Here is a description of the ranks in my Virtual Theatre Pipe Organ.

    1. Tibia Clausa.

    2. The Tibia Clausa is a large-scale, stopped wood flute pipe, usually with a leathered lip. The Tibia Clausa provides the basic foundation tone of the organ with few overtones or harmonics. The Tibia Clausa is arguably the most important rank of pipes in a theatre pipe organ, with some organs having as many as 5. My organ has four Tibias. The stop shares similarities with the Bourdon and the Gedackt found in some church pipe organs. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Tibia Clausa was sometimes used as an alternate name for Doppelflüte. Most tibias are made from wood, although a few examples of metal tibias may be found. The Tibia Clausa, or Tibia, is generally found at 16′, 8′, 4′ and 2′ pitches as a unified rank. The mutation ranks Tibia Quint 5 1/3′, Tenth 3 1/5, Nazard 2 2/3′ and Tierce 1 3/5′ are also drawn from this unified rank of 97 pipes. In some larger organs, a second Tibia rank may be present, extended to 1′ instead of 16′, allowing a 1 1/3′ Nineteenth mutation and a 1′ Fife to be drawn from this rank. A few of the largest theatre organs, and some church organs, may have a separate 32′ Tibia Clausa rank of 12 pipes. This installation has three 32' stops. In smaller organs, a Bourdon or Stopped Diapason may be substituted for a Tibia Clausa at 16′ pitch. The Tibia may be voiced on wind pressures from 10″ to 25″ WP (water pressure).



    3. Vox Humana.

    4. An unusual sound always used with the trems on and rarely used by itself. IMO it sounds like a bunch of nanny goats gargling water. A theatre organ should have at least one of these ranks. The Vox Humana (Latin for "human voice;" also "voix humaine" in French and "voce umana" in Italian) is a short-resonator reed stop on the pipe organ, so named because of its supposed resemblance to the human voice. As a rule, the stop is used with a Tremulant, which undulates the wind supply, causing a vibrato effect. The Vox Humana is intended to evoke the impression of a singing choir or soloist, though the success of this intent depends as much upon the acoustics of the room in which the organ speaks as it does the voicing of the pipes. It is almost invariably at 8′ pitch, though on theatre organs it is not uncommon to encounter a chorus of Vox Humana stops at 8′ and 4′ pitch, with the addition of a 16′ acting as a pedal stop; not in my organ. The Vox Humana is one of the oldest reeds in organ building, based on its appearance in very early instruments. It is common on French classical organs in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, where it was used as a solo voice. The Vox Humana also appears on German and Dutch organs of the period, though not as frequently as in France. French organs in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries almost invariably featured a voix humaine in the Récit (the most commonly enclosed division of the French romantic organ), though by this time the literature had evolved and it was used to play rich, harmonic chordal progressions. Many American organs built in the romantic style include a Vox Humana in order to facilitate the playing of this literature.


    5. Open Diapason.

    6. A flue stop that is intended to be the backbone of the sound, and traditionally and most commonly at 8′ on a manual, and 8′ or 16′ on the pedals. It may be open or stopped, but will always be clarified as "stopped" if it is. It is the quintessential tone of the pipe organ. This stop is included in almost every organ. Diapason stops are non-imitative; that is, their sound does not attempt to imitate that of a particular instrument and its sound is unique to the pipe organ.


    7. Diaphone.

    8. While the Diaphone is in many ways similar to reeds, it is considered to be in a class by itself, sometimes called "valvular". Instead of a reed, it employs a beating palette to produce the vibrations which are amplified and fixed in frequency by a resonator. Diaphones are found most often in theatre organs. I would not use this stop in a full organ registration. In a home installation you would not run this stop at full volume, as you would hear it a large auditorium. Diaphonic pipes are typically only used in the 16' and 32' octaves. In my organ it appears in the pedal 32' and 16', Accomp 8' and solo 8'.


    9. Horn Diapason.

    10.  A variety of Diapason with a horn-like tone, resulting from the pipes being slotted. A very useful stop that is important in softer and mezzo forte accompaniment registrations. It is also important in building mezzo forte registrations on the Great. Unfortunately, it is missing from far too many instruments. The Horn Diapason is one of those “in between” stops that is bright; yet it has a good deal of fundamental. Because of this, it is an excellent binder for the flutes, strings, light reeds, and larger diapasons. Wurlitzer included the Horn Diapason in many instruments between 13 and 17 ranks, and in most of their larger organs. The 16' pitch is sometimes called Diaphonic Horn; the 4' pitch is sometimes called Octave Horn.



    11. English Post Horn.

    12. This is the brightest and sharpest brass sound on the Theatre Organ, or any other organ for that matter. It is generally the loudest stop in any organ in which it is found. It is a trumpet-like sound that is extremely bright and full of overtones. Most often it is used without any Tremulant. It is the final stop added to Forte registrations and has many uses in registrations with fewer stops as well. It can be used as a solo stop when playing brass stabs is used as that one sharp pedal bass note at the end of a passage, but I don't think anyone would want to play a melody on it alone. Without this important stop, it would be like removing the trombones from a large orchestra - no razz!


    13. Brass Trumpet.

    14. A very brassy chorus reed intended to imitate the orchestral trumpet. It is a brilliant addition to the Theatre Organ ensemble, can be used with just a few additional stops, and is a useful solo stop. Brass chords, stabs and other embellishments are another good use for this stop. It can be used with or without Tremulant, depending on the musical requirements and taste. A bit of majesty can be added to this stop by using some echo in the audio setup.


    15. Trumpet Style D.

    16. One of their trumpets, used in their Style D model theatre organs, was tonally a cross between a Trumpet and a Tuba. Unlike other Wurlitzer trumpets which featured brass resonators, this one had resonators of Hoyt metal. IMO one of the sexiest stops in the theatre organ.


    17. Tuba Mirabilis.

    18. A very loud and powerful chorus reed, not recommended for full organ. All large theatre organs included a Tuba Mirabilis, the finest examples being by Wurlitzer, having a dark yet very powerful tone. Remarks: The same treatment as the solo string and diaphonic diapason; cannot have it too loud in a home studio.


    19. Tuba Horn.

    20. Virtually every theatre organ over 10 ranks has a Tuba Horn. While this is a wonderful sound, it comes on small organs with mixed blessings. Its sound is very round and dark; i.e. not very bright. While it's pretty when played with the Tibias, or as a solo voice, it is not a sound that completes the full ensemble of a small theatre organ. It is an important filler sound that binds all of the brighter sounds, like the Strings, Colour Reeds, and Trumpet to the fundamental sounds, like the Diapasons and Tibias.


    21. French Trumpet.

    22. A reed of normal scale having parallel or untapered shallots with full-length openings developing brilliance in the tone. The French Trumpet is essentially a low-pressure reed, and its quality is the result of efforts to produce power with a light wind, such as could be developed with a bellows operated by hand or foot power. The tone is not well suited to small, unresonant buildings, but in large buildings with good acoustics will provide a striking brilliance to the Swell. The 16' French Trumpet on a 5 inch wind, makes an ideal double reed for the Swell organ, free from the usual heavy thickness of the conventional double reed.


    23. French Horn.

    24. The French Horn of the theatre organ seems not to have differed dramatically from that of the classical organ.



    25. Oboe Horn.

    26. The Oboe Horn was invented by Robert Hope-Jones. It is most often described as a cross between the Oboe and the Horn, though it has been described as a hybrid of an Oboe and a close-toned Trumpet. This theatre organ voice is very similar to the standard Oboe that has appeared in church organs for many years. Its use in a theatre organ is twofold: most importantly, it is an accompaniment stop; and secondly, it is a delicate, but dark solo voice.


    27. Clarinet.

    28. This is a favourite stop of mine, and can be one of the most successful organ imitations of an orchestral instrument and it has to moo. It is usually found at 8' pitch, occasionally at 16', and rarely at 4'. On the theatre organ, the Clarinet is the most common reed after the Vox Humana and Trumpet.


    29. Krumet.

    30. This is a unique colour reed that was included on many larger Wurlitzers and on some smaller “Special” organs. Other builders also made examples of this stop. Its sound is a unique cross between the Clarinet and Kinura. In some instruments, it is the loudest of the buzzy colour reeds. The Krumet appears only on the manual divisions at 16' TC and 8' pitch. It sounds great when used at 8' in a Vox/string chorus.


    31. Kinura.

    32.  An 8' or 4' reed stop of the Regal class, invented by Hope-Jones and found almost exclusively on theatre organs. This stop has been called the clown of the theatre organ. It has a “bee in the bottle” sound and has been the essence of many a novelty tune for many years. Every theatre organ over ten ranks has one. This stop is rarely, if ever, used alone by itself. The name Kinura is a Greek word meaning a 10-string harp.


    33. Orchestral Oboe.

    34. An 8' stop voiced to imitate the orchestral instrument of the same name. (The ordinary Oboe is usually not imitative.) It is the essential stop that makes up the Wurlitzer ensemble sound.


    35. Musette.

    36. It has a moderately soft, brilliant, piercing, plaintive, nasal, and pleasant tone; imitating more or less the instrument of the same name, a small bagpipe. An important ingredient in a full string/Vox chorus, along with the 8' Krumet, if you have one. George Wright made the comment that if your organ has one of these, you will be tuning it almost every day! That is one thing I don't have to worry about with my VTPO.


    37. Brass Saxophone.

    38. This is one of the most sought after voices in modern day theatre organs. Original Brass Saxophone pipes are made of spun brass, and look like small brass trumpets. Unfortunately, many examples did indeed sound like small trumpets. Like the Vox Humana, the Saxophone or 'Brass Saxophone' is not at all imitative of its namesake, but is an important voice in the theatre organ ensemble. The tone has been described in various ways from a Clarinet with laryngitis to 'buttery' to a 'big pushy Vox Humana'. Wurlitzer made theirs with spun brass resonators, like their Brass Trumpets.


    39. Lieblich Flute.

    40. A beautiful smooth flute stop that takes the Tremulant and produces a sweet tone, similar to a Gedackt. Much lighter than the tibia Clausa.


    41. Concert Flute.

    42. The Concert Flute is the most basic representative of flute tone in the Theatre Organ. This is the basic open flute tone with both odd and even harmonics, sounding in the appropriate register quite like its orchestral counterpart.


    43. Spitzflote.

    44. Tonally, the Spitzflöte is usually classified as a Flute/String hybrid, and occasionally as a Flute/Diapason hybrid. Its tone has been described as reedy or breathy, and blends very well. It has been made at every pitch from 16' to 1', including mutations; indeed, tapered pipes are frequently used for mutations because of the excellent blending quality that can be obtained. The most common pitch for the Spitzflöte is 4', with 8' being only slightly less common. This stop has much in common with the Gemshorn, so much so that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between their pipes or even their tone. Most sources, though not all, give the Spitzflöte a sharper, more pointed taper than the Gemshorn. The Gemshorn is often slotted, whereas Audsley warns that the Spitzflöte must never be slotted. The Spitzflöte typically tends more toward flute-tone than the Gemshorn.


    45. Harmonic Flute.

    46. Harmonic flutes are constructed from open pipes which are twice the normal speaking length. The pipes are overblown to speak their first harmonic (the octave). This rank usually has a very bright tone. In some cases the Tremulant is much lighter.


    47. Quintadena.

    48. A stopped flute of 16', 8' or 4' pitch, usually made of metal, in which the 3rd harmonic (twelfth) is prominent. The most common name is Quintadena. It gives more colour to the Concert Flute and Tibia Clausa.


    49. Gamba.

    50. An unimitative string stop of 32', 16' or 8' pitch, one of the more common and generally useful string stops.


    51. Viole d'Orchestre.

    52. This stop is commonly considered to be the keenest string stop in the organ, producing the highest upper frequency content obtainable from flue pipes. It is invariably found at 8' pitch, except on some theatre organs which unify it to other pitches. It has been called the "Frying Bacon Stop of the organ".


    53. Salicional.

    54. One of the softest string stops in the organ.


    55. Dulciana.

    56. The true English Dulciana is a diminutive Diapason, smaller in scale, softer and more delicate in tone. It is often the softest stop on the organ in which it is placed.


    57. Unda Maris.

    58. Properly a soft Celeste made from one or two open or stopped flute ranks, the name Unda Maris has been used for both sharp and flat celestes made from a variety of stops, both flutes and strings


    59. Tibia Minor.

    60.  The tone of the Tibia Minor is extremely effective. In the bass it is round and velvety with a suspicion of smooth French Horn quality. In the treble the tone becomes very clear and full.


    61. Pedal Tibia Pizzicato.

    62. In my organ this rank is unenclosed and is specifically included to provide a string bass sound.


    63. Violin.

    64. The Orchestral Violin is commonly considered to be the keenest string stop in the organ, producing the highest upper frequency content obtainable from flue pipes. It is invariably found at 8' pitch, except on some theatre organs which unify it to other pitches. It was most popular in the first half of the 20th century.


    65. Viola.

    66. An imitative string stop of 16', 8' or 4' pitch.


    67. Flauto Dolce.

    68. These names have been used for soft flue stops of various tones and constructions. Both wood and metal have been used; in metal, the pipes have been made cylindrical, conical, or inverted conical. Most sources consider these names to denote unimitative flute stops. A soft sweet flute tone. I use this tone when I am playing soft classical music. Skinner writes: "The Flauto Dolce and Flute Celeste are not flutes in the strict sense. They represent muted strings." Skinner goes on to describe it as having slender, tapered pipes with small mouths, slightly stronger than a Dulciana, and becoming a Dulciana in the upper octave and a half.


    69. Solo String.

    70. The Solo String was a Wurlitzer variety of the [Hope-Jones String Gamba] designed for theatre use. The word Solo in this instance had reference to the Solo expression chamber in which it was normally placed, rather than to any suggestion of value in a solo capacity. A powerful and bright String that appeared on larger instruments. The Publix #1 model had a Solo String in each chamber. Sometimes these two strings are at different volume levels, with the one in the left chamber being softer than the one on the right. The Fox-Special Wurlitzers had especially wonderful examples voiced on 25" wind pressure, which was necessary to make a statement in those large instruments installed in larger buildings. Most Solo Strings are only extended down to 8' pitch. On the big instruments, a 16' Octave was provided. In the manuals, it usually appears at 16' and 8' pitch. On a Wurlitzer, the Solo String is the loudest of all the Strings. As with any large stop in a home installation, one cannot run it at full blast, otherwise deafness will ensue. However, in saying that; it does add a grand sound to the ensemble.


    71. Echo Vox Humana.

    72. A soft Reed stop of 8' manual pitch, similar in tone to the Vox Humana, but more muffled and softer.


    © Owen Jones

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