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Reed Tuning


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I've just had a discussion with our organ maintainer about me tuning the reeds, which I'm quite happy to do. But... he suggests that all the reeds (bar a couple) should be tuned at the tops, as was the Willis practice, apparently - as he's ex-Willis, he's the one to know if they did that or not!

 

Does anyone know why this practice might have come about, and what are the relative merits of tops vs spring tuning?

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i  entirely disagree

 

willis-3 cut the scrolls at the tops b4 sending out pipes for installation so

incompetent tuners could not ruin the regulation. ive had similar experience here. after painstaking professional regulating my tuner ruined it by fooling around with the scrolls. the pipes should be tuned at the wire. only exceptions r reed voicers who can achieve proper balance between top and bottom.

 

That was kind of my thinking too, but I'm not particularly knowledgable about nuts and bolts...

 

This is a Willis III we're talking about, and the tops are all there, I believe, but like I say, I don't know much...

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I remember on my first 'proper' tuning visit, when I was doing the tuning and the person I was with told be to tune at the top - so I did, not knowing any different. However I am better informed now so I never tune at the top, simply because it does affect the regulation of the pipes, particularly if it is an oboe rank for instance. I have on some occasion (more so on Cremona stopped) adjusted the slider at the top if I am finding that the pipe for not find its tuning point, particularly if it has continental style shallots. By doing this I have been very careful not to change the best sound out of the pipe in relations to its neighbours.

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Guest Barry Oakley
pipes meticulously regulated by professional reed voicers have been ruined by incompetent tuners coz they do not understand that fooling with the scroll will change dynamics and vowel so u can end up with a rank with different vowel sounds. also a reed voicer can make adjustments to both scroll at top and wire at bottom if need be but anybody else be warned u r playing with fire coz reeds r very unstable and dont need a lot of reason to fly off speech and then what does the organist tuner or tuner sans reed voicing experience do?

 

He is absolutely correct. Whilst I have been shown how to tune reeds at the resonator by a master of his craft, the general advice was to tune at the spring. But another bit of advice was to be tolerant of reeds even if the slightest beat developed. I know this seems crazy, but often reeds are tinkered with simply because they have been temporarily affected by slight temperature change. I have sometimes found that switching on blowers well in advance of tuning and then getting some wind throgh the reeds helps, but not always, with pitch problems.

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I would agree with the above comments.

 

However, I can also tell of the odd tuner who habitually tunes at the top - the result, of course, being a kaleidoscopic effect on the timbre and volume....

 

I hasten to add that the tuner who looks after my own church instrument does nothing of the sort! In fact, our organ has not sounded so well in-tune since he took over. It frequently used to sound quite unpleasant.

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Guest Roffensis

Reeds should be regulated at the top subject to the tuning at the spring. Both will ideally go in hand in hand. A lot of tuners simply wont bother as it is so time consuming, but it is the correct way to tune reeds, as no doubt John Mander will confirm. If you open up the top only slightly even the pipe will go shaper and louder, and closing it will have the reverse effect. Tuned at the top you end up with a uneven rank over its compass and they sound poor, and there are some dleightful examples around to enjoy this poor method, particulary in single notes, either too loud or too soft, buzzing or any other combination of bad practice. I have always made very sure that my reeds are regulated correctly, at the top, in tandem with the spring. Oboes are particularly prone to uneven tuning. :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

After ajt said a few weeks ago that I was going to go and tune his reeds, I thought I ought to point out that it isn't me that's been tuning at the tops!

 

Some of the springs on this instrument are a) nigh on impossible to get at and b ) incredibly tight against the reed that I found they were impossible to move. Then, there's the fun part when you discover that the wedge has either dropped out or is about to do so. Aagh!

 

I suspect these are actually the reasons why the maintainers have been going for the tops - to save an enormous amount of time and aggro. On some of the pipes it didn't matter anyway - as the pipes had been entirely squashed by poor racking and careless feet. Poor thing.

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Guest Roffensis

Well at least the reed tongues have not been soldered against the shallots to avoid movement.......which has happened on at least one major organ that I know of. Beat that!!! :P

R

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Well at least the reed tongues have not been soldered against the shallots to avoid movement.......which has happened on at least one major organ that I know of. Beat that!!!  :P

R

 

 

Wow, do tell!

 

I believe that free reeds are treated thus, but I've never previously heard of a beating reed soldered up. The possible ensuing problems beggar one's imagination!

 

This reminds me of a certain (present UK) builder (no names, no pack drill, no connection with this site) who builds his mechanical action instruments so precisely (he says) that no adjustment is necessary - so he doesn't allow for any in the design.

 

One of his larger organs, a prestigious contract, is regularly unplayable. And, of course, this situation cannot be rectified without a rebuild!!

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Wow, do tell!

 

I believe that free reeds are treated thus, but I've never previously heard of a beating reed soldered up. The possible ensuing problems beggar one's imagination!

 

This reminds me of a certain (present UK) builder (no names, no pack drill, no connection with this site) who builds his mechanical action instruments so precisely (he says) that no adjustment is necessary - so he doesn't allow for any in the design.

 

One of his larger organs, a prestigious contract, is regularly unplayable. And, of course, this situation cannot be rectified without a rebuild!!

 

Hi

 

Free reeds in reed organs almost always have the tongue riveted to the reed frame. I would have thought that soldering would stiffen the tongue too much.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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  • 1 month later...

Organ tuning is, and should be regarded as a highly skilled art. Unfortunately in the old days, tuners were regard as the bottom end of the craft by the factory staff and occasionally they were.

 

One of the most important things in tuning is to have enough visits and time to allow proper attention to be given to the instrument - and a tuner takes a pride in what he (or she ) does.

 

Mostly reeds should be tuned from the springs (there are always the exceptions) and then it is an easy matter to quickly listen to the stop after tuning and re-regulate the odd pipe if necessary. This way a tuner can keep the stop in first class regulation.

 

Correct church temperature is essential when tuning as continually seriously sharpening or flattening a reed does not help its tuning stability. Hacking it flat in winter because it was too expensive to put the heat on and bashing it sharp on a hot summers day is not being kind to reeds. It is often the case that a little village church with one Oboe, tuned once a year (usually around June) often has a reed that stands well in tune, as often does the pipework.

 

If you knew what the `norm' pitch was and could keep the reed at that, it was a reasonably easy matter to scale the middle octave and tune octaves up and down from there. These days with variable pitch electronic tuners it is a very easy matter to allow for temperature varience and there should be no justification for reed cruelty.

 

If due to unusual church temperature that reeds are out of pitch with the fluework either don't use them or do a very realistic continental rendering of the Widor Toccata.

 

Frank Fowler

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Greetings,

 

Generally speaking, I find that close-toned reeds such as Trombas or Tubas, or even Cornopeans like to go at the top, as well as many Oboes. French Horns absolutely need to be tuned at the top as well. The issue with these sorts of reeds is not so much that the pitch can't be changed at the spring, but rather how much (or little) adjustment can be made at the spring without upsetting the regulation of the pipe or even putting them off speech. Moller and Austin reeds are also quite stable being tuned at the top.

 

Well-voiced fiery reeds largely are quite happy to be tuned and tempered at the spring without changing the regulation. Fractional length reeds, and those that are intentionally shorter (such as many Casavant reeds) also largely liked to be tuned at the spring.

 

There are of course exceptions to all of this, but I tend to favor the top whenever possible, and where a significant temperature change is not involved (such as tuning a roasting organ during the summer). It is also very important not to be tearing new metal at the top, as that will just make the reeds most crabby and unstable as the scrolls will no longer seal properly.

 

Best,

 

Nathan, having done battle with many a reed.

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Greetings,

 

    Generally speaking, I find that close-toned reeds such as Trombas or Tubas, or even Cornopeans like to go at the top, as well as many Oboes.  French Horns absolutely need to be tuned at the top as well.  The issue with these sorts of reeds is not so much that the pitch can't be changed at the spring, but rather how much (or little) adjustment can be made at the spring without upsetting the regulation of the pipe or even putting them off speech.  Moller and Austin reeds are also quite stable being tuned at the top.

 

 

My tuner tunes mostly at the tops. I was sceptical about this at first, but, after he's been in, the organ sounds marvellous, so I'm a convert.

 

If only the church was properly heated, then I think the organ would stay that way! This weekend the vicar found that the heating hadn't been working, so decided to leave it on continuously from Saturday pm... I was left with not a single usable reed on Sunday morning.

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My tuner tunes mostly at the tops. I was sceptical about this at first, but, after he's been in, the organ sounds marvellous, so I'm a convert.

 

If only the church was properly heated, then I think the organ would stay that way! This weekend the vicar found that the heating hadn't been working, so decided to leave it on continuously from Saturday pm... I was left with not a single usable reed on Sunday morning.

 

If you have a good experienced tuner, leave it to him!

 

Having been in the pipe organs business for 48 years I now play a good digital electronic thingy with a good speaker set up. This is fine for the needs of our village church (the congregation have cloth ears anyway) but such a relief to know the reeds will be in tune come what may. Likewise the Widor Toccata does not sound agressively continental with a sudden temperature change.

 

I never thought 15 years ago I would be able to write such comments - put it down to old age and senility and advancements in digital sound reproduction.

 

 

FF

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Having been in the pipe organs business for 48 years I now play a good digital electronic thingy with a good speaker set up. This is fine for the needs of our village church (the congregation have cloth ears anyway) but such a relief to know the reeds will be in tune come what may. Likewise the Widor Toccata does not sound agressively continental with a sudden temperature change.

 

I played my old organ tonight, which is a toaster. First time I've played it in 3 months, since I took over a proper organ. I hadn't, until tonight, realised just how unrewarding that toaster is, particularly with the complete lack of acoustic in that church.

 

I was playing through wedding music for a couple, and everything just sounded, well, wrong. Clashy, and jangly, and lacking in depth.

 

Glad to hear that the digital organ works out for you.

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