VIRTUAL THEATER ORGAN REGISTRATION BASICS
THE TIBIA-STRING COMBINATIONS

When I was in my teens and just learning about pipe organs, many of the organs I got access to were 4 rank instruments that consisted of a 'Stopped Diapason' (stopped wood flute), String, String Celeste, and Vox Humana. Many were originally built in the 1930's for private homes and funeral parlors. A number of them had roll players. The Theater Organ influence was very obvious. The 'Stopped Diapason' was more like a small Tibia Clausa, and there was always a Vox Humana and String Celeste. I got to play organs in theaters, too, but there were endless hours of playing these small 4 rank organs. I learned that you can get a lot of music from just a few ranks if you know how to put variety in your registration. I discovered that there are certain relationships between the Tibia and more harmonically 'complex' voices such as Strings, Diapasons, Voxes, Chorus Reeds and Color Reeds that basically hold true no matter what the 'complex voice' is. If you learn these basic relationships with a Tibia and a String, they will apply (to varying extents) whether you mix the Tibia with a String, Vox, Diapason, Reed, or whatever. Here are examples of the basic Tibia-String relationships.

Later I will expand this to include Diapasons,Strings and all types of reeds. A general rule for using these other stops is: First try the registrations with the Tibia and String alone. Where you are using a String, a String Celeste can ALWAYS be added in a Theater Organ style registration. A Vox can generally be added every place a String is used. If you don't want so much Vox, add it at the LOWEST pitch the string is used at ONLY. A Brass Sax can usually be used anywhere a Vox is being used. Again, if you don't want the Sax sound to be very dominant, use the Sax at the LOWEST pitch Only. The final General Variation is that one or more of the following stops can be substituted for the String: Diapason, Tuba, Trumpet, Posthorn, Clarinet, Oboe, Saxophone, Kinura. With the Woodwind stops, try using them IN ADDITION to the String or Strings.

These relationships are used for developing registration technique in small combinations and Choruses. Ensembles are covered in other sections.

Two-Pitch Registrations:

The Tibia is not only a solo stop, but a stop that can color the other ranks with which it is used. I discovered some very basic relationships between the Tibias and Strings that were soon applied to relationships with other ranks as well. Let's take a look at a couple of VERY basic registrations, listen to them on sound clips, and see what they can be used for. In this section, we will concentrate on registrations for the melody or right hand only. Accompaniment registrations will be covered later:

8' Tibia Used alone, this is useful for a one note melody in a veriety of ranges, or can be used for chorded melodies. It is a plain registration, consisting of one stop.

8' Tibia 8' String The complex tone of the string adds a different dimension. The registration can be used in the same places as the one above, but a large portion of the Tibia 'hootiness' is not as obvious because of the additional color of the String.

Variations:

  8' Tibia 8' Diapason

  8' Tibia 8' Vox

  8' Tibia 8' Tuba

  8' Tibia 8' Trumpet

  8' Tibia 8' Posthorn

  8' Tibia 8' Clarinet

  8' Tibia 8' Oboe

  8' Tibia 8' Kinura

  8' Tibia 8' Brass Sax

8' String 4' Tibia This is by far the most frequent use of the Tibia as a coloration stop. As you will learn shortly, the String can be substituted with (or used in conjunction with) just about any other stop: Vox, Trumpet, Clarinet, Oboe, Kinura and others, and the same basic character of the 'Tibia-String' relationships holds true. This registration makes an Oboe-like sound, with less foundation than when the 8' Tibia is used. This is used for 'cute' sounds or registrations, it can be used as single note or chorded passages, and has a different impact in different ranges.

Variations:

  8' Diapason + 4' Tibia

  8' Vox + 4' Tibia

  8' Tuba + 4' Tibia

  8' Trumpet + 4' Tibia

  8' Posthorn + 4' Tibia

  8' Clarinet + 4' Tibia

  8' Oboe + 4' Tibia

  8' Kinura + 4' Tibia

  8' Brass Sax + 4' Tibia

8 String 2 2/3 Tibia Called 'Synthetic Oboe' on some small pipe organs. If you don't have an Oboe on your instrument, This is useful as one.

8 Tibia 2 2/3 Tibia A combination that simulates the sound of a Quintadena. Useful for single note or chorded passages. You might want to use this combination even if you DO have a Quintadena, but the stop is not as loud as you want it.

8 Tibia 8' String 2 2/3 Tibia This can be used where you want a registration featuring a Sax stop but don't have one. I'm not going to call it a 'Synthetic Saxophone' although it does sound like some of the registrations I've heard a Sax used in. Chords in the midrange are useful with this registration.

Variations:

  8 Tibia 8 String 8 Vox 2 2-3 Tibia

  8 Tibia 8 String 8 Oboe 2 2/3 Tibia

  8 Tibia 8 String 8 Brass Sax 2 2/3 Tibia

  8 Tibia 8 String 8 Clarinet 2 2/3 Tibia

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8' Tibia 4' Tibia One of the most often heard Tibia registrations. This can be used in virtually any range of the keyboard from tenor C on up. Although single note passages and chords are very effective, this registration comes alive with passages played in thirds, that is: a melody line with one note of harmony played a third below it.

8' Tibia 8' String 4' Tibia A slight 'fleshing out' or filling out of the above registration. It can be used in the same ways but again because of the presence of the String, the character of the sound will be different.

Variations:

  8 Tibia 8 String 8 Vox 2 2-3 Tibia

8 Tibia 8 String 8 Vox 4 Tibia

  8' Tibia 8' String 8' Tuba 4' Tibia

  8' Tibia 8' String 8' Trumpet 4' Tibia This cab be 'filled out by adding the Vox (see below)

  8' Tibia 8' String 8' Vox 8' Trumpet 4' Tibia

  8' Tibia 8' String 8' Posthorn 4' Tibia

  8' Tibia 8' String 8' Oboe 4' Tibia

  8' Tibia 8' String 8' Kinura 4' Tibia

  8' Tibia 8' String 8' Brass Sax 4' Tibia

8' Tibia 4' String This is not a registration that can be used in a lot of places, but can be pretty due to the singing quality of the String coming over the Tibia. In general, the String or other 'complex' voice (Chorus Reed, Color Reed, etc) should first be put on at the LOWEST pitch in the registration, then higher pitches added if desired. Also usually the complex stop is not at a pitch higher than the highest Tibia. You would NOT want to try this registration substituting the Vox for the String, not pleasant! This Tibia/String registration is one of the only places you can get away with breaking the fundimental rules. It teaches one important basic lesson: the effect a 'singing' higher pitched String has on a registration.

8'Tibia 8'String 4'Tibia 4' String This is the first step into an 'ensemble' registration, where groups of stops of various pitches are combined to form a fuller sound. Ensembles are most often used in chorded registrations for 'bigger' sounds, although this particular sound is far from 'big'. After hearing the registrations before it, you can hear this registration has the beginnings of an ensemble sound.

Variations:

  8' Tibia 8' String 8' Vox 4' Tibia 4' String 4' Vox

  8' Tibia 8' String 8' Brass Sax 4' Tibia 4' String 4' Vox Substituting 8' Sax for Vox. 4' Sax Substitution would be a little much.

8'Tibia 4' Tibia 2 2/3' Tibia This registration is strictly for Rock music. It is the stoptab equivalent of the Hammond organ drawbar setting used by a lot of Rock organists in the 60's and 70's. Play in the tenor to upper middle of the keyboard. You can also get this sound by using the 16' Tibia 8' Tibia and 5 1/3' Tibia and playing an octave higher. For a variation, see the registration below.

8'Tibia 4' Tibia 2 2/3' Tibia 2' Tibia Another Rock music registration. It is also equivalent of a Hammond organ drawbar setting used by Rock organists. Try both of these with trems on and off. You can also get this sound by using the 16' Tibia 8' Tibia 5 1/3' Tibia and 4' Tibia and playing an octave higher.

Three-Pitch Registrations and 'Choruses':

16' 8' 4' Tibia The basic three pitch Tibia chorus. Useful for just about anything: single note, chorded, you name it.

16' Tibia' 4' Tibia The characteristic 'Jesse Crawford' registration. This can be used in single note melodies, chords, and is most effective in 'open voicing' where three-note harmony is played with the top and bottom notes in the right hand, and the 'middle' note or harmony played with the left hand one octave below it, all on the same manual.

16' Tibia 16' String 4' Tibia Just a slightly different take on the characteristic 'Jesse Crawford' registration. This shows what a difference one complex voice such as a String can make. Later we will substitute the Vox for the String and even add the Vox to the String already in this registration, which is the color you may have more often heard in Theater Organ recordings. This registration with the additional 'complex voice' or String can be used the same way as the registration above, and be 'switched off' with it for variety.

Variations:

 16' Tibia 16' Vox 4' Tibia

 16' Tibia 16' String 16' Vox 4' Tibia

 16' Tibia 16' String 16' Brass Sax 4' Tibia Try with and without the String(s)

16' 8' 4' String The basic three pitch String chorus. This is mostly useful for chorded melody. Don't play below Mid C with chords or the effect will be muddy.

Variations:

 16' String 16' Vox 8' String 8' Vox 4' String 4' Vox Addition of the Vox Chorus to the String Chours

 16' 8' 4' String 4' Tibia A Tibia coloration of the String chorus. Single note or chorded melody

 16' 8' 4' String 8' Tibia A VERY unusual but effective coloration of the three-pitch string chorus. See also the next one.

 16' 8' 4' String 5 1/3' Tibia Bordering on the 'novelty' registration, the quint sound from the Tibia adds a somewhat nasal coloration while retaining a massed sound

16' String 8' Tibia 8' String 4' Tibia A very nice single note sound for ballads in the midrange, and some chorded passages a bit higher. This sound really comes alive when Celestes and Voxes are added in the next section.

16' String 8' String 4' String 2' Tibia Although this is a 'Four-Pitch' registration, I included it with the choruses, etc. Play this in chords for a nearly ghostly etherial effect. There are a LOT of high end harmonics, bolstered by the 2' Tibia, with very little foundation.

Remember the General Variations at the beginning of this page. Wherever a String is used, its Celeste can go with it. This holds true in every registration here, and is a general rule followed by just about everyone that plays a Theater Organ. Here's another suggestion along the same lines: Wherever you have a String (and now a Celeste) stop on, a Vox Humana can be played, too. This is NOT hard and fast. That's a good thing, too, because now 'to Vox or not to Vox' adds a further variety to your registrations. Speaking of Voxes, an additional chorus of Voxes-only should be mentioned, too:

16' Vox
  8' Vox
  4' Vox

This one was mentioned earlier, the three-pitch String and Vox Chorus:

16' String
16' Vox
  8' String
  8' Vox
  4' String
  4' Vox

The same effect can be obtained if you have octave couplers on your instrument by using:

  8' String
  8' Vox
16' Sub Octave Coupler
  4' Octave Coupler

If you don't have the 4' Vox Humana stop, the above is the ONLY way you will get the full chorus effect. If, however, you have no couplers and no 4' Vox, just use:

16' String
16' Vox
  8' String
  8' Vox
  4' String

and you will get a registration that has the same 'essence' and can be used in the same way. If you top that String/Vox chorus with a 2' Tibia,

16' String
16' Vox
  8' String
  8' Vox
  4' String
  4' Vox
  2' Tibia

the 'ghostly effect' in enhanced. If instead, you plant an 8' Tibia right in the middle,

16' String
16' Vox
  8' Tibia
  8' String
  8' Vox
  4' String
  4' Vox

you get a totally different chorus effect. This is the same registration talked about above with just Tibias and Strings but now with the addition of Vox Humana. Remember that Celestes can be, and should be added to registrations with Strings.

For more information on Theater Organ registration, go to:

Virtual Theater Organ Registration Basics-Families of Theater Organ Tone

Virtual Theater Organ Registration Basics-Esemble Registrations

Virtual Theater Organ Registration Basics-The Polphony Problem




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