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MMD > Archives > February 2001 > 2001.02.24 > 02Prev  Next

Tuning a Small Organ
By Mike Knudsen

When I acquired my basket-case (a pile of parts) small organ, believed
to have been home built by a Dutch hobbyist, it included three and
one-half books of music, plus two short tuning books.  Just as John
Kadlec described, they have the notes going up the scale, with octaves
(but no other intervals like 4ths and 5ths).  Someday I hope to get
this organ playing, if some ambitious soul doesn't offer to buy it from
me first.  I'm also considering making a short tuning roll for my
Raffin 31er.

One point to make about tuning a small organ is that if it is mostly
diatonic (missing sharps and flats when transposed to the key of C),
you have the option to tune it in Just or Meantone or some other
temperament besides Equal Temperament.  It will sound better, at least
as long as it stays in tune.  :-)

For Equal Temperament, you can tune it to a small electronic keyboard,
or use a tuning meter or a good old stroboscope tuner.  First you
should use the graph paper method outlined by Craig Smith to find what
key the organ is in and what its "average" pitch currently is.  You
might not need to bring it to modern concert pitch, just get it in tune
with itself.  Also check the pipe stoppers and tuning slides for any
that are at the safe limit of their travel.  If any stoppers are close
to falling out, you should not try tuning any flatter.

If you don't use electronic aids and tune up one octave of pipes by
ear, counting beats, then you would use the tuning book with octaves
to set the rest of the notes to the reference octave you've tuned.
You don't want to stretch the octaves as on a piano.

Tuning Celeste ranks is a matter of personal taste, but there is a
minimum amount of off-tuning you have to use, otherwise the Celeste
pipe will phase-lock to the unison pipe via acoustic coupling.  Try
to get the Celeste beat rate even throughout the scale, so it sounds
deliberate and not like another out-of-tune organ!

Mike Knudsen

(Message sent Sat 24 Feb 2001, 04:51:39 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Organ, Small, Tuning

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