Guide to Organ Keyboard

Guide to the Organ: one of the oldest musical instruments associated with Western music.

The organ is among the oldest musical instruments associated with Western music.

Though primarily associated with churches and cathedrals, they are found in cinemas, theatres, schools, concert halls, castles, and even some houses.

And though their digital keyboard counterparts are becoming more popular, several companies still make new historic instruments, and several festivals, concerts and competitions still take place to showcase new talent as well as promote organ music recordings.


Pipe Organ in Church

Structure of a Music Organ

The music organ basically consists of a keyboard instrument with one or more divisions, each of them having its own keyboard.

The pipe organ is among the biggest musical instrument that exists today. Depending on its size, its made up of hundreds or even thousands of pipes that make different sounds at different pitches.

The small pipes make high sounds (treble) and large pipes make lower sounds (bass).

How is It Played?

Music Organ Keyboard
An organ is usually played using both your hands as well as the feet.

The pipes are played using the keyboards, and the player makes use of stops to control which sets of pipes make the sound.

To create grand and thrilling music, organist use lots of stops, whereas to create a calm and sweet atmosphere, only a few stops are used.

The player may also use the pedal-board to play additional notes; it’s basically a keyboard that is played with the feet.

Types of Organs

The more common types of Organs include:

  • Pipe Organs: Includes church organs, chamber organs, theatre organs, and other pipe organs
  • Reed Organs
  • Electronic organs: Includes Hammond and other electronic / digital organs
  • Use of Organ music

    You can find the use of organ music in the following:

    Classical Music
    The organ has always had an important place in the history of classical music with several composers composing for this keyboard instrument. However, over time, the piano started becoming more popular compared to the organ.

    Soap Operas
    Some of the more melodramatic serials (that were made few decades back) used organ a lot for providing the background music, and also for their opening and closing theme songs.

    Rock Music
    Rock musician’s love the sound of church-style pipe organs and you will find these sounds used occasionally in rock music.


    Electronic Organ Hammond

    Sporting organs
    Not many would know (especially those who are not from North America) that in the US / Canada, organ music is commonly associated with sports, especially baseball and ice hockey.

    Notating Organ Music

    Many students hate reading music for the piano as it’s written across two staves. But in the case of organs there’s a third staff as well because you can also play notes using the pedals.

    An organ has both manuals as well as pedals, hence organ music has come to be notated on three staves.

    The music played on the manuals is similar to what you find for most keyboard instruments (written on the top two staves), and the music for the pedals is notated on the third stave or sometimes, to save space, added to the bottom of the second staff.

    Can You Expect a Good Resale Value for An Electronic Organ?

    So can you expect a good resale value for an electronic organ?

    Well, the answer to this is ‘Not Really’, and it also applies to many digital pianos.

    The fact of the matter is that most electronic organs, especially spinet/home type organs will have little or nil value (exceptions being Allen and Rodgers classic organs).

    Classic organs (similar to acoustic pianos) will retain value several years down the line.

    However, that’s not true of most home electronic organ.

    But then, why are they so expensive if their resale value is virtually nonexistent?

    Well, that’s the case with most electronic products nowadays. The latest laptop or smartphone may not fetch you anything in resale value couple of years down the line.

    Its the way the market is working at the moment, especially for digital and electronic products.

    There are many households who have these electronic organs and falsely believe that its going to fetch them thousands of dollars. However, the sad truth is that there is no value to it other than what someone is ready to pay for it.

    Beautiful Noack Organ at the UC Berkeley Hertz Hall

    Over the years, with change in church services and the preference of music, organ music is no longer as popular as it once used to. However, there are some who are making sure its not yet a dead instrument, and want people to hear this beautiful music instrument.

    The Noack organ was recently setup at the Hertz Hall in UC Berkeley and replaces an electronic organ. The old organ was fine, but because of its electronic action, it was more suited to 20th century music, and not for classical stuff written by composers like J.S. Bach in the 17th and 18th centuries.

    Beautiful Noack Organ Installed at the UC Berkeley Hertz Hall

    Mr Moroney, a music professor at Berkeley and organist and harpsichordist, and responsible for the organ’s installation and tonal finishing, is happy with the installation of the new organ and feels that its mechanical action allows for great range of dynamics. Full story here…

    Here’s how this beautiful organ sounds like.

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