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    Organ Registration – Classes of Tone

    There are many books on registration that would be far more definitive than what you may read here; nonetheless, from time to time we will be offering bits of insight and assistance, as well as the opportunity to enter discussion on the subject posted or a subject that is important to you. Our first installment deals with the basics of registering the organ – becoming familiar with the tone and stops.

    The Basics

    Organ Tone can be divided into four classes:

    Principal Tone         Principal Chorus

    Flute Tone                 Flute Chorus

    Reed Tone                 Reed Chorus

    String Tone               String Chorus


    When members of the same tone class are grouped (played) together, they form “choruses” of tone as indicated above.  The goal of “chorus building” perhaps has been a driving force behind the development of variations within a class of tone.  This may explain why one might find stops that are difficult to categorize.

    Exploring the Principal Tone – the Foundation of the Organ

    A. Discover the principals on the organ(s) you play. They may have names such as Diapason, Open diapason, Principal, Prinzipal, Montre, Octave, Prestant, Super Octave, Fifteenth, Geigen Diapason, Violin Diapason, etc. Once you think you have located them, you will notice that they typically have a number associated with them, such as 32’, 16’, 8’, 4’ and 2’ (and even 1’). There are other numbers which will be discussed a little later.

    B. Play each of these stops alone in each of the five octaves of the keyboard and note the quality of the tone – loudness, color, texture, overtone development, attack/release, transients, etc. Check to see if there are any other “principal tone” stops with names other than those given above.

    C. Next, try playing the four parts of a hymn using each stop, playing it in a range of the keyboard where singers may be able to sing with you. This will reveal to you the individual stop’s ensemble characteristics as well as its voicing, tuning and regulation.

    Playing the chromatic scale from bottom to top will show you where the stop is strong and where it is weak. Compare this to the strong and weak areas of the other principals.

    D. To create a “Chorus,” begin with the lowest pitched Principal or Diapason. (On the manuals, begin with the 8’; if there is no 8’ Principal tone, start with 8’ Flute Tone) As you play a hymn, add the next higher pitched principal; then another until you have added all the principals on the division (Swell, Great, Choir, Positiv, Pedal, etc.)

    For further investigation, couple all the manuals to the Great and Pedal and explore which additions from the various divisions will take the entire ensemble the next step further in a smooth and pleasant manner. Hint: Start with the quietest of the 8’ principals and build gradually.

    E. Repeat the investigation with the other classes of tone.

    Please visit our Facebook Page to post your questions, comments and discoveries. Whatever your experience, we invite you to share and join the discussion. For a private response, please send us an email with your questions or concerns.

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    Buch Organs, LLC | 1391 W. Main St, Ephrata, PA 17522

    Office: 717-733-6614    Toll Free: 1-800-242-3901

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