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Angled Stop Jams


SteveBarker77
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I'm in the early stages of a rebuild of a 2 manual organ in the church where I am organist and choirmaster and as part of the rebuild I would like to change the console from stop tabs to draw stops. The 'norm' seems to be for angled jams at 45 degrees, but I have to say that I don't find these quite right - I don't feel like I'm pulling towards me. Does anyone have similar experiences? what angles do others find comfy? If I go for something that feels right for me am I being a bit selfish for anyone else who might come to play the instrument in the future? Interested to hear from you!

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I'm in the early stages of a rebuild of a 2 manual organ in the church where I am organist and choirmaster and as part of the rebuild I would like to change the console from stop tabs to draw stops. The 'norm' seems to be for angled jams at 45 degrees, but I have to say that I don't find these quite right - I don't feel like I'm pulling towards me. Does anyone have similar experiences? what angles do others find comfy? If I go for something that feels right for me am I being a bit selfish for anyone else who might come to play the instrument in the future? Interested to hear from you!

 

Hi

 

In my view, visibility & accessability are the important factors. The current chamber organ in my church has drawstops tucked down next to the keyboard where they are on edge of vision and not the easiest to manipulate because of limited space between the key cheeks and the ends of the keyboard fall (that's dictated by case design).

 

Angled jambs are easier to see - but in practice I find either layout equally satisfactory.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Guest Cynic
I'm in the early stages of a rebuild of a 2 manual organ in the church where I am organist and choirmaster and as part of the rebuild I would like to change the console from stop tabs to draw stops. The 'norm' seems to be for angled jams at 45 degrees, but I have to say that I don't find these quite right - I don't feel like I'm pulling towards me. Does anyone have similar experiences? what angles do others find comfy? If I go for something that feels right for me am I being a bit selfish for anyone else who might come to play the instrument in the future? Interested to hear from you!

 

 

It all depends. I have known consoles with the jambs angled more than 45 degrees - more like 60 in fact. There are also curved ones - Coventry Cathedral and the RFH have these. What really determines the comfort level of any of these designs is how far the jambs are set back from the key-frames and whether your frames are 61 notes. Obviously, you don't want any handle where you cannot both see it and reach it without hitting anything else.

 

If in negotiation with your organ-builder you can find any arrangement that feels comfortable to you, then surely it would be legitimate to go for it! There are some appallingly uncomfortable stopjambs around!. I personally dislike the Cavaille-Coll style terraces. At their worst, I have seen them all tidily level with the keyboards and in a line with them. They look marvellous, of course. These are fair enough if you only register by the French method, but the drawbacks in other use are significant. For a start, the distant ones have their faces effectively turned away from you so you can't read them without leaning over and peering down. Those on the right hand side cannot be drawn with the left hand, and vice versa!

 

What works best for me? On a two manual, I like either flat jambs at an angle of 90 degrees from the keys (the old 'traditional' layout) or jambs angled at about 30 i.e. pointing towards your shoulders as you sit.

 

I quite like vertical columns of single stops if it is a small organ, in staggered pairs if it is medium-sized or on department panels, each with two staggered rows if it is a large specification. I personally dislike three columns for any department in any size of organ - Hull City Hall has this. It means you cannot control as many stops with one hand in a single movement. This particular design was carried out by R&D because they were replacing the (superb) Compton luminous touch stops which can be comfortably controlled in columns of three.

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Interesting topic.

 

I think Cynic raises a very good point:

 

"What really determines the comfort level of any of these designs is how far the jambs are set back from the key-frames"

 

Absolutely right! And this is very frequently overlooked when designing a console. If the stop jambs are set too far back from the keyboards, it makes it much harder to change stops - you really have to stretch. Here is a very good example of an organ console with this problem:

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/PSearch.cgi...D07926&no=4

 

Look at the distance between the tails of the highest keyboard and the start of the jambs. Ouch! It's surprisingly uncomfortable to manipulate stops on this console, which otherwise looks comfortable and efficient. A shame on what is otherwise a lovely, musical and sensitively designed organ.

 

Although I've yet to play it, I suspect this organ has the same issue:

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/PSearch.cgi...E01245&no=3

 

Both these consoles could have kept their clean modern looks and yet be much more comfortable if the builder had moved the jambs forward.

 

Next point:

 

"If I go for something that feels right for me am I being a bit selfish for anyone else who might come to play the instrument in the future"

 

I think you need to think in terms of what is the right style of console for the organ. If it's an early/mid Victorian style organ, this should be reflected in the design of the console. I wouldn't expect to see angled jambs and a sequencer on a 15 stop 1860 Hill organ - it would be out of place. I think this should guide your decision making and this at least justifies your decisions to your successors.

 

Otherwise, I entirely second Cynic's comments. The only other thing I would add is that if you have flat jambs and more than 1 column of stops, it's more awkward to pull stops out on the outer column if the stops closer to the organist are already drawn - especially if the stops have a long draw. For this reason, I think that it's slightly better to err on the side of single columns if you've got flat jambs, even if the stops end up rising quite high. Obviously there's a limit - probably towards the highest point of the music desk is more than high enough. For example, one nearly needs to stand up to reach the highest stops on the left hand jamb of this curiously awkward organ console:

 

http://www.peartreechurch.org.uk/Music/peartreedetail.jpg (there's another couple of stops at the top of the left hand jamb, outside the photo...)

 

One would hardly believe the design of this console dates from 1895! It really hasn't moved forward in design terms from 1848, the date of this console, which inspired me when I got an opportunity to influence an organ console design:

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/PSearch.cgi...N07483&no=1

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/PSearch.cgi...P00129&no=3

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"Look at the distance between the tails of the highest keyboard and the start of the jambs. Ouch! It's surprisingly uncomfortable to manipulate stops on this console, which otherwise looks comfortable and efficient. A shame on what is otherwise a lovely, musical and sensitively designed organ."

 

Having played this organ quite a bit I wonder if the problem isn't actually something slightly different. For me, rather than the stop jambs being too far back, it's the manuals which are too far forward. Assuming a classical organ console (this is a staunchly neo-Scanda-classical organ but the lack of any stop controls suggests the root of its conception) the toe should be able to hang in a straight vertical line under the knee and play just in front of the sharps. The combination here of manuals which are too far forward, an RCO pedal-board (strange choice in the circumstances) and, if I remember rightly, keyboards which are slightly too low compared to the top of the pedal board make this, for my money, quite uncomfortable to play.

 

 

"For a start, the distant ones have their faces effectively turned away from you so you can't read them without leaning over and peering down. Those on the right hand side cannot be drawn with the left hand, and vice versa!"

 

...which of course wasn't the intention. I take Cynic's point though, and my instinct would suggest that the terraced console, because of its low profile, could be applied far more in the UK for situations where the organist would ideally have direct lines of sight to the conductor. Perhaps the answer to the problem lies in the American organ building of the 19th century where organ builders such as the Hooks put the stop labels at a 45 degree angle to the stop knob making them easy to read even from a distance. I think they only did this on larger organs though.

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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"If I go for something that feels right for me am I being a bit selfish for anyone else who might come to play the instrument in the future"

 

I think you need to think in terms of what is the right style of console for the organ. If it's an early/mid Victorian style organ, this should be reflected in the design of the console. I wouldn't expect to see angled jambs and a sequencer on a 15 stop 1860 Hill organ - it would be out of place. I think this should guide your decision making and this at least justifies your decisions to your successors.

 

Perhaps I should have included some more information about the organ - we're not talking about anything historical here. Some of the pipework dates back to the 19th century, but there have been two complete rebuilds in the 20th century, the most recent in 1964 included relocation to another part of the church, new casework and various tonal additions. It's all on direct electric action and the console is detached. This current rebuild will involve moving the organ again (hopefully) onto a balcony to speak directly into the nave and chancel rather than being stuck in a transept, new casework (the 1960s casework wasn't particularly inspiring, except to the woodworm who have taken a liking to it over the years) and more tonal modifications.

 

You can see the current spec (and a photo of the current casework) on npor: http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N14669

 

I was interested to see the mention on 30 degrees as a comfortable angle, because that was somewhere near where I had thought having tried things out pulling pens across paper etc!

 

Thanks for your responses so far!

 

Steve

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Yeah, I think 30 degrees would be fine for this type of organ and console. A lot of mainstream English builders put the jambs at a shallow-ish angle on their smaller organs (angled, but not as deep as 45 degrees) these days so I think that would be perfectly appropriate here.

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