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NAMM Sneak Peek

Pipe Organ

The largest musical instrument in the world, the pipe organ is played from one or more keyboards, which are historically known as manuals, while the sound is produced by metal or wood pipes tuned to specific pitches, with one pipe per pitch. Each specially voiced set of pipes is called a rank and each rank is accessed by the pulling out what is called a stop (the term “pulling out all the stops” refers to the manner in which Bach evaluated organs, which was by pulling out every stop and listening to all the pipes and thus judging its quality). The largest instruments may consist of many hundreds of pipes and over 100 stops on three manuals (keyboards) plus pedals. The wind power required to drive such an instrument is enormous. The monstrous Winchester Cathedral organ built back in the year 950 required two people to play it and no less than 70 strong men to work the 26 bellows. Modern organs, of course, use electricity to power the blowers that allow notes to sound through pipes which may be up to a massive 32 feet in length. It’s worth noting that the term “32-feet” refers to the actual length of the lowest C note on a particular rank. Thus a 4-foot (or 4′) rank has a low C that’s four feet long. The pipe organ is a phenomenal instrument that merits additional study.

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