PIPE ORGAN REGISTRATION I
The Basics From Aeoline to Zylophone
Learn the 'Families of Tone' First.
PIPE ORGAN FAMILIES OF TONE There are four families of tone in a pipe organ: Principals (aka Diapasons), Flutes, Strings and Reeds
(orchestral reed and brass are reduced to one category on the organ. There are subtle divisions among these families, which will not
be dealt with here. (The fifth family of tone is Percussion. The sound is 1. electric, 2. electronic or 3. mechanical, but the tones
are not created by air going through a pipe).
The basic families of tones are listed in the table below, linked to the appropriate page of the
Encyclopedia of Organ Stops site.
The site will open in a separate window or tab.
These are the "organ" tones. They do not and are not intended to imitate the sound of any other particular instrument. These
stops are sometimes referred to as "foundation" stops or "fundamental" stops.
As the name suggests these stops imitate flutes or flute like instruments (such as the recorder). The different examples have
subtle variations in tone color.
- Flute, Flute Celeste
- Stopped Flute
- Stopped Diapason
- Lieblich Gedeckt
- Night Horn, Nachthorn, Cor de Nuit
- Recorder, Blockflöte, Flute a Bec
- Chimney Flute, Rohrflöte, Flûte a Cheminée
- Hohlflöte, Flute Creuse, Hohlpfeife
- Spillflöte, Spindleflute
- Spitzflöte, Flûte Conique
- Quarte de Nazard
- Subbass, Soubasse
- Nazard (2-2/3')
- Tierce (1-3/5')
- Larigot (1-1/3')
- Sesquialtera II (2-2/3' + 1-3/5')
String stops came about with attempts to mimic stringed instruments, such as the violin or viola and cello, on the pipe organ
They are usually warm sounding with many upper harmonics.
Similar to orchestral reed instruments, these stops control pipes that produce sound by a vibrating 'reed' usually made of
- Oboe, Hautbois, Hautboy
- Oboe Horn
- French Horn
- English Horn, Cor Anglais
- Basson, Basson-Oboe
- Fagott, Fagotto
- Clarinet, Clarinette
- Krummhorn, Cromorne
- Trumpet, Trompette
- Trompette en Chamade
- Trombone, Posaune
- Vox Humana, Voix Humaine
These stops usually control percussive instruments directly, rather than using pipes to mimic a sound.
After most stop names there is a number. This is either an ordinal number (16, 8 etc) or a roman numeral (IV). The Orindal numbers
indicate the pitch level of the stop. It is tied to the nominal length of the longest (i.e.: lowest sounding) pipe in the rank, usually
the bottom 'C.' A stop with an 8' (i.e.: eight foot) pitch is said to be at 'unison' pitch. This is the natural pitch for the notes
being played (i.e.: middle 'c' sounds at middle 'c'). The length of the pipe (from the mouth to the top) of the lowest note for this
stop would be nominal 8'. Note that this is not an exact length for the pipe as other factors (scale, tuning, voicing etc) will shorten or
lengthen the actual pipe somewhat.
Each octave in the rank will have a pipe length of half the lower one. Therefore, the 'c' one octave above the bottome 'c' in the
rank will have a pipe of 4' length, the next 'c' will be 2' etc. Stops with 4' indicated on the stop tab or knob will have their pipes
sound an octave higher than unison. 2' will be two octaves higher, and 16' will be an octave lower.
Some stops will have a fraction indicated (i.e.: 2-2/3'). These will not sound at an octave of unison pitch but a partial of the
octave. These are mutation stops and not intended to be used by themselves. Combined with one or more unison pitch stops these will
change the color, or timbre, of the sound.
Stops with a roman numeral are 'compound stops' and are made up of more than one pipe sounding for each note. The roman numeral
indicates how many ranks are included on the stop (III = 3, V = 5 etc.). When a note is played with a Mixture V stop, five pipes sound
simultaneously. These stops are used to brighten a chorus (see below) or change the color of the sound.
Each division in the organ (Great, Swell, Pedal, Choir etc) will have their stop choruses based on a different pitch. Generally
manual divisions are based on an 8' pitch, though some larger organs will have the Great manual based on a 16' pitch, and the pedal
division will based on a 16' pitch.
How do I Combine Stops?
Begin first by creating "CHORUSES". Leave the Expression Pedals OPEN and the Crescendo Pedal CLOSED.
Play with both hands on one manual (keyboard). For example:
GREAT - Principal 8' + Principal 4' + Principal 2' = a PRINCIPAL CHORUS
SWELL - Flute 8' + Flute 4' + Flute 2' = a FLUTE CHORUS
SWELL - Flute 8' + Principal 4' + Principal 2'; = a PRINCIPAL CHORUS
PEDAL - Principal 16' + Principal 8' + Principal 4' = a PRINCIPAL CHORUS
PEDAL - Flute 16' + Flute 8' + Flute 4' = a FLUTE CHORUS
These are the beginning registrations for congregational singing. (Remember the Expression Pedals OPEN and the Crescendo Pedal CLOSED.)
- Register a standard hymn, like "Holy, Holy, Holy" (tune-name:
- Play the introduction on the Swell Principal Chorus without pedals
- Play the hymn on the Great Principal Chorus with the Pedal Principal Chorus
- Register a soft hymn, like "Kum-Ba-Yah" (tune-name:
DESMOND) or "Were You There" (tune-name:
WERE YOU THERE)
- Play the introduction on the Swell "reduced" Principal Chorus (Flute 8' + Principal 4') without pedals
- Play the hymn on the Great "reduced" Principal Chorus (Principal 8' + Principal 4') with the Pedal Flute Chorus
- Register a triumphant hymn, like "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today" (tune-name:
EASTER HYMN or
- Play it like a standard hymn (see above), but add the Mixture to the Swell and Great
- Add a Mixture to the Pedal, or if not available, Swell to Pedal 8'
- Register a Folk Hymn with Chord Symbols, like "One Bread, One Body" (tune-name:
ONE BREAD, ONE BODY)
- Divide the hands, right hand (melody) on Great, left hand (chord) on Swell
- Swell - Flute Chorus, Great - Principal Chorus, Pedal - Flute Chorus
Most of the body of the above was taken from a document that I downloaded sometime ago from a website. I no longer have the author
or origin information. If anyone recognizes this as theirs, please email me and I will add your name to the page as the author.