Organ range

• Mar 27, 2018 - 20:15

I'd like to recommend the default range of a church organ to be set to
lowest note C (=C2) for beginner and advanced
highest note f^3 (=F6) for beginner and g^3 or a^3 (=G6/A6) for advanced.
(Actually, it depends on the organ, not on the player, but that's not worth to be mentioned :-)


A piano is A0 to C8. Why would you want to set the organ to have less notes? Part of the fun in having an organ is the deep notes and the very high notes. On AppImage 2.2 for Linux the organ is set from C-1 to G9 which is realistic.

In reply to by underquark

The point of the range settings is to warn amateur composers if they are writing something that might not be playable. I suspect very few actual real life organs in actual real life churches go down to C-1 or up to G9, and a composer who doesn't specifically know the actual range of the instrument that his work will actually be played on would be well served to restrict himself to notes that are more likely to actually be available.

Unfortunately, I don't have any real insight into what that range might be. But I will say that none of the organs I have played at churches have as large a range as a piano, at least not in terms of the basic keybaord range (stops might be available that pitch things an octave higher or lower).

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I'd say that the majority of "usual" church, concert hall, and theatre organs (at least from my U.S. perspective) have a range of C2 to C7 on the manuals, and C2 to G4 (notated) on the pedals (the pedal line generally sounds an octave lower). Organs with larger keyboard ranges are extremely rare.

(Is there a way to set the range warnings per staff, or would that require separate instruments?)

Published organ scores use an ordinary bass clef (not 8vb) on the third staff (for pedals), outside the curly brace, and it's simply assumed that 16' tone, an octave lower than written, is available and used except when the composer/arranger directs otherwise. The bass-8vb clef in MuseScore's "Pipe Organ" instrument (vs. regular bass clef for "Organ") is nonstandard, but understandable as a way to get playback to more closely approximate what an organist would usually hear.

Sometimes organ music is written on a grand staff (for choral accompaniments, hymns, etc.) in which case the lower staff's lowest or stems-down voice is assumed to be played on the pedals.

TL;DR: C2 to C7 works, if we don't want to get into handling the pedal line separately.

In reply to by grinningcat

Well, your organs are younger than mine (Germany).
German baroque organs have C2 to C6 on the manuals (check Bachs work; you won't find a single D6!)
and C2 to D4 on pedals (check again Bach).
Luckily some of them still exist!
[And I realised a concert with great difficulties on an organ with pedal C2 to C4...]
French standard (still nowadays) is C2 to G6 (I, II, III) and C2 to F4 (Ped).

In reply to by danchricob2

This is not correct. Bach's F major Toccata BWV 540 goes up to F4 in the pedals famously, as does Gott, durch deine Güte, BWV 600, from the Orgelbüchlein.

Although the G Major Pièce d'Orgue BWV 572 contains a B1 in the pedal, nobody has ever adequately explained it. I have never seen an organ in this country (US) or elsewhere, or in pictures or literature, descending below C2, with the exception of a custom instrument built for the virtuoso Cameron Carpenter.
Serious organist-composers know these limitations, but every day tyro composers here choose "Church Organ" to get what they imagine an appropriate sound for their experimentations, and exceed the limits. The app should do as it does for other instrumental tessitura transgressions.

In reply to by [DELETED] 1831606

... every day tyro composers here choose "Church Organ" ... and exceed the limits.

Also an issue with 73/76/88-key keyboards and synths not being representative of what you'd find on actual organs (modulo an outlier or two like the Atlantic City Convention Hall instrument).

People can get another misconception from "Church Organ" sounds, on whatever platform: those fierce, bright, loud, end-of-church-service or "there goes the bride" registrations aren't "the" pipe organ sound, but rather just one corner of a wide tonal gamut. I recall reading that MuseScore used to incorporate the flexible free-and-open-source Aeolus synthesized organ, but that there was some sort of disagreement with its author?

In reply to by grinningcat

And MuseScore cannot even "do" that (organ "plenum" sound) adequately, because the latter features a very purposeful "nonlinear" element ("mixtures") that causes linear extrapolation of notes to fail, causing audible and ugly tonal discontinuities between adjacent notes (see ) . The one-sample-per-note strategy of Virtual Pipe Organs is necessary.

In reply to by underquark

Yes, part of the fun of an organ is indeed the very wide pitch range! The deep notes and high notes are obtained not from extremely long keyboards, but using stops of different footages (octaves), often played in combination. 8' stops play as written, like a piano; 4' stops are an octave above; 2' stops are an octave above that; 16' stops (usually a special effect for manual keyboards, but the standard pitch on the pedal keyboard) sound an octave below the notated pitch; 32' stops sound an octave below that.

(The numbers come from the approximate length of an open flue pipe for C2, the lowest key or pedal on most organs.)

800px-Organ_Range.png (notation by Jaksmata, from Wikimedia Commons)

In reply to by grinningcat

It's worth mentioning that in practice, most organ registrations (stop choices and combinations) are built around 8' tone in the manuals (16' in the pedal) with other pitches adding breadth and brilliance.

For example, a soft, gentle registration might have just 8' stops (the softer ones, obviously!), or 8' and 4'. A bright, "sparkly" registration that's not too loud might use 8' and 2' flutes. A solo voice for playing a melody accompanied by different sounds might be an 8' oboe or clarinet stop. A moderately loud registration, say for supporting a church full of people singing, might be based on diapasons (the rich, broad, characteristic "church organ" timbre) at 8', 4', and 2', perhaps with other additions. "There goes the bride" might include 16', 8', 4', 2 2/3', 2', and 1', mostly diapasons with some flutes and reeds (like oboe or trumpet) thrown in, and also including mixtures, ( ) the high, bright bundles of harmonic pitches BSG mentioned ( ) that keep changing composition as you go up the keyboard. Almost every stop that's not 8' is designed to complement and reinforce certain harmonics in the 8' tone, and add its own kind of richness and brilliance.

Plenty has been written on the art of organ registration! Different eras and regions have had their own styles and traditions in classical organ music. There are plenty of rules of thumb; but if someone asks me "how do you know which stops to use?" or "What's the correct registration for...?" my answer will include "It depends" -- on any conventional category of organ sound you're trying to evoke, on the composer's instructions (if given), on your own musical sensibility (perhaps including choosing to overrule those instructions), on the particular effect you're trying to get, on what the stops of that particular organ sound like and the possibilities they offer, by themselves and in combination (which may or may not be similar to the organs the composer knew), on the room and its acoustics, on how many people there are in the room, whether they're listening or singing... Duke Ellington had it right: "If it sounds good, it is good."

In reply to by grinningcat

What question is being answered here? I would think that 90% of the people who use "organ" in MuseScore don't know any of that, and for them, the General Midi Plenum organ, "yeah! That sounds like an organ!", does fine, but for an organist or someone else familiar with the literature, styles, and traditions of "Bach's Royal Instrument' (--Schumann), including the natures and traditions of registration, this model doesn't work, and a Virtual Pipe Organ system is needed. If you know enough about organs to know that "manual" doesn't mean "book of documentation", General MIDI MuseScore can't really help you (soundwise), and you already know that. Mr Cat, are you in fact A?

In reply to by [DELETED] 1831606

Arguing with myself about the nature of the thread, but adding to your comment, registrations are also influenced by the nature of the piece -- trio sonata, chorale prelude canto fermo in [pick one], fugue (section), etc., and knowledge of the kinds of registrations which have been deemed appropriate for that type of movement or texture by tradition of composers, teachers, and other organists over the centuries. And a large part of being an organist is knowing not only that, but how to adapt that to the resources of a particular instrument. A non-organist cannot simply sit down at an organ and play any more than at the controls of a plane.

In reply to by freshbazar1

A real organ of good size is capable of an almost infinite variety of sounds from whispers to roars, achieved via an array of selectable voices ("stops") and their combinations. The idea that any one "organ" sound can be anything more than one sound is the basic problem. The single MS (or MIDI) "Church organ" sound is really "church organ plenum", one sound. One sound cannot represent "organ" any more than one song can represent a singer of many songs. That is not a MuseScore problem, but a fundamental difference of "approach" between real organs and General-MIDI-based synthesizers and platforms.

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