Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

General And Divisional Pistons


Recommended Posts

  • Replies 82
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Are general pistions more important than divisional pistions?

Do you wish you had more of one? Explain.

Toe or thumb?

WM

 

Divisionals, a few generals and then sequenced generals are my ideal. i.e. a few generals to set up, say, common solo or interesting combinations, divisionals for bread and butter, and sequenced generals for specific pieces or recitals.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Divisionals, a few generals and then sequenced generals are my ideal. i.e. a few generals to set up, say, common solo or interesting combinations, divisionals for bread and butter, and sequenced generals for specific pieces or recitals.

 

.........though I would be quite interested to know, for instance how players manage on an instrument such as St Peter's Ruthin where at the last rebuild Willis (in its present guise) added a single row of generals (quite a lot) possibly duplicated by pedals. This sounds quite an interesting idea - with multiple levels. A more continental approach perhaps.

 

AJJ

Link to post
Share on other sites
.........though I would be quite interested to know, for instance how players manage on an instrument such as St Peter's Ruthin where at the last rebuild Willis (in its present guise) added a single row of generals (quite a lot) possibly duplicated by pedals. This sounds quite an interesting idea - with multiple levels. A more continental approach perhaps.

 

AJJ

 

Just generals and lots of them is fine, particularly if there are plenty of levels/channels.

 

I'm a thumb man - I don't know if it's the ever expanding girth blocking my view, or just that I got out of the habit when I had an instrument with 3 pretty useless composition pedals, but for some reason I can't get back into using foot pistons.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Just generals and lots of them is fine, particularly if there are plenty of levels/channels.

 

I'm a thumb man - I don't know if it's the ever expanding girth blocking my view, or just that I got out of the habit when I had an instrument with 3 pretty useless composition pedals, but for some reason I can't get back into using foot pistons.

 

 

I'm with ajt, both postings as above.

P.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm with ajt, both postings as above.

P.

 

Ditto. I have managed quite happily without divisionals for the last couple of years and even when faced with an organ which has them I almost never use them. Steppers are invaluable too. I don't mind toe pistons/pedals at all - that's all I've got - but I do find it very hard to get used to other people's.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Just generals and lots of them is fine, particularly if there are plenty of levels/channels.

 

I'm a thumb man - I don't know if it's the ever expanding girth blocking my view, or just that I got out of the habit when I had an instrument with 3 pretty useless composition pedals, but for some reason I can't get back into using foot pistons.

 

Same here - I only use toe pistons as a last resort, if it is physically impossible to reach a thumb piston. And both of my organs have a decent range of (unused) toe pistons.

 

JJK

Link to post
Share on other sites

Something I have found - these days playing mostly small or medium sized instruments without pistons or with Victorian type iron composition pedals - I tend to register far more by hand than ever I used to - even when pistons are available.

 

AJJ

Link to post
Share on other sites

Divisionals before generals any day (though preferably both) - and a Gt & Ped Combs coupled too, if you please. Thumbs preferred, but often use my feet for the Gt (given the above-mentioned coupler). Have never ever used Swell/general foot pistons where thumbs are available.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Divisionals before generals any day (though preferably both) - and a Gt & Ped Combs coupled too, if you please. Thumbs preferred, but often use my feet for the Gt (given the above-mentioned coupler). Have never ever used Swell/general foot pistons where thumbs are available.

 

 

I tend to be similar in my preferences - except that I frequently also use the Swell toe pedals (for both Swell combinations and as generals).

 

One of the interesting features of the Minster organ console is that the toe pedals are set in two staggered lines on vertical and straight 'sweeps', either side of the Swell expression pedal. They are also placed quite close together.However, I am fairly well used to them by now, so this is not really a problem.

 

I also use a fair amount of hand-registration, particularly during Psalms, but also during canticles and anthems, too. I probably ust all the pistons fairly equally, with the exception of the eight thumb pistons for the Positive Organ - I do not often use many of these.

 

For French symphonic music, I set the toe pedals up (using the Swell pedals as generals) quite differently and then treat them in the same way that I would treat the Pédales de combinaisons and the ventils on a Cavaillé-Coll instrument.

 

One thing that I never be could be bothered with, is a sequencer. I think that it would take up too much practice-time to set; in addition, if it is a cheap one (i.e. just advances the generals through all available channels), one cannot insert or delete a setting. It would be necessary to return to the channel and the piston on which the combination had originally been set and edit from there.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I tend to be similar in my preferences - except that I frequently also use the Swell toe pedals (for both Swell combinations and as generals).

 

One of the interesting features of the Minster organ console is that the toe pedals are set in two staggered lines on vertical and straight 'sweeps', either side of the Swell expression pedal. They are also placed quite close together.However, I am fairly well used to them by now, so this is not really a problem.

 

I also use a fair amount of hand-registration, particularly during Psalms, but also during canticles and anthems, too. I probably ust all the pistons fairly equally, with the exception of the eight thumb pistons for the Positive Organ - I do not often use many of these.

 

For French symphonic music, I set the toe pedals up (using the Swell pedals as generals) quite differently and then treat them in the same way that I would treat the Pédales de combinaisons and the ventils on a Cavaillé-Coll instrument.

 

One thing that I never be could be bothered with, is a sequencer. I think that it would take up too much practice-time to set; in addition, if it is a cheap one (i.e. just advances the generals through all available channels), one cannot insert or delete a setting. It would be necessary to return to the channel and the piston on which the combination had originally been set and edit from there.

 

If what you mean by a "cheap sequencer" is a stepper, then they are wonderful things. There's nothing like turning up to a lunchtime recital venue at 10.00, starting at channel 1 no 1 and just banging your way through. Then you've only got one "next" piston to find all the way through. Ditto on cathedral tours etc where it's good to get a feel for the organ on the first day, then spend a night banging in the rest of the week's settings. Not being terribly used to machines with pistons I tend to always want to know where I am and not leave things to chance...

 

They're also wonderful if you do the same choral repertoire reasonably frequently. I'm rather looking forward to getting one (fingers crossed) - then, rather than having to go in during the wee small's to set up accompaniments (with 10 generals it's not really possible to get everything you need on "default" settings) - then if I know the Faure Requiem will always start at channel 60 no 3 and Dyson in D at channel 42 no 6 I need never have a sleepless night again, or end up hitting the wrong toe pedal during the performance (they're out of sight and quite closely packed), or have to change channel during the performance (a nightmare involving at least one hand, both eyes and full concentration). I tend to accompany quite orchestrally which means lots of manual switching etc so one less thing to think about will be fantastic.

 

Then again, mine is a fairly unusual situation...

 

Sequencers I have had some bad experiences with - Christchurch Priory's forgot who I was and declined to play ball 10 minutes before a lunchtime recital last year.

Link to post
Share on other sites
If what you mean by a "cheap sequencer" is a stepper, then they are wonderful things.  There's nothing like turning up to a lunchtime recital venue at 10.00, starting at channel 1 no 1 and just banging your way through.  Then you've only got one "next" piston to find all the way through.  Ditto on cathedral tours etc where it's good to get a feel for the organ on the first day, then spend a night banging in the rest of the week's settings.  Not being terribly used to machines with pistons I tend to always want to know where I am and not leave things to chance...

 

They're also wonderful if you do the same choral repertoire reasonably frequently.  I'm rather looking forward to getting one (fingers crossed) - then, rather than having to go in during the wee small's to set up accompaniments (with 10 generals it's not really possible to get everything you need on "default" settings) - then if I know the Faure Requiem will always start at channel 60 no 3 and Dyson in D at channel 42 no 6 I need never have a sleepless night again, or end up hitting the wrong toe pedal during the performance (they're out of sight and quite closely packed), or have to change channel during the performance (a nightmare involving at least one hand, both eyes and full concentration).  I tend to accompany quite orchestrally which means lots of manual switching etc so one less thing to think about will be fantastic.

 

Then again, mine is a fairly unusual situation...

 

Sequencers I have had some bad experiences with - Christchurch Priory's forgot who I was and declined to play ball 10 minutes before a lunchtime recital last year.

 

 

I can forsee problems with this, David.

 

Having, for example, Dyson, in D set-up on channel 42, etc, is all very well if you wish to play with the same registrations every time. I do not - I like to vary them. Occasionally, it is necessary to do so - a few choristers away with influenza and one has to re-think the dynamic levels of the accompaniments.

 

Secondly, I normally use at least three channels every week for service accompaniments and voluntaries. I know every setting of every piston (with the exception of those which are dedicated 'specials' and are re-set every time I play). However, when I am using a sequencer, it is much harder to perform a quick check, in order to ensure that one's memory is not faulty.

 

The sequencer method also depends to an extent on the 'advance' (or 'next') and 'retard' pistons being (i) duplicated by toe pedals or pistons and (ii) easily accessible, regardless of the clavier on which one is playing. Whilst this does to an extent also affect general pistons (Harrisons and Willis, for example, are fond of placing them above the top clavier, just below the music desk - which is not necessarily convenient).

Link to post
Share on other sites
I can forsee problems with this, David.

 

Having, for example, Dyson, in D set-up on channel 42, etc, is all very well if you wish to play with the same registrations every time. I do not - I like to vary them. Occasionally, it is necessary to do so - a few choristers away with influenza and one has to re-think the dynamic levels of the accompaniments.

 

Secondly, I normally use at least three channels every week for service accompaniments and voluntaries. I know every setting of every piston (with the exception of those which are dedicated 'specials' and are re-set every time I play). However, when I am using a sequencer, it is much harder to perform a quick check, in order to ensure that one's memory is not faulty.

 

The sequencer method also depends to an extent on the 'advance' (or 'next') and 'retard' pistons being (i) duplicated by toe pedals or pistons and (ii) easily accessible, regardless of the clavier on which one is playing. Whilst this does to an extent also affect general pistons (Harrisons and Willis, for example, are fond of placing them above the top clavier, just below the music desk - which is not necessarily convenient).

 

True! But - you know my setup - no thumbs (though the organ scholar and I did experiment with some old Strepsils blister packs just to see what it would feel like), ten foot pedal generals, 8 channels of which at least 4 are always occupied, no use of loud stuff during the day - for me, it would be an absolute blessing to be able to come back to the same registrations - especially, as I say, with the fairly orchestral way I try and approach these things. It also means that were I to fall under a bus anyone could come in at a moment's notice and get exactly the same results, and I wouldn't then sit down a few hours later to discover my nice Cremona solo for the Nunc Dimittis had been turned into a Tuba in my absence...

 

Who knows, one day I might get to regularly play a space shuttle with all mod cons and find a use for them all. I was talking to Mr Morgan yesterday about further improvements to the Christchurch Priory organ and the way certain things return through octave couplers and other things don't, and how some things work on toe pistons and others not (e.g. nave on great has to be drawn for the gt/pedal pistons to affect all nave stops, except the pedal stuff which is affected all the time so you don't decrescendo and get left with a stray diaphone; my understanding was that when nave flues on gt was drawn the nave reeds would remain unaffected by pistons) - just like his clever alterations at Guildford, it's all stuff I'd never have thought of.

Link to post
Share on other sites
If what you mean by a "cheap sequencer" is a stepper, then they are wonderful things. 

 

Yes but....

if you spend time setting up a long piece, then want to insert an extra registration change, it takes forever to reprogramme all the settings after the change (ie advance them by one). This is enough to stop me using it.

 

Unless of course the software allows you to easily insert a new setting and shuffle everything along bu one - but the ones I've tried don't do that....

 

JJK

Link to post
Share on other sites

POSITIONING OF GENERAL PISTONS

 

The positioning of General Pistons was always a problem as everyone had their own ideas as where they should be.

 

The idea of having them above the top keyboard was adopted because some organists felt they needed to make a dive for them when necessary and could then easily see the piston they wanted and go for it. The problem being that if a page turner was needed to press one of them they could get in the organist's way.

 

Then there was the thought putting them at one end of a manual key slip - this was good access for the page turner but not always easy for the organist to locate the piston he wanted without leaning backwards from the playing position to locate it.

 

Sometimes organists would like the Generals split into having half of them in the Bass end of a keyslip and the other half in the Treble end. This meant there was a choice of the organist using the available left or right hand to make the change.

 

Some organists had the habit of always pressing a piston twice to make sure it worked. This habit becomes fatal if using a sequencer piston.

 

You pays your money and makes your choice!

 

FF

Link to post
Share on other sites
POSITIONING OF GENERAL PISTONS

 

 

Sometimes organists would like the Generals split into having half of them in the Bass end of a keyslip and the other half in the Treble end. This meant there was a choice of the organist using the available left or right hand to make the change.

 

 

 

FF

 

 

Does the split between the bass end and the teble end work for you? Anyone have this on an instrument they play every Sunday? Comments.

 

What about Generals 1-3 on the bass end, 7-9 on the treble end and 1-6 as toe pistons on the left and 7-12 as toe pistons on the right?

Comments?

 

WM

Link to post
Share on other sites
Are general pistions more important than divisional pistions?

Do you wish you had more of one? Explain.

Toe or thumb?

WM

 

Very little music for the organ was written with generals in mind, and even less with sequencers in mind. Thus you ought to be able to play almost all of the repertoire without the aid of either - in fact, if you are to play with any degree of authenticity you really have to.

 

Halifax (IVP(51)) manages to sustain a recital series without the aid of generals or a sequencer, and with only 5 departmental pistons to Great and the same number to Swell. Everybody seems to manage perfectly well. Furthermore, most recitalists can change their own stops in mid-piece, and only require the page-turner to do so on very rare occasions when hands and feet are both fully occupied.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Very little music for the organ was written with generals in mind, and even less with sequencers in mind.  Thus you ought to be able to play almost all of the repertoire without the aid of either - in fact, if you are to play with any degree of authenticity you really have to.

 

Halifax (IVP(51)) manages to sustain a recital series without the aid of generals or a sequencer, and with only 5 departmental pistons to Great and the same number to Swell.  Everybody seems to manage perfectly well.  Furthermore, most recitalists can change their own stops in mid-piece, and only require the page-turner to do so on very rare occasions when hands and feet are both fully occupied.

 

The four-clavier FHW at Oxford Town Hall has only four composition pedals each to Pedal (and G.O.) and Swell, with a G.O. to Pedal reversible. I found this quite adequate, with hand registration.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Having trained on trackers with no pistons, no swell, no generals I am aware that it can all be done quite well without the modern aids we have invented.

They are convenient and free the organist to do a thousand other things that he/she is required to do in a service.

Interesting to me are the number of folks that use divisional pistons. I fully undertand and hope that I can go in that direction myself.

Thanks everyone.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Very little music for the organ was written with generals in mind, and even less with sequencers in mind.  Thus you ought to be able to play almost all of the repertoire without the aid of either - in fact, if you are to play with any degree of authenticity you really have to.

 

 

I think this is one of those instances in which authenticity is a hindrance not a help. The reason that most music was written without thought for pistons, generals, sequencers, etc, is because a] they're not on every organ, b] for much of the repertoire, pistons weren't invented when it was written. I would hazard a guess that many composer organists would have welcomed the use of pistons, allowing you more expressive and colourful control over the instrument.

 

Hand registration is fine, but if you CAN make life easier for yourself, freeing you to focus on getting the music out, rather than just the notes and a few registration changes, why not?

 

I know a few genius hand registrants and players, and, if you watch them play, they're constantly making changes to registration, swell box position, manual - all to let the music out. However, the 2 people that I'm thinking of, when presented with a decent capture and piston system, will use that if they have time to set it up in the way they want. Most of us, though, are not in this category - I for one, although I can hand register, can't keep up with constant changes in colour whilst accompanying or playing something tricky ; this is clearly my lack of skill.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I would hazard a guess that many composer organists would have welcomed the use of pistons, allowing you more expressive and colourful control over the instrument.

A guess is fair enough. We can't know whether they would or not. It's very like the "Bach would have used a swell box if he'd had one" argument - to which, of course, the best answers are (a) "No he wouldn't" or (b ) "If he'd had one he'd have written a completely different type of music".

 

But there's no question but that pistons are certainly a lot more convenient than hand registration.

Link to post
Share on other sites
A guess is fair enough. We can't know whether they would or not. It's very like the "Bach would have used a swell box if he'd had one" argument - to which, of course, the best answers are (a) "No he wouldn't" or (b ) "If he'd had one he'd have written a completely different type of music".

 

Quite. One of those completely pointless and circular arguments.

 

But there's no question but that pistons are certainly a lot more convenient than hand registration.

 

Exactly - why not use it if you can? There's a reason these things were invented - to make our lives easier.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Quite. One of those completely pointless and circular arguments.

Exactly - why not use it if you can? There's a reason these things were invented - to make our lives easier.

 

 

Since we now have general pistons (already invented) and this technology is getting so cheap, I don't think anyone should be persuaded against them. Even your strict purist jobs abroad practically always have them and they frequently do not have service playing requirements there that are customary here.

 

Even if your instrument is only used for service playing without the odd imaginative and adventurous voluntary, general pistons are still of enormous usefulness if you have a specification of more than about 20 stops. In a recital context, even if having plenty of generals does not change the interpretation of a piece, it does at least save an audience having to wait interminably while you set up - for instance - the next movement in a Trio Sonata. Personally, being prone to the odd panic/absent minded moment, setting a general to give a starting registration reassures me that nothing has been forgotten!

 

We did discuss placement of Generals on another ocasion - so anwers for Westgate Morris will be on the site somewhere, but I would like to reiterate my opinions which are....

 

Don't have too many generals - 8 - 10 max.

Do have stepper facility to scroll thorugh them.

Place them below the bass and treble ends of Swell and Great, and if possible duplicate the whole lot on both sides of the console. This makes them so much more likely to be convenient to reach.

 

Places not to put generals IMHO: -

1. Above the top manual in a single line - too far away from the Choir manual and too near the music desk. Sometimes they are too near the upper set of keys and can be set off inadvertently. St.Michael's Cornhill comes to mind in this context.

2. On the key cheeks like @ Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. The whole point of a general piston is that it can be reached while playing, i.e. when you haven't got time to hand register. Place it two or three feet from the main part of a keyboard and you defeat the point of having them! [unless, of course, you fully intend that someone else should do all your regstration for you.]

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...
  • 4 months later...

The organ I play only has General pistons for some reason (mind you it is digital!).

I'd definitely prefer to have about 5 Divisionals depending on the size of the divisions which they affect and probably about the same number of Generals with a sequencer.

Toe pistons would be good, probably about the same numbers with Generals available on the SW side toe pistons by drawstop.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...