advantages. Even just sitting at the console, you can quickly run through a rank and determine where the tuning problems are. Since you are always only tuning a single pipe at a time against the tuner, tuning errors cannot “percolate” through the organ. A visible tuner can be a real asset when tuning harmonic-corroborating stops. Also the tuner always indicates whether the pipe you are tuning is sharp or flat, so if it is flat, for example, you know right away that the collar on a flue pipe, or the tuning wire of a reed, needs to be tapped down. And finally something worth considering when you are tuning reeds: you can wear hearing protection when using a visible tuner which will save your ears.


              Now go into the chamber and start tuning, holding the tuning knife loosely in your hand while you gently tap the collars on the flues up or down. Leave the reeds until last, for a day when the chamber temperature is around 72 degrees. On the reeds, do not attempt to adjust the canisters on the tops. If a reed doesn't sound, lift it out of its boot and examine the reed for dirt between the reed and shallot. Dirt is best removed sliding a dollar bill under the reed where the lightly textured surface of the bill will clean out any dirt. While tuning, make a list of all the pipes that are problematic and bring the professional in to deal with those only.
              A good start, but this leaves out a lot of the detail. For starters, you want to tune the organ at 72 degrees (or the temperature at which the room will be used most often). Only tune the instrument after the room has sat at the desired temperature for a number of hours. Also, I will warn you that this organ (unless modified) was almost certainly not tuned to A440, the pitch of the instrument should be determined beforehand so that you tune correctly. Are any of the ranks cone tuned by chance? If they are, I would definitely leave those up to a professional. There is a lot more to say on this, yes, I think anyone can learn how to tune, but you need some instruction first. I sent you a message offering some more detailed help (writing on the forum isn't the easiest way to share information) and the same offer goes to anyone reading this post.

              Comment


              • #9
                Christopher,

                You've already received some excellent advice, but a few caveats:
                • You will want to have someone come in to do the regulating before tuning, because the regulating can affect the tuning. That said, you can always do a rough tuning as described above.
                • Adjacent windows, outside walls, shades open or closed, differences in height between the chambers (i.e. Swell above Choir) all can seriously affect tuning. They can all affect humidity and temperature of the pipes. As already stated, you will want to make sure the temperature is stabilized (chambers will change temperature more slowly than Great or Pedal pipes) before tuning. The less temperature is changed, the longer the tuning will last.
                • While tuning a pipe organ may not be rocket science, significant damage can be done by an unwitting person trying to do good. Only do what you're comfortable doing. If in doubt, don't!
                Hope this helps.

                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


                • #10
                  One thing that will help stabilize temperature is that under the parish's current administration (by the "traditionalist" Catholic order Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest/ICKSP, since 2019) is that the building is barely heated in winter, which is one of the many ways they've managed to put the parish's annual budget in the black 2 years in a row now, for the first time in MANY decades. Last winter I had to wear hat, coat and gloves when installing a new motor starter for the 3-phase blower motor.

                  Comment


                  • aeolian pat
                    aeolian pat commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I hope they keep that place above 55, the plaster walls will not take the moisture that builds up behind them. The wood in the organ will be happy though. As long as the heat stays constant ,the humidity will stay the same and the wood won't be stressed. I played at a very large church with cooler temps in the winter, pastor said get gloves with no fingers.

                  • myorgan
                    myorgan commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Pat,

                    Are you sure about that? I live in an area where many/most of the churches in the area were built with horsehair plaster. They also never heated the church during the winter until recently. Pianos, organs-all the same treatment. The biggest issue I've noticed is cracks in the paster from the foundation settling.

                    Michael
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