A Young Person’s Guide to the Organ: Glossary of Terms

1 1/3′
a mutation stop that sounds two octaves and a fifth above the written pitch, usually called Larigot

1 3/5′
a mutation stop that sounds two octaves and a third above the written pitch, usually called Tierce

2′
indicates a stop that sounds two octaves above the written pitch

2 2/3′
a mutation stop that sounds an octave and a fifth above the written pitch, usually called Nazard or Twelfth

3′
another name for a 2 2/3′ stop

4′
indicates a stop or coupler that sounds an octave above the written pitch

5 1/3′
a stop that sounds a fifth above the written pitch

8′
indicates a stop or coupler that sounds at the written pitch

16′
indicates a stop or coupler that sounds an octave below the written pitch

32′
a stop that sounds two octaves below the written pitch

Action
the parts of an organ that connect the keys with the pipes

Antiphonal
a division of the organ that is separate from the rest of the pipes; also question and answer effects

Bellows
an apparatus of wood and folded leather that collects wind and delivers it to the wind chest

Blower
an electric fan that provides wind for the pipes

Bombarde
a division of the organ, also a large reed stop

Bourdon
a stopped flute stop of metal or wood

Case
the wood box built around the pipes, to focus and blend their sound

Celeste
a rank of pipes tuned slightly sharp to cause beats with its companion rank

Chamber
a room housing the pipes of an organ, opening into the main room

Chest
the box on which pipes stand, filled with air

Choir
a division of the organ, usually played from the lowest of three manuals, often enclosed

Choralbass
a 4′ principal stop found in the pedal division

“Chorus” reeds
reed stops designed to be used in combinations with flues

Clarion
a trumpet stop, usually at 4′ pitch

“Color” reeds
reed stops designed to be used as solo stops

Combination action
a device allowing the organist to change stops with buttons or toe studs

Console
the control center of the organ

Cornet
a combination of stops at 8′, 4′, 2 2/3′, 2′, and 1 3/5′

Coupler
a device that makes the pipes from one division sound on another keyboard than its own, or at another octave

Crescendo pedal
a pedal that brings on stops and couplers gradually

Cromorne
a reed stop of the clarinet family

Cut-up
the height of a flue pipe mouth

Cymbal
a high-pitched mixture

Diapason
a flue pipe with basic organ tone

Division
a section of the organ, usually with its own keyboard and pipes

Dulzian
a reed stop in the clarinet family

Echo
a division of the organ, usually enclosed and across the room from the rest of the pipes

Electric action
action that uses electricity to open and close the pipe valves

En chamade
the placement of reed pipes on their sides to project their tone

English Horn
a color reed stop in romantic organs

Erzähler
a hybrid flue stop with a sound between a flute and a string, usually soft

Façade
the front of the organ chamber or case

Fagott
“bassoon” in German; a reed stop of the oboe family

“Floating” division
a division that has no special keyboard, but plays by being coupled to another keyboard

Flue
an organ pipe that makes sound by setting a column of air vibrating

Flute
a flue pipe of wide scale, made of wood or metal

Fourniture
a mixture

French Horn
a color reed stop in romantic organs

Fundamental
the bottom pitch in the harmonic series

Gallery
a balcony, one of the places organs are located

Gamba
a string stop, named after the early instrument

Gedeckt
the German name for a stopped flute pipe

Gemshorn
a hybrid flue stop with a sound between a flute and a string

Grand Orgue
the French name for the Great division

Great
the main division of an organ, usually played from the lower of two or the middle of three manuals

Harmonic
one of the series of high pitches that are present in musical tones produced by natural means

Hauptwerk
the German name for the Great division

Hautbois
the French name for oboe

Krummhorn
a reed stop of the clarinet family

Languid
the “block” of a metal pipe that sends the wind against the upper lip

Larigot
a mutation stop of 1 1/3′ that sounds two octaves and a fifth above the written pitch

Mechanical action
action that uses rods called “trackers” to connect the keys with the pipe valves

Mitered pipe
a pipe bent to fit into limited space

Mixture
a stop of more than one rank of pipes at various high pitches

Montre
the French word for principal, from the verb “to show” – meaning the pipes that show in the case

Mutation
a rank of pipes that sounds a non-octave pitch above the written note

Nazard
a mutation stop of 2 2/3′ that sounds an octave and a fifth above the written pitch

Oboe
a reed stop used as a solo and in combinations

Octave
an interval of eight scale tones; a principal rank, usually sounding an octave above the main principal rank in any division

Orchestral Oboe
a solo reed stop found in romantic organs

the term used for principal chorus with mixture

Partial
any of the harmonics above the fundamental in the harmonic series

Pistons
buttons and toe studs that change stops and couplers and may be set by the organist

Plein Jeu
literally “full stops”; the French term for Organo Pleno; one of the names for a mixture

Plenum
another word for principal chorus with mixture

Pommer
a flute stop

Posaune
literally “trombone”; the German name for a low-pitched reed stop of the trumpet family

Positif, Positiv
German and French for Positive – a division of the organ, usually open and bright in sound

Prestant
a principal stop

Principa
the type of pipe that makes typical organ tone
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Principal Chorus
principal stops at 8′, 4′, 2′, sometimes 16′, 2 2/3′ with mixture(s)

Quintadena
a flute stop voiced to sound its third partial prominently

Quinte
a stop of 2 2/3′ pitch, usually made of principal pipes

Rank
a row of pipes of one tone color brought into play by a stop knob or tablet

Rankett
a reed stop with short resonators

Récit
the French name for the Swell division

Reed
an organ pipe that makes sound by the vibration of a reed against a hollow tube called a “shallot”

Regal
a reed stop with short resonators

Register
another name for stop

Resonator
the body of a reed pipe, which amplifies and modifies the sound of the reed itself

Reversible
a piston that turns something both on and off

Romantic
refers to instruments and music of the 19th century or in that style

Salicional
a string stop

Scale
a series of diatonic notes; the relationship of the diameter to the length of a flue pipe

Schalmei
a reed stop of the oboe family

Scharf
a mixture

Schwellwerk
the German name for the Swell division

Sesquialtera
the name for a stop which pulls two ranks – 2 2/3′ and I 3/5 – into play

Sforzando
a name for the tutti combination piston

Shallot
the hollow brass tube against which the reed vibrates in a reed pipe

Shutters
the wooden slats that enclose a swell box

Solid State
combination action controlled by a small computer, containing several memories so that the entire organ can be set up several times at once

Solo
a division of the organ that contains solo stops and often loud reeds, usually played from the top of four manuals

Specification
a list of the stops or ranks found in an organ

Spotted metal
a combination of tin and lead used for metal flue pipes

Stop
the knob or tablet that pulls a rank of pipes into play

Stopped Diapason
a flute stop

Stopped pipe
a flue pipe that is closed at the top with a cap or stopper, making it sound an octave lower than an open pipe of the same length

Strings
flue pipes of narrow scale, voiced to have many harmonics

Swell
a division of the organ enclosed in a box with shutters

Tempered
tuning that is not mathematically exact, but adjusted to allow for performance in all keys

Tierce
a 1 3/5′ mutation stop that sounds two octaves and a third above the written pitch

Toe Stud
a large button near the pedal keyboard that operates a piston

Tracker
a rod that connects the key to the pipe valve in mechanical-action organs

Tremolo
a device that shakes the wind, making the sound of the pipes waver

Trombone
a low-pitched reed stop of the trumpet family

Trumpet
a reed stop whose pipes have conical resonators

Tuba
a reed stop of the trumpet family, often on high wind pressure

Tutti
a piston that brings on full organ, usually reversible

Twelfth
a mutation stop of 2 2/3′ pitch, usually made of principal pipes

 

Viola da Gamba
a string stop

 

Voix Céleste
a rank of string pipes tuned sharp to cause beats with its companion rank

 

Vox Humana
literally “human voice”; a reed stop with short resonators

 

Windchest
a box on which the pipes stand, filled with air

 

Zimbelstern
a wheel with bells on it, used as a special effect on some organs

 

Zink
a reed stop with short resonators