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Organ Standardization.

The efforts, during the past years, both in this country and in England, to “standardize” organ construction and bring about some idea of uniformity in organs, so that organists would not find it necessary to spend considerable time getting accustomed to each organ before playing it in public, have not as yet been very successful, and, in fact, it is doubtful if it will ever be possible to approach the uniformity of construction in organ-building that prevails in all other musical instruments. The ideas of the different organists vary so much and the builders—at least in this country—are so ready to adopt the  recommendations of influential pocketbooks even when the recommendations are not backed up by any practical experience beyond the fondness of improvising, that it seems improbable that any decided advance toward uniformity will result. However, the efforts are in the right direction, and organists will welcome any progress that may be made in that direction.

It may be interesting to the readers of The Etude to read the recommendations of Mr. Thomas Elliston, of England, which are modifications of the old recommendations of the Royal College of Organists issued in 1881, and which appeared in a recent issue of the London Musical Opinion:

That the compass of the manuals be five octaves, CC to C (sixty-one notes).

That the compass of the pedals be from CC to G (thirty-two notes).

That the pedal-board of organs of CC to G manual compass must not exceed thirty notes (CC to F) in compass.

That in all cases the pedal-board be fixed practically central, giving (about) middle D on the pedals under the D on the manuals.

 That the pedal-board be concave and radiating, having a radius of eight feet from a central point to the back or far end of the pedal sharps (similar to Willis’ pedal-boards); the pedals, however, to be reduced in thickness to five-eighths of an inch or even half an inch when finished, and to leave a clear space of three and three-fourths inches between alternate naturals when the intervening natural pedal is depressed, at the radial center of the length of the pedals.

That the measurements of pedals from center to center are somewhat misleading in actual practice as to the room they give for the foot, unless the thickness of the pedals is also given. (The broad part of the sole of an ordinary boot is about four inches.)

That the fronts of the pedal-sharps will naturally form an arc of a circle; the sharps to slope upward toward the back, in continuation, as it were, of the slope to which they wear in practice.

That the making the pedals five-eighths of an inch thick instead of three-fourths of an inch thick will reduce the total width of the pedal-board, and bring the extreme pedals nearer.

That for a two-manual organ (lower manual, great organ; upper manual, swell organ) the following measurements be adhered to: The upper surface of the middle D on the pedals to be thirty inches below the upper surface of the great organ naturals. The front end of the sharp belonging to the middle D sharp on the pedals to be four inches farther back than the fronts of the great organ sharps.

That for a three-manual organ (great organ, center manual), the pedals to be thirty-one and one- half inches down, and the sharp belonging to the middle D sharp on the pedals to be one inch farther back than the fronts of the great organ sharps.

That manual keys overhang one and one-half inches, and be two and three-fourths inches from top to top (instead of three inches).

That if a swinging rod swell-pedal is used, it is to project from the treble-end jamb, and the top of the swell-pedal when the swell is closed is to leave nineteen inches clear for a two-manual organ, and eighteen inches clear for a three manual, between that and the woodwork the keys rest upon.

That the swell-pedal and swinging rod stand (diagonally) at such an angle on plan as will agree as nearly as possible with the arc of a circle three inches (clear) farther back than the fronts of the pedal-sharps. The same with regard to the tremulant pedal.

The end of the swell-pedal (with the D under D position of the pedal-board) and thinner (five- eighths of an inch) pedals, is not to project farther from the treble jamb than over the D on the pedal-board.

That the toe end of the swell-pedal describe an arc of a circle of large radius.

That the swell-shutters be operated by a contrivance similar to the cow-heel movement, to insure a gradual crescendo and decrescendo.

That organ-builders and organists consider the desirability of balanced swells having two footboards, one for each foot, instead of retaining a central footboard.

That all composition pedals be double acting and self-recovering; and that the toe ends of all such pedals, and those of other pedal movements, shall follow out the correct lines of radiation, arc and concavity as do the pedal-sharps, at a distance of six inches clear above the pedal-sharps, and four and one- half inches clear farther back than the front ends of the pedal-sharps.

That all drawstops be made smaller than is now customary, that they project from the jambs half an inch when closed, that the amount of travel be less than is now usual, and that the manual drawstops be grouped as nearly as possible opposite the manual to which they belong; the flue-work to be arranged in the order of gravity of pitch, likewise the reeds above the flue-work.

That organists and organ-builders consider the desirability of actuating all sliders pneumatically instead of mechanically, so as to be available for combination by means of pistons instead of composition pedals, and for ease of manipulation by hand.

That all couplers be grouped with the stops belonging to the department they augment, as in Mr. Casson’s system.

That all pedal drawstops be duplicated to draw on both jambs.

That the great to pedal coupler be available by a reversing pedal movement.

That all drawstops and drawstop jambs be placed diagonally.

That in organs having more than two manuals the music-desk be brought forward; and that in all cases it be large and flat in surface, be inclined to a reasonable angle, the ledge to be three inches wide, and to leave six inches clear from its underside to the swell manual of a three-manual organ.

That the organ-stool be not less than twelve inches wide; the edge next to the organ to be well rounded, and to form an arc of a circle on plan; and, if not made to be adjustable as to height, the top or upper surface of the stool to be twenty and one-half inches above the upper surface of the middle D on the pedals; and the edge of the stool at the back of the performer to be a quarter of an inch higher than the other edge, so as to give a slight tilt or inclination to the top.

That the woodwork between the performer and the lowest manual be reduced to the narrowest possible limit, and if necessary be beveled away beneath.

That organ-builders and organists consider the desirability of giving the pedal-board an inclination or tilt upward at the toe end, or of making the pedals concave from toe to heel as well as from left to right.

That good tracker-action may be employed for organs of less than twenty speaking stops.

That the pedal organ shall provide a suitable bass, and a contrast to the tone upon the manuals.

That the choir organ be placed in a swell-box, having shutters on two sides, if possible.

That organ-builders employ a larger proportion of wood flue-work on the manuals than is now customary, and that no zinc pipes be used of a shorter length than the four-feet C (tenor C).

That, in addition to large wind-trunks, concussion bellows be employed in small organs, and French feeders in large organs, to steady the wind.

That the voicing of the organ be finished in the building the instrument is to occupy.

That the tremulant be operated by a hitch down pedal projecting from the bass, or left-hand, jamb, the action of the pedal temporarily to cut off the concussion.

That the tuning of the organ be that known as Fine, equal (even) temperament tuning, the beats or pulsations quickening as the pitch rises; the tuning to stand such tests as major tenths, in chromatic succession, etc.

That the pitch of the organ be A = 435 (C = 517.3) vibrations per second at 59° F., which is equivalent to A = 439 (C = 522) in equal (even) temperament at 68° F.; and that if the organ is tuned at any other temperature a properly graded tuning-fork should be used.


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