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Small organ design

Paul Isom

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The organs I play on Sundays in our group parish are all of the small Victorian ‘village’ type (and none the worse for that) and the space we have at home would not have fitted a pipe organ of any complexity. Furthermore I would not have been happy with just a couple of 8’ and 4’ flues however lovely the mechanical action might have been. Keeping in mind also the rest of my family (and neighbours) I opted for a digital. It is however compact in nature, as comprehensive as I need tonally but with no gimics. and above all it does very little else than a pipe organ of comparable size can do. It has some really good sounds and interestingly I do not tire of playing it for extended lengths of time. It means that I can practice in the warm without problems that seem to be encountered re security and insurance from getting church keys these days and if necessary shut the volume right down or use headphones. Above all I am able to keep my technique up to a standard I am happy with. 


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  • 3 weeks later...

I was thinking about what AJJ mentioned about the issue of having an organ with just a couple of 8' and 4' flutes as this is an issue that (much like a lot of people) I'm trying to overcome in the design of my house organ. The specifications that I have being working are meant to be for instrument that are quite modest but still versatile enough to handle a wide range of music. Although I fear that the specifications that I have come up with although modest in size are still far to big for a home or studio installation even with my idea of polyphony bass pipes.

For anyone who is interested I've listed a draft specification I came up with along with a list of additions that would like but probably wouldn't be able to have due to space. Also keep in mind that some of the stop names are a bit generic as I'm not sure about exactly what style of flutes or strings I want and the same goes with any mixtures and inversions.


Principle 8' (Notes 1 – 12 from 6 pipes)

Flute 8'

Octave 4'

Supper octave 2'



Flute 8'

Gamba 8' (Notes 1 – 12 from 6 or 4 pipes)

Vox celeste 8' (To tenor C or notes 1 – 12 from 4 pipes)

Flute 4'

Quint 2 2/3'

Flute 2'

Oboe or Trumpet 8'



Subbass 16' (notes 1 - 12 from 6 pipes)

Flute 8' (extension from Subbass or borrowed from Great Flute)


Pedal 16' Reed

Gamba transfer to Great

Swell Quint 1 1/3'

Pedal principle 8' and Octave 4' borrowed from Great

Swell Clarinet 8'

Great 4' flute



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  • 3 weeks later...

I apologies if this may be a bit controversial as this thread is meant to be focused on tracker organs not extension organs but I remember seeing an extension organ that was built for a private home by an American organ builder called Kegg. The reason why I want to mention this organ is although it's not mechanical I think this organ does have an ideal specification and the size of the instrument is not to big.     


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  • 1 month later...

I've recently been thinking about studio practice organs and there are several organs I've come across which although have an electric rather than a mechanical action and some extensions I think they could still be of some inspiration for designing a house organ.




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Talking of extension practice organs, the Grant, Deagans & Bradbeer instrument in the song room at Southwell Cathedral (formerly a house organ) is interesting.  There is no adjacent octave extensions on either manual.  See NPOR E01317

Every Blessing


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Extension organs (although not perfect) are quite an effective way of creating a compact and versatile organ. There are videos of a Wicks Fuga organ which the owner had made some modifications to it such as replacing the stop tabs with draw knobs and adding a couple of ranks of pipes, but overall I think it turned out as quite a nice instrument.



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  • 2 months later...

This is not really important but a while ago I stumbled across a couple of videos of a rather interesting little studio organ which I thought might be worth posting here.  

The specification for this organ as it is listed in the description of the first video.








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