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Does anyone know of a standard, or have any views on, the ideal angle for the music desk on an organ?

The desk on my de Koff house organ is so steep, barely 10 degrees if the inclinometer app on my phone is correct, that nothing heavier than a few pieces of paper will stay on it. In fact, even an A3 sheet with a decent fold in it will push itself off.

I'm just about to have a clip-on music desk made by a local company who will make anything out of perspex, and it's always better to ask advice than make even an educated guess. Height is another problem, but that is determined by fixed dimensions of the case, and I can work to those limits.

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I sometimes play on an Allen with a terrible music desk—too high, too close to vertical, no metal “stays” to keep books open, and a ridiculous light in the bottom of the music desk which is covered by any music you put on it.

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30 minutes ago, innate said:

... and a ridiculous light in the bottom of the music desk which is covered by any music you put on it.

I have come across a number of these on American organs - particularly on Austins - and I agree that they are ridiculous. A common result of putting a book of any thickness on the desk is that the light shines up behind the page you are trying to read making the music on the reverse side disconcertingly visible through the page.

I am not sure of the degree of inclination on the music desk of my now very old Wyvern.  It is nine and a quarter inches tall and the top is inclined about two inches behind the base -  I'll have to leave a mathematician to work that out.  At any rate it is insufficient. Hymn books and psalters invariably fall into the keys if lain flat against the desk and so, sometimes, does ordinary organ music.  No doubt the firm have since addressed this problem - at least I hope so.

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You really need an organ builder to respond to this one!

An American pipe organ parts supplier lists music desks at a "standard 19 degrees", which looks a bit shallow, though I think I've seen elsewhere 17 degrees cited.

http://www.organsupply.com/assets/CatalogPDFs/Full-Catalog.pdf

My home (Hauptwerk) practice organ has a PC monitor attached to an angled wall mount that is tilted at the maximum the mount permits which is 15 degrees, and I find that acceptable for holding paper music (it has a Perspex sheet in front of the monitor with a flat base for when I play from paper music). Having said that, I can't remember the last time I played from paper music since having everything visible in electronic display has so many advantages I think. So my gut feeling would be anywhere between 15 and 19 degrees.

As you have an inclinometer why not try it out on a few different organs and see which feels the most acceptable to you?

 

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Contrabombarde rightly suggested we need an organ builder here.  However, as an amateur one who has built a few consoles from scratch both for myself and others, I've found the following measurements work reasonably well.  I also play so I have some experience from that angle (pun) as well, in terms of whether music does or does not fall off, etc.

Inclination from vertical = 23 degrees approx.  Slant height of desk = 32 cm approx. 

These figures give a desk from which the music has little tendency to fall off, and it is also high enough to prevent even the tallest books (e.g. those awkward European ones from a century or so ago) from bending backwards over the top of it.  My current home organ with a console built in 2006 uses these measurements.

As to desk hooks, yes, they can be a pain to get hold of.  And even when you can get them, they often cost an arm and a leg for what they are.  In my time I've written to suppliers who didn't bother to reply.  However Kimber Allen stock them (or at least they did when I last looked at their catalogue) but they add a premium if you are not in the trade, though they are far more polite and always respond to an email in my experience.  But the last time I got hold of a couple was when an upright piano appeared on a nearby street with a label attached encouraging someone to take it away.  So I just walked off with the desk hooks, which now repose on said console!

Hope this helps.

CEP

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1 hour ago, Colin Pykett said:

As to desk hooks, yes, they can be a pain to get hold of.  And even when you can get them, they often cost an arm and a leg for what they are.  In my time I've written to suppliers who didn't bother to reply.

Easily available here at £4.50 a pair:

https://www.piano-tuners.org/piano-accessories-shop/piano/brass-piano-bookholders-38.html

Postage at £3 is a bit steep, but the total cost of £7.50 isn't too bad. Haven't been able to find them cheaper.

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1 hour ago, Contrabombarde said:

Just remember when screwing them in that you may need to put a heavy clamp or something over the bottom rest where you are screwing in to stop the wood from splitting!

And/or drill a pilot hole. The advice at www.piano-tuners.org is:

"Care must be taken when fitting bookholders to music trays that have not had them fitted before. You must make a pilot hole. We use a 2.5mm drill"

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Surely the depth of the bottom shelf on which the book stands should also be taken into account. The problem with my home instrument is that this is quite shallow and a hymn book overhangs the front of the shelf, particularly when open near the front or the back. So although the backward slant is fine for keeping most music in place the hymn book still falls off . In my world the bottom of the music desk should be deep enough to hold a hymn book with some other piece of music behind.

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I'm surprised that all music desks are not routinely made adjustable with regard to tilt.  It would solve a lot of problems, apparently.

Just my four penn'orth!

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Thanks for the guidance, folks. 20 degrees it is.

There is not much room to play with here. The organ is a neo-baroque positive type, so there is no room to remake the whole front panel with a slightly steeper angle as the windchest is directly behind it, or to come out too far, which would leave me playing under the music on the upper manual. Depth is another problem, as mentioned. As a template for the largest piece which must fit, I left a copy of the floppiest, tallest piece of European organ music I have  - Britten's P&F on a theme of Vittoria :) 

Not accidentally, this should also leave enough space for the possible use of an A4-sized e-ink reader, a couple of which are now or soon to be available, specifically for music use. They're pricey, but potentially much less fiddly than trying to play while squinting at a tablet screen.

As an aside, it was interesting to discover both a British Standard and a BDO Norm for organ console dimensions - both from 1967, and both silent on ideal music desk angles. Oh well.

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