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MMD > Archives > January 2000 > 2000.01.26 > 07Prev  Next

Delay in Pipe Organ Sound
By D. L. Bullock

I found it amusing, the comment that the organist having problems with
delay used headphones.  Pipe organs have a reputation of being slow
acting when actually the delay between the key depression and the sound
is sheer distance.  Most organ actions are instantaneous.  Many organs
have this delay.  The big ones especially, since there is only so much
floor space in a small church gallery.  The organ must be stacked upon
itself division upon division.  This is like stacking little rooms on
top of each other.

When you have 5 or 6 levels of organ divisions, as do the large ones of
Schnitger or Zilberman and those that Bach and Franck played, different
divisions have different delay properties.  Add to that the fact that
the console is seldom seen in the old organs, but is hidden away in a
room away from the part of the organ that sounds, and you have an
organists nightmare.  That is unless that is the way you learned to

My organ teacher, Joyce Jones, played a concert in Notre Dame Cathedral
before the latest organ rebuild and reported that when you pressed the
key you waited about 11 seconds before you heard sound.  Of course,
that did not bother her as she has her students practice, as does she,
a couple of hours a week with the organ turned off.  She, and we, hear
every part of the music as it happens -- in our heads.   Then you
ignore the actual sound of the organ as the background noise it is.
The music in your head is way ahead of the sound of the pipes.

In 1984 I installed a 1935 Kimball (with Welte Musicalle, by the way)
in the balcony of a small performance hall in Wichita Falls TX and it
has a second of delay because the console is on the stage with the
Echo division.  I find it disconcerting to play and it takes me several
minutes to get used to the delay every time I play it.  I find it helps
to get used to it if I put on some stops in the Echo division which has
no delay.

I still go all the say to Texas twice a year to tune and maintain this
instrument.  The Welte is presently in the shop for some restoration as
it finally began failing. (It had not been restored with the rest of the

D. L. Bullock    Piano World    St. Louis

(Message sent Wed 26 Jan 2000, 18:12:56 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  Delay, Organ, Pipe, Sound

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