The New Organist

severalhands2Welcome to the New Organist web page of the American Guild of Organists – assisting pianists to learn to play the organ! The Committee on the New Organist is dedicated to providing answers to common questions through this web page. Help yourself to these resources (most of them free) for anyone learning about the organ:

A knowledgeable, enthusiastic community of organists and many more resources are available to you as an AGO member. Your local region and chapter of the AGO provides friendship, educational opportunities, concerts, scholarships, and much more. If you think you’d like to join and you want to talk with a someone about it, or if you have questions or need resources beyond what you find here, contact AGO National Headquarters at or 212-870-2310. Tell us your name, city, and contact information, and we’ll get and AGO member from your local area in touch with you.

Free educational videos answer common questions about the organ

Master organist and instructor Frederick Hohman speaks to the new organist about everything from pedaling to registration and hymn playing. Click here for the list of topics.

(4:15) Finding the best position at the organ console makes it possible to play the pedals accurately, operate the expression pedals and other foot controls easily, and to stay reasonably comfortable.

(3:57) Playing the organ with your feet can seem intimidating. Learn some tips that can help make organ pedaling easier and boost your confidence.

(3:17) Playing legato (smoothly) on the organ is more difficult than at the piano. Some of the tools for achieving those beautiful, sustained lines at the organ are introduced.

How Do I Save Stop Combinations?
(3:53) Once you choose a stop combination at the organ, if you’ve wondered how to save it to a thumb pistons or “preset,” this video is for you.

(5:51) Playing the organ is much different than playing the piano. This video describes some of the ways they differ, and what that means to someone learning to play the organ.

Creating Soft Solo Combinations at the Organ
(14:30) When your organ piece needs a soft solo sound in one hand, here are some fresh ideas.

(2:45) What does the General Cancel piston do, and what doesn’t it do? This fun, short video has the answers.

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Useful DVD’s, books, and online resources

AGO YouTube Channel

The official video channel of the AGO, featuring great performances, workshops, master lessons, and lectures. Browse or subscribe.

Introduction to the Organ Console (an OrganTutor Registration lesson)

This free online tutorial introduces most everything on the organ console: the stops, keys, buttons, you name it! This is the first complimentary lesson of an eleven-lesson course on organ registration (see below).


Organ Registration (the eleven-lesson OrganTutor Registration unit)

Eleven interactive lessons on basic organ registration are available free for AGO members who are logged in. The lessons cover Organ Types and Components, Using Console Devices, Pitches, Families, Non-Speaking Stops, Chorus Registration, Solo/Accompaniment Registration, and Trio/Duo Registration, and finally Hymn Registration.

A Young Person’s Guide to the Pipe Organ

This is a fun, attractive online book all about the pipe organ – how it came to be, all its parts, and how everything works together to create that magnificent sound!

Bibliography for Exam Preparation

A bibliography listing many helpful resources, and to assist candidates in preparing for AGO examinations.

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How to find an organ teacher, even for those living in remote areas

neworganistPoe1There is no substitute for a knowledgeable, caring organ teacher helping you towards your goals. Ask for a qualified organ teacher – most piano teachers have little or no formal training on organ. You are looking for someone who has a degree or certificate in organ or equivalent. Here are some ideas for finding the right one for you:

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How to contact a local group of organists who meet periodically for recitals, education, and mutual support

The American Guild of Organists consists of approximately 15,000 individuals interested in organ and choral music. Membership is open to everyone, regardless of denominational affiliation or musical ability. Follow this link to see if there is a chapter near you, and contact the chapter dean.

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Become part of an online community of organists. There are several types:

Facebook: American Guild of Organists

The American Guild of Organists fosters a thriving community of musicians who share their knowledge and inspire passion for the organ. Join this closed Facebook group to see what’s happening in the lives and thoughts of other organists worldwide, and maybe post something yourself!

Google group: LearningOrgan

A discussion group for those who have questions or answers about learning to play the organ.

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AGO events and programs designed for the new organist

Pipe Organ Encounter – Several-day summer events for young organists, adults, and those interested in building and maintaining organs)

January Jubilee – Single-day events for new organists

Regional Convention – Conventions are great ways to meet other organists, to hear the organ at its best, and to learn all about it. Find one to attend in summer 2017!

Consult the websites of AGO chapters near you for upcoming events

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Links to a few great organ-related websites

Listen – Pipedreams,  Organlive

Surf – Pipe Organs and Related Topics,  Individual Organs and Organ ToursPipe Organs

WatchThe making of a metal organ pipe

Explore – Organ Historical Society Pipe Organ Database

Learn – The 101 of Organbuilding,  Organ History

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