Ask the Organbuilder

In September 2018, the AGO National Committee on Editorial Resources and TAO Editor Todd Sisley launched the new Ask the Organbuilder column in the The American Organist magazine. This engaging and educational forum fields questions from readers regarding pipe organ building and maintenance. We have assembled a panel from around the country, representing various styles and disciplines of the craft. Our panel members are:

· Andrew Gingery – C. B. Fisk, Inc.
· Charles Kegg – Kegg Organ Company
· Martin Pasi – Pasi Organbuilders
· David Storey – David M. Storey, Inc.
· Keith Williams – Buzard Pipe Organ Builders

Why does the organ need to be at a constant temperature and humidity for tuning? What is an ideal range of temperature and humidity?

The organ needs to be tuned at the temperature at which it will be used (worship temperature). The temperature needs to remain constant during the tuning, and heat or air-conditioning should be turned on far enough in advance of our arrival for room (and chamber) temperatures to have stabilized.

A difference of more than five degrees from the temperature at which the organ was tuned will cause the organ to sound out of tune, but once the room returns to the temperature at which the organ was tuned, the organ should come back into tune.

Since many churches do not heat and cool to the same temperature, it is for this reason that organs need to be retuned seasonally.

It is not necessary to maintain the space at a constant temperature when the organ is not being used as long as the HVAC system is put into operation to bring the space to worship temperature far enough in advance.

For new construction, we recommend that the humidity be maintained at 40% to 60%. Lower humidity can cause mechanical problems with some instruments (as well as church furnishings).

If, during colder weather, churches opt to let the sanctuary temperature drop significantly outside of worship times, it is better that more time be allowed for the heat to be brought back up.

Keith Williams
Buzard Pipe Organ Builders

We invite you to submit questions for our panelists using the form below.

Check back periodically to see when you can expect an answer to your question in a future TAO issue. 

Ask the Organbuilder