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Organ And Pianos Played Together


Frank Fowler
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An area of tuning disaster is the tuning of a piano and organ to the same pitch. To try to tune an organ to a piano is a major undertaking involving altering the pitch.

 

This is a monumental and potentially dangerous task. If sharpening, it might mean cutting some of the pipes, if lowering it might mean stoppers coming right out of the wooden pipes that become too short. If the flue pipes are cone tuned - impossible!!!! The reeds stops can go out of regulation and can change their tone and often need re-voicing to accommodate a serious pitch change . Don’t even think about it!

 

Over the last 150 years the `standard’ pitch has changed considerably, so that the pitch of an organ usually depends when the organ was built. From the piano tuner’s point of view, altering the pitch of a piano is also a major task, but nothing compared to the moving of the pitch of an organ.

 

Temperature also plays a very important part. While the two instruments can be together at say 50F, if the heating is turned up and the church temperature goes up to 70F for a concert, the organ goes sharp and the piano flat – ouch!

 

This usually results in a letter of complaint to the organ tuner on the lines of: “The evening was completely spoilt because the organ went so badly out of tune with the piano. We know it was the fault of the organ because the piano was tuned on the day before the concert and must have been in tune.”

 

There is something to be said for a high class electronic piano (and education of the clients) with a variable pitch control. I shudder to think what would happen even then if the organ is tuned to one of the way out tuning temperaments.

 

Any sufferers out there?

 

Frank Fowler

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There is something to be said for a high class electronic piano (and education of the clients) with a variable pitch control. I shudder to think what would happen even then if the organ is tuned to one of the way out tuning temperaments.
Any "high-class" electronic piano will have a variety of historical temperaments built in, and probably one or more memories for user-defined ones. For instance, my Kawai MP9500 has a meantone, Werkmeister III, Kirnberger, and (in the user slot) Bradley Lehman's newly rediscovered Bach temperament.

 

Paul

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Any "high-class" electronic piano will have a variety of historical temperaments built in, and probably one or more memories for user-defined ones.  For instance, my Kawai MP9500 has a meantone, Werkmeister III, Kirnberger, and (in the user slot) Bradley Lehman's newly rediscovered Bach temperament.

 

Paul

 

It is the old old story. If you are prepared to pay for quality you usually get it.

 

Frank

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An area of tuning disaster is the tuning of a piano and organ to the same pitch. To try to tune an organ to a piano is a major undertaking involving altering the pitch.

 

This is a monumental and potentially dangerous task. If sharpening, it might mean cutting some of the pipes, if lowering it might mean stoppers coming right out of the wooden pipes that become too short. If the flue pipes are cone tuned - impossible!!!! The reeds stops can go out of regulation and can change their tone and often need re-voicing to accommodate a serious pitch change . Don’t even think about it!

 

Over the last 150 years the `standard’ pitch has changed considerably, so that the pitch of an organ usually depends when the organ was built. From the piano tuner’s point of view, altering the pitch of a piano is also a major task, but nothing compared to the moving of the pitch of an organ.

 

Temperature also plays a very important part. While the two instruments can be together at say 50F, if the heating is turned up and the church temperature goes up to 70F for a concert, the organ goes sharp and the piano flat – ouch!

 

This usually results in a letter of complaint to the organ tuner on the lines of: “The evening was completely spoilt because the organ went so badly out of tune with the piano. We know it was the fault of the organ because the piano was tuned on the day before the concert and must have been in tune.”

 

There is something to be said for a high class electronic piano (and education of the clients) with a variable pitch control. I shudder to think what would happen even then if the organ is tuned to one of the way out tuning temperaments.

 

Any sufferers out there?

 

Frank Fowler

 

Hi

 

A real problem - I have a recording somewhere of our valedictory service from Bible COllege - at the start of the evening, the piano and organ were almost in tune (close enough for what we were doing) BUT it was in the long, hot summer of 1977 - inadequate ventilation in the church, and a full house - the pitch of the organ rose by something approaching 1/2 a semitone before the closing hymn! The results were pretty painful.

 

At Rye Baptist Church, the organ was significantly sharp to A=440, so couldn't be used with other instruments - especially woodwinds. I sometimes used organ sounds derived from a synthesiser to get round the problem - far from ideal.

 

Here I'm more fortunate - the pitch of the organ has been changed at some time (and tunimg slides fitted) which is a shame as regards historicity - but it does mean that the organ's basic pitch is A=440 - and heating our small building is OK, so we regularly use organ & piano (and guitar - and sometimes other instruments). We will not be considering returning the organ to it's original pitch (even if we could discover what it was) in the restoration that the church have just given the go-ahead for.

 

Althogu, as someone said on this list, digital pianos can be retuned very easily, they are still no match for a decent real piano in either sound, nor most importantly, in action response.

 

EVery Blessing

 

Tony

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