By Frank Pugno
One of the chief glories of the organ is its ability to create different sounds to set any mood for the performance of music. This is done by the careful manipulation of the tone controls, properly called stops. A combination of stops is called a registration.
Organ history goes back to 2,000 B. C. The first organs only had about 14 keys and all the pipes for each note played simultaneously. As time progressed, small levers were added so the organist could turn off or stop any particular pipes from playing. This is where the term stop came from. France, in the 1300s, reinvented them that normally the pipes did not play until the particular controls were turned on. Now they should be named goes, but the term stops was retained.
Whether an organ has four or four hundred stops, all of the stops fall into one of four families of tone:
Flute (or Tibia) this is the most important family for the entertainment and home organist. It is available at all pitches and has a rather bland sound that mixes in well with other voices. Various combinations of flutes and vibrato create familiar organ sounds.
String these stops are the opposite of flutes. The string is a very cutting, biting sound. String tone can cut right through a very full registration with its keen brightness. When the 8 string is played high on the Swell manual with full vibrato and softly, it closely resembles a violin. Drop down one octave and you hear a viola. Around Middle C, it sounds like a cello. Three voices and you never changed the stops!
Reed these are the fun stops of the organ! This division consists of the brass and woodwinds of
the orchestra, plus unique organ voices. Some of the common ones are Clarinet, Trumpet, Oboe,
Trombone and French Horn. The Kinura is from the old theatre organs and resembles a bee
buzzing in a bottle. The Wah-Wah Trumpet is a reed, but is really considered a special effect.
Diapason this is the most important sound in the organ as opposed to the flutes, which have this position of eminence in entertainment. The diapason is the REAL sound of the organ as handed down through the generations. The diapason has a church pipe organ quality and may also create stirring theatre organ sound. It can also be used to fill in other combinations adding richness.
The numbers on the stops are the organists unit of measure, indicating the highness or lowness of a stop. If a stop is marked Principal 16, it means that the pipe needed to produce the lowest note for this diapason stop is sixteen feet high. Here is a table of the most common pitches:
8 unison (piano, orchestra) pitch. Plays same note as written.
4 one octave higher.
2 two octaves higher.
1 three octaves higher.
16 one octave lower.
5-1/3 a fifth higher.
2-2/3 one octave and a fifth higher.
1-3/5 two octaves and a third higher.
1-1/3 two octaves and a fifth higher.
There are also Mixture stops that add upper harmonics to the main ensemble tones.
Drawbar organs make available these footages selectively with each at a volume determined by the organist to create a great multitude of sounds. Several manufacturers have drawbar organs, but this document will concern itself with the standard Hammond organ design, which a few others adopted. My suggested registrations will include drawbar settings.
The standard manual drawbars are 16, 5-1/3, 8, 4, 2-2/3, 2, 1-3/5, 1-1/3 and 1 with two drawbars, 16 and 8 for the pedals.
NOTE: The Hammond H-100, X-66 and X-77 have additional drawbars controlling 2- rank mixtures. The first is 1-1/7 and 8/9, which, should be pulled out no further than the 1-3/5 drawbar. The second is 4/5 and 2/3, which should be no further out than the 1 drawbar. These organs also have extra pedal drawbars for fuller tone.