A short dictionary of pipe
These are the original German terms. Where an English equivalent exists,
it is shown in brackets.
Balgen (Bellows) Originally, bellows produced the air supply for
the pipes. Today, fans are used, giving a constant air stream, and most
old organs have changed over to this system.
Blockwerk From the 14th. to the 16th. century, before the division
of the organ into independent sound-producing sections, different rows
of pipes could only sound together. These linked rows of pipes are known
Brustwerk A section of shorter pipes built directly above the organist,
below the Hauptwerk (Great Organ).
Disposition (Arrangement) Technical term for the design and layout
of an organ's mechanism and pipes, indicating the number and type of pipe
Elektronische Orgel (Electronic Organ) Also known as home organs,
these miniaturized instruments, some with pedals (in most cases, a limited
range of short sprung levers, known as 'Stummelpedal'), still use some
of the terminology of the huge pipe organ ancestors. For economic and practical
reasons, they are often used in small halls and churches. Perhaps the best
known home organ performer is Britain's Eric Mc. Whirter, 'Scotland's J.S.
Fusslagen (measurement in feet) The old measurement for organ pipe
construction is the foot - 8', 16', etc. A 'foot' varied from country to
country and in different eras, somewhere between 26,5 and 30,5 centimetres.
Since the Middle Ages, the height of a pipe was set at 8' for C0 (Middle
C is C3), 4' for the octave above, 16' for the octave below (etc.). Other
intervals are achieved by fractions, for example, 5 1/3' for a fifth, 2
2/3 ' for a twelfth, etc.
Gedackte Pfeifen Pipes which are closed at the top. They sound an
octave lower than open-topped pipes of the same length.
Gemischte Stimmen (Mixed voices) A combination of sounds chosen by the
organist and played from one manual.
Hauptwerk (Great Organ) The majority of the organ's pipes, including
those too large to fit elsewhere, constitute the 'Hauptwerk', often abbreviated
Holzpfeifen (Wooden pipes) In contrast to the metal pipes, wooden
pipes have a square (very occasionally triangular) cross-section, and give
a very soft, quiet sound. They are often included in the main pipe display,
not for their acoustic properties, but because of their decorative potential.
Koppel (coupling) The mechanical combination of different voices
of the organ, as in 'Basskoppel', 'Melodiekoppel' and 'Manualkoppel'. As
a rule, coupling links a louder sound to a weaker one to produce a stronger
Labialpfeifen (aka Lippenpfeifen) (Lipped pipes) These comprise the
majority of organ pipes, and are made of metal or wood. The metal pipes
are cylindrical, conical or funnel-shaped, and can be open or closed (gedackt)
at the top, giving a number of different possible combinations. The wooden
pipes have a square or rectangular (very rarely, triangular) cross-section.
Lingualpfeifen Also known as 'Zungenstimmen' (reed stops) or 'Schnarrwerk',
these are the second most important organ pipes after the 'Labialpfeifen'.
They have free vibrating reeds which are activated by the air stream.
Manual Each set of pipes has
its own keyboard, called a manual. Generally speaking, church organs have
two or three manuals, each with a span of 5 octaves.
Mixtur (Mixture) A higher pitched set of pipes used to add brilliance
and penetration to the full organ sound - these are often pitched an octave,
octave plus fifth, or 2 octaves plus a third above the original pitch.
Oberwerk see 'Schwellwerk'.
Pedal A special keyboard for
the feet, consisting of about 30 sprung levers. Pedal is also the name
for the section of pipes connected to these foot pedals. By activating
the 'Pedalkoppel' these pipes can be played from a manual.
Pfeifen (Pipes) In the early
Middle Ages, made from bronze, copper or wood, later from tin, lead or
metal alloys, occasionally also from ivory (in the 'Prospekt', or main
organ display). The lengths of pipes is given in feet. Large church organs
can have as many as 6000 pipes, some as long as 30 metres.
Positiv A type of small, versatile organ dating from the 19th. century.
Later, certain sets of pipes ('Werke') in large church organs were named
'Positiv', for example 'Rückpositiv' and 'Seitenpositiv'.
Prinzipal (Principal) Originally, a name given to all the 'stops'
(see below) connected to the 'Blockwerk'. Later, 'Principal' came to mean
a particular stop with a strong sound, suitable for soloing.
Prospekt The main visual display
of the organ. The wooden sections of the 'Prospekt' are crafted with great
skill, and valuable materials such as brass, pewter (pure tin) and ivory
are used for the pipes section.
Register (or 'Stimme') Term
for the individual sounds of the organ, similar in concept to a synthesizer
'program'. Also refers to the mechanism (Stop) which activates the different
group of pipes.
Rohrflöte (Reed pipe) A cylindrical pipe with a small tube
welded into its closed top section. The length of these pipes varies in
proportion to their diameter, giving different shapes and sounds.
Rückpositiv (Choir organ) A set of pipes built behind the organist.
Developed for accompaniment of the choir, this is in effect a smaller,
quieter organ with its own dedicated manual positioned below that of the
main organ. Hidden from the congregation by the Rückpositiv pipes,
the organist can concentrate on his or her performance!
Schwellwerk (Swell organ Pipes
enclosed in a cabinet with moveable wooden shutters or lids - these may
be opened and closed by pedal control to vary the volume of the pipes.
Stumme Pfeifen (Mute pipes) Also known as 'blind pipes', these produce
no sound but are included in the Prospect for visual symmetry.
Windlade (Wind chest) Box underneath
the organ containing the air supply apparatus. Through this,the air stream
is diverted to the appropriate pipes, depending on stop selection.
Ventilatoren (Fan or air blower)
Today, these replace the bellows. Electronically operated, they maintain
an even supply of air to the pipes.
Zungen (Reeds) Name of the small membranes made out of springy pieces
of metal, which are fixed in one end of an organ pipe. Some vribrate freely,
others buzz against the interior of the pipe. The reeds are activated by
the air stream, and the notes produced are greatly amplified by the pipes.
A great many organ registers rely on these reed pipes (see 'Lingualpfeifen'