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Pedal Note Naming Convention - Gg, C, Aa Etc.


martin_greenwood
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Could somebody put me out of my misery. I often see use of a convention by which you can refer to specific notes at particularly octaves e.g. CC, cc, GG. I guess that it's probably in relation to middle C, but I've never seen written down how this convention works, though I'm sure it is extremely simple. I've generally seen it used in relation to pedal notes, though presumably it can apply to manuals as well.

 

Please could someone explain the code.

 

Thanks

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Could somebody put me out of my misery. I often see use of a convention by which you can refer to specific notes at particularly octaves e.g. CC, cc, GG. I guess that it's probably in relation to middle C, but I've never seen written down how this convention works, though I'm sure it is extremely simple. I've generally seen it used in relation to pedal notes, though presumably it can apply to manuals as well.

 

Please could someone explain the code.

There are many different systems and they can be confusing. For a start there's confusion over whether a pitch or a key is intended. Often pedal notes are treated as though they are inherently an octave below the manuals so the lowest note is written CCC (compared to the lowest note of the manuals being CC); but perhaps the lowest note of the Pedal 8' Bass Flute is CC. I'm no expert but generally which note is meant can be deduced by context. Continental builders often use a system that goes c c' c'' c''' etc. North Americans, I think, have another.

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Could somebody put me out of my misery. I often see use of a convention by which you can refer to specific notes at particularly octaves e.g. CC, cc, GG. I guess that it's probably in relation to middle C, but I've never seen written down how this convention works, though I'm sure it is extremely simple. I've generally seen it used in relation to pedal notes, though presumably it can apply to manuals as well.

 

Please could someone explain the code.

 

Thanks

 

In relation to the claviers for the hands: CC is two octaves below middle C and C (or T[enor]C) is one octave below. There are a few variations of how the octaves above are indicated; for example: c' (middle C), c'', c''' and c'''' (the last is the hightest note on a sixty-one note clavier).

 

What I prefer to use myself is the following: C1, C13, C25 (middle C), C37, C49 and C61, since I believe that this is less confusing. Certainly, my organ builder has never complained.

 

With regard to the Pedal clavier, I would normally refer to 'bottom C', 'middle C' and 'top C' when teaching - 'CCC' usually elicits either "Excuse me?" or a blank, uncomprehending stare.

 

However, like the spelling of 'Cromorne', there are probably as many versions as there are active members of this board.

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There are many different systems and they can be confusing. For a start there's confusion over whether a pitch or a key is intended. Often pedal notes are treated as though they are inherently an octave below the manuals so the lowest note is written CCC (compared to the lowest note of the manuals being CC); but perhaps the lowest note of the Pedal 8' Bass Flute is CC. I'm no expert but generally which note is meant can be deduced by context. Continental builders often use a system that goes c c' c'' c''' etc. North Americans, I think, have another.

This page:

 

http://www.dolmetsch.com/musictheory1.htm

 

has some useful information. Scroll about 2/5 of the way down the page and start reading at the Helmholtz notation section.

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That was tempting fate wasn't it!

I suppose we should have asked what your intended uses are. Tuner's Books are full of little scrawled staves with a clef and one or two semibreves indicating the problem notes. For the pedals top, bottom, or middle, followed by the note name, will be precise enough for most cases; for the manuals maybe bottom, tenor, middle, treble, and top. I have a very vague recollection that organ builders only use sharps and not flats (or the other way round) but I'm sure the tuner can translate!

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What I prefer to use myself is the following: C1, C13, C25 (middle C), C37, C49 and C61, since I believe that this is less confusing. Certainly, my organ builder has never complained.

 

With regard to the Pedal clavier, I would normally refer to 'bottom C', 'middle C' and 'top C' when teaching - 'CCC' usually elicits either "Excuse me?" or a blank, uncomprehending stare.

Using such a distinction seems very sensible, pcnd. The unison of the Pedal being 16', it is a good idea to adopt a system for it, which differs in nature from that applicable to the manual claviers.

 

I suppose it's also too much to ask that we also strive towards consistency in the way specifications are presented? For the most part, the commencing ranks of Pedal mixtures are based on a 16' unison, but recently an acquaintance invited me to try the organ at his church, and obligingly wrote down the specification. However, he wrote down the commencing ranks of the Pedal mixture as if they were based on an 8' unison, rather than 16', and it took me a little while to realise what he had done. I've seen this in a couple of CD booklets too (although I can't remember which off-hand).

 

Rgds,

MJF

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Using such a distinction seems very sensible, pcnd. The unison of the Pedal being 16', it is a good idea to adopt a system for it, which differs in nature from that applicable to the manual claviers.

Is the unison of the Pedal always 16'? This has been argued both ways with some force. I would say the jury is still out.

I suppose it's also too much to ask that we also strive towards consistency in the way specifications are presented? For the most part, the commencing ranks of Pedal mixtures are based on a 16' unison, but recently an acquaintance invited me to try the organ at his church, and obligingly wrote down the specification. However, he wrote down the commencing ranks of the Pedal mixture as if they were based on an 8' unison, rather than 16', and it took me a little while to realise what he had done. I've seen this in a couple of CD booklets too (although I can't remember which off-hand).

Do you mean a Pedal mixture being described as, say, 5-8-10-12 instead of 12-15-17-19? I suppose if the lowest pitch is given in feet as well, eg 2 2/3', which is very common, that would avoid the confusion. Although unless an organ had more than one chorus pedal mixture I would assume it worked with the pedal principal chorus providing an independent pedal that balanced with that of the great whatever its composition.

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Using such a distinction seems very sensible, pcnd. The unison of the Pedal being 16', it is a good idea to adopt a system for it, which differs in nature from that applicable to the manual claviers.

 

I suppose it's also too much to ask that we also strive towards consistency in the way specifications are presented? For the most part, the commencing ranks of Pedal mixtures are based on a 16' unison, but recently an acquaintance invited me to try the organ at his church, and obligingly wrote down the specification. However, he wrote down the commencing ranks of the Pedal mixture as if they were based on an 8' unison, rather than 16', and it took me a little while to realise what he had done. I've seen this in a couple of CD booklets too (although I can't remember which off-hand).

 

Rgds,

MJF

 

We only use (eg) CCCC; DDD; EE-type notation with regard to pipes themselves (denotes octave of speech). If we are talking about the notes on the keys, then "Bottom C et al; Middle C et al; Treble c et el; Top c...; High c.

 

Of late, talking to clients in various parts, most seem to like/understand the use of C1; C13 etc.

 

 

David Wyld.

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Tuners/organ builders normally refer to sharps only. Never assume all tuners can read music - notes in the tuning book are best denoted c1, c#2 etc., rather than scribbled staff notation.

 

The old English system of notation, which I happen to like, changes at each G - like this...

 

32ft octave

CCCC CCCC# DDDD, DDDD# EEEE FFFF FFFF# GGG# AAA AAA# BBB

 

 

16ft octave

CCC CCC# DDD DDD# EEE FFF FFF# GG GG# AA AA# BB

 

 

8ft octave

CC CC# DD DD# EE FF FF# G G# A A# B

 

 

4ft octave

c c# d d# e f f# g g# a a# b

 

Confusingly, Hill adopted the German system where B=Bb and a natural sign denoted b natural.

 

H

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Is the unison of the Pedal always 16'? This has been argued both ways with some force. I would say the jury is still out.

 

It has?? I cannot say that I have ever met another organist who has disputed this!

Surely this is a logical description. Whilst some pieces (and accompaniments of choral works) call for the use of pedals without 16p stops, generally one would expect to play most things using 16p registers on the Pedal Organ.

 

:o

 

Do you mean a Pedal mixture being described as, say, 5-8-10-12 instead of 12-15-17-19? I suppose if the lowest pitch is given in feet as well, eg 2 2/3', which is very common, that would avoid the confusion. Although unless an organ had more than one chorus pedal mixture I would assume it worked with the pedal principal chorus providing an independent pedal that balanced with that of the great whatever its composition.

 

Some clarification here would be useful. I assume that this was not what was meant but I am not certain.

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Tuners/organ builders normally refer to sharps only. Never assume all tuners can read music - notes in the tuning book are best denoted c1, c#2 etc., rather than scribbled staff notation.

 

The old English system of notation, which I happen to like, changes at each G - like this...

 

32ft octave

CCCC CCCC# DDDD, DDDD# EEEE FFFF FFFF# GGG# AAA AAA# BBB

16ft octave

CCC CCC# DDD DDD# EEE FFF FFF# GG GG# AA AA# BB

8ft octave

CC CC# DD DD# EE FF FF# G G# A A# B

4ft octave

c c# d d# e f f# g g# a a# b

 

Confusingly, Hill adopted the German system where B=Bb and a natural sign denoted b natural.

 

H

 

Mmmm - I think that I would find this to be more confusing. It is a long time since organs in this country were constructed with a GG compass.

 

Incidentally, I had thought that in the German system the letter H denoted what we call B natural - otherwise there are a number of pieces in the repertoire (including themes from some of Bach's own work) which are rendered inaccurate in their literal musical translation of themes, for want of a better term.

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Is the unison of the Pedal always 16'? This has been argued both ways with some force. I would say the jury is still out.

 

Do you mean a Pedal mixture being described as, say, 5-8-10-12 instead of 12-15-17-19? I suppose if the lowest pitch is given in feet as well, eg 2 2/3', which is very common, that would avoid the confusion. Although unless an organ had more than one chorus pedal mixture I would assume it worked with the pedal principal chorus providing an independent pedal that balanced with that of the great whatever its composition.

Interesting. I had of course assumed a 16' Pedal unison, and I must admit that I haven't read or participated in any arguments where an alternative position has been argued. Of course, where the Pedal contains solo stops - and I suppose I had carefully allowed myself to forget that only a few weeks ago I played an instrument where I was quite happy to give out a choral melody on a 4' Schalmey - perhaps different considerations again must apply!

 

As to the mixture composition, that's it exactly. I agree that specifying the lowest pitch avoids the confusion, although with respect I would not go quite so far as to say it's very common. It would perhaps be better if it were.

 

Rgds,

MJF

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Interesting. I had of course assumed a 16' Pedal unison, and I must admit that I haven't read or participated in any arguments where an alternative position has been argued. Of course, where the Pedal contains solo stops - and I suppose I had carefully allowed myself to forget that only a few weeks ago I played an instrument where I was quite happy to give out a choral melody on a 4' Schalmey - perhaps different considerations again must apply!

I like the analogy with the orchestra, in which, usually, the double basses double the cellos an octave lower. Thus one can normally assume the presence of 16' pitch but also not the absence of 8' pitch; for the harmony and counterpoint to work the 8' pitch is more crucial than the 16'. The 16' gives depth and grandeur etc. but is, harmonically speaking, an effect. Additionally, when pedals were first added to organs in England I think I am right in suggesting that the first pedal stop, even if called Great Bass (or something), was often pitched at 8'. This area is confused due to the long compass of English organs and I'm no expert in this area. Your point about pedals being used for alto or treble cantus firmus melodies is also relevant. To be honest, I'm only aware of one previous argument on the subject but it was long and, in the manner of such cyberarguments, generated more heat than light. Another point against the 16' unison cause is that the couplers couple at (8') unison to the pedal.

As to the mixture composition, that's it exactly. I agree that specifying the lowest pitch avoids the confusion, although with respect I would not go quite so far as to say it's very common. It would perhaps be better if it were.

You're right, I shouldn't have said very common; sometimes seen would be more accurate!

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
Interesting. I had of course assumed a 16' Pedal unison, and I must admit that I haven't read or participated in any arguments where an alternative position has been argued. Of course, where the Pedal contains solo stops - and I suppose I had carefully allowed myself to forget that only a few weeks ago I played an instrument where I was quite happy to give out a choral melody on a 4' Schalmey - perhaps different considerations again must apply!

 

As to the mixture composition, that's it exactly. I agree that specifying the lowest pitch avoids the confusion, although with respect I would not go quite so far as to say it's very common. It would perhaps be better if it were.

 

Rgds,

MJF

 

16ft is sub-unison on the pedal division. 8ft still reigns supreme! In England the G compass organs were sounding (to us) as if a 16ft is drawn and so (to me) and a few coupled pedals (octave and a bit, perhaps) just made use of that. The Italian organs of Serasi and others in the 19th century have the same features. When you draw a 16ft on the manuals you get hints of 32ft pitch on the pedals because of the long compass. Nice gravitas.

As for mixtures being based on 16ft pitch, they would show up in the the composition on paper. As MJF says - a 4ft reed is just the same pitch as the 4ft on the manual. So too the mixtures. On the new instrument by Aubertin in Oxford I have suggested at the fisrt pull, that there is only the 2ft sounding (15th) of the Pedal mixture - for special Nederland music (as the case is on the edge of the Gallery and quite prominant in position for such a sound). The other 3 ranks come when fully pulled. Therefore, if the 15th of the mixture was based on a 16ft Pedal unison it would of course sound the same as a 4ft on the keyboard which is not the case. 8ft is the common pitch. And just to cloud the waters even more - if you do consider and treat the pedals as 16ft then you must also treat the Gt to Ped etc as Octave Couplers as they are only hitching up the octave above the notes played in the pedal. One major argument for not having Pedal couplers at all!

Best wishes,

Nigel

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16ft is sub-unison on the pedal division. 8ft still reigns supreme! In England the G compass organs were sounding (to us) as if a 16ft is drawn

 

Sorry - I disagree! Whilst one does not normally play with clavier 16p stops drawn† (for the hands), one would normally play with 16p stops drawn on the Pedal Organ. The point regarding the old GG compass seems to me to be rather incidental to the plot.

As for mixtures being based on 16ft pitch, they would show up in the the composition on paper. As MJF says - a 4ft reed is just the same pitch as the 4ft on the manual. So too the mixtures.

Nigel

 

Naturally a 4ft. reed sounds at the same pitch wherever it appears - 4ft. pitch is always 4ft. pitch. However, it it surely worthy of note that there are some organ builders (for example FHW and H&H) who included a 4ft. Clarion on the G.O. but an 8ft. Clarion on the Pedal Organ; for example, Salisbury Cathedral. This to me seems quite logical - and can avoid confusion.

 

However, I grant that there are many exceptions - FHW often had a 16ft. Trombone as the sub-unison G.O. reed and also as a 16ft. Pedal reed. At Worcester Cathedral, H&H (somewhat confusingly) added a family of trumpets at 32ft., 16ft. and 8ft. pitch - although all three registers were named 'Trumpet' in the draw-stops.

 

Mixtures seem to me to be less of a problem. A G.O. Mixture of 19-22-26-29 clearly consists of the following pitches: 1 1/3ft., 1ft., 2/3ft. and 1/2ft. at CC. However, I should expect a Pedal Mixture of 19-22-26-29 to give the following pitches: 2 2/3ft., 2ft., 1 1/3ft. and 1ft. at bottom C of the pedal board. In the same way, I would find it helpful if organ builders could apply the same logic to Pedal Organ stops - which would mean, for example, that a Contra Posaune was always a 32ft. stop, a Fifteenth was always a 4ft. stop* and a Clarion was always an 8ft. stop.

 

 

† I use them quite often - but not all the time!

 

* Whilst this particular stop (and a number of others) have been standardised at this for over one hundred and fifty years, I do not really see why the same logic was not applied to reed stops. It is these registers in which the confusion normally arises.

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Sorry - I disagree! Whilst one does not normally play with clavier 16p stops drawn† (for the hands), one would normally play with 16p stops drawn on the Pedal Organ. The point regarding the old GG compass seems to me to be rather incidental to the plot.

But how often would you use only 16' tone on the pedals? One comes across 8' only indications relatively frequently in Romantic organ music, both solo pieces and choral accompaniments, but the number of times I've seen 16' only can be counted on the fingers of one finger.

 

There is a direct historical line from organs with no pedals, through organs with pedal pull-downs (particularly in the Low Countries), through organs with only 8' tone on the pedal to organs with 16' tone. By far the most numerous organs in England only contain one pedal stop, and that at 16' pitch, but it will always be coupled to the manuals (except for some special effect) in order to provide 8' pitch to blend with the harmony of the manuals. Remember that a 16' stopped flute provides no 8' partial.

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But how often would you use only 16' tone on the pedals? One comes across 8' only indications relatively frequently in Romantic organ music, both solo pieces and choral accompaniments, but the number of times I've seen 16' only can be counted on the fingers of one finger.

 

This is no more relevant than asking how often I play on the G.O. with only 8ft. stops - and no 4ft. registers. It still does not alter the fact that the 'normal' foundation (for want of a more specific term) pitch of the Pedal Organ is 16ft. Neither would I necessarily agree that 'One comes across 8' only indications relatively frequently in Romantic organ music, both solo pieces and choral accompaniments'. Occasionally, yes; but frequently - no.

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This is no more relevant than asking how often I play on the G.O. with only 8ft. stops - and no 4ft. registers. It still does not alter the fact that the 'normal' foundation (for want of a more specific term) pitch of the Pedal Organ is 16ft.

I tend to side with innate on this. The one thing I am forever having to press home to less experienced organists (and, recently, a very experienced one too!) is not to play with a 16' pedal flue alone and uncoupled. It may work on a Silbermann; it most certainly does not on a typical English organ. Special effects apart, one should never use the pedals without 8' pitch because, frankly, it just does not work. This alone disposes of any notion that 16' is the foundation pitch of the pedal organ. The 16' stops do not provide a foundation to anything. What they do provide is a very strong suboctave presence and this of course is their primary role. As innate pointed out, their function is much the same as the double basses in an orchestra.

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I tend to side with innate on this. The one thing I am forever having to press home to less experienced organists (and, recently, a very experienced one too!) is not to play with a 16' pedal flue alone and uncoupled. It may work on a Silbermann; it most certainly does not on a typical English organ. Special effects apart, one should never use the pedals without 8' pitch because, frankly, it just does not work. This alone disposes of any notion that 16' is the foundation pitch of the pedal organ. The 16' stops do not provide a foundation to anything. What they do provide is a very strong suboctave presence and this of course is their primary role. As innate pointed out, their function is much the same as the double basses in an orchestra.

 

Sorry, Vox - I am not convinced.

 

Whether one uses an 8ft. register with a 16ft. Bourdon (for example) to provide definition, does not (for me) alter the fact that the fundamental pitch of the Pedal Organ is 16ft. In any case, the Pedal Salicional on the Minster organ can be used quite clearly as a sole register (uncoupled). For that matter, the Bourdon works clearly on most notes. The G.O. Quintatön can also be coupled on its own to the pedals.

 

It also still does not alter the fact that, if one maintains that the 16ft. pitch on a Pedal Organ is merely 'a very strong suboctave presence', then the logical conclusion is that one should play with nothing below 8ft. most of the time - only adding a 16ft. for special effects. This is simply not true. It is the 32ft. stops which perform this function on a Pedal Organ - regardless of whether it was built by Silbermann or Ray Greaves.

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Sorry, Vox - I am not convinced.

 

Whether one uses an 8ft. register with a 16ft. Bourdon (for example) to provide definition, does not (for me) alter the fact that the fundamental pitch of the Pedal Organ is 16ft. In any case, the Pedal Salicional on the Minster organ can be used quite clearly as a sole register (uncoupled). For that matter, the Bourdon works clearly on most notes. The G.O. Quintatön can also be coupled on its own to the pedals.

 

It also still does not alter the fact that, if one maintains that the 16ft. pitch on a Pedal Organ is merely 'a very strong suboctave presence', then the logical conclusion is that one should play with nothing below 8ft. most of the time - only adding a 16ft. for special effects. This is simply not true. It is the 32ft. stops which perform this function on a Pedal Organ - regardless of whether it was built by Silbermann or Ray Greaves.

So what is the fundamental pitch of the cello/bass line in the orchestra?

 

The reason the 16' salicional can be used on its own is that it has a half-decent octave partial. As I said earlier stopped pipes do not have that partial; the first overtone is the 12th, so I'd be surprised if you could use the Bourdon or the G.O. Quintatön alone in polyphonic music.

 

As an aside, Mark Blatchly used on occasion to accompany entire services at Christ Church using no 16' stops.

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So what is the fundamental pitch of the cello/bass line in the orchestra?

 

The reason the 16' salicional can be used on its own is that it has a half-decent octave partial. As I said earlier stopped pipes do not have that partial; the first overtone is the 12th, so I'd be surprised if you could use the Bourdon or the G.O. Quintatön alone in polyphonic music.

 

As an aside, Mark Blatchly used on occasion to accompany entire services at Christ Church using no 16' stops.

 

Obviously the double bass is pitched lower than the violoncello - although this seems no more relevant than the previous comment. Comparing an organ to an orchestra with regard to pitch surely only confuses the issue.

 

If I were using only quiet 8ft. stops on the claviers, it would work; not because of an octave partial, but because it produces clear fundamental notes, without weight or muddiness. I think that you are confusing clarity of registration with pitch fundamentals, personally.

 

What Mark Blatchly may or may not have done at Oxford is beside the point. Conversely, I usually accompany the services of Choral Matins and Choral Evensong without using the Swell Mixture - what does this mean?

 

I shall ask my boss at school what he thinks today - I must confess that this is the first time I have ever heard anyone question this aspect of the instrument.

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Obviously the double bass is pitched lower than the violoncello - although this seems no more relevant than the previous comment. Comparing an organ to an orchestra with regard to pitch surely only confuses the issue.

 

If I were using only quiet 8ft. stops on the claviers, it would work; not because of an octave partial, but because it produces clear fundamental notes, without weight or muddiness. I think that you are confusing clarity of registration with pitch fundamentals, personally.

 

What Mark Blatchly may or may not have done at Oxford is beside the point. Conversely, I usually accompany the services of Choral Matins and Choral Evensong without using the Swell Mixture - what does this mean?

 

I shall ask my boss at school what he thinks today - I must confess that this is the first time I have ever heard anyone question this aspect of the instrument.

 

 

Although the main pedal pitch is 16' I agree that a lone soft 16' rarely gives enough clear pitch without a coupler.

As to pcnd's playing of services without using a Swell Mixture, I would put this down to a combination of his good taste and the fact that neoclassical mixtures are often pitched rather too high to blend with voices, however splendid they can be to top a chorus in solo work.

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