Pipe Organ Tuning and Service
PO Box 386
Conover, NC 28613
Q. Can we set back our sanctuary thermostat during the week, so we don't have to heat/cool the room when it is not in use?
A. Yes. If you change the thermostat, the organ's pitch will change - sharper when it is warmer, flatter when it is colder. The tuning will re-adjust itself when the temperature is set up for Sunday services. You will notice that the reeds (Trumpet, Oboe, Clarinet, etc.) will sound out of tune with the rest of the organ when the temperature is not at the correct level. This is actually because the pitches of the reed pipes are less affected than the flue pipes around it. So, even though the reeds are blamed for being out of tune, it's probably the rest of the organ that has moved. Always remember, though, that for the organ to be at its proper pitch, you must allow sufficient time for the room temperature to adjust. If the church reduces the level of heat or air conditioning during the week, you should allow 8-12 hours (or 1 hour per degree of difference) for the heat or cooling in the room to stabilize and for the materials in the organ (pipes, chests, windlines, etc.) to also adjust to the new temperature. It is also necessary sometimes to have the same temperature throughout the entire sanctuary.
Q. What is tonal finishing and why is it important?
A. An organ that has not been carefully finished tonally, has really not been finished at all. Tonal finishing is the process of carefully regulating the sound of each pipe in an organ in the room in which it will be heard.
Q. How often should our pipe organ be serviced? How should we prepare for a service visit?
A. Nothing is more important to the longevity, dependability, and musicality of your pipe organ than routine service. This shouldn't be a costly process, especially in smaller organs. We recommend two service visits per year for most organs, in the Spring and Fall, or as needed for special events. These visits should be timed to occur after seasonal change-over between building heat and air conditioning. These visits are scheduled with your office – to be sure we don't conflict with the church's schedule. For the visit to be successful, and to keep the cost of the visit low,it is important that the church prepare for us by doing three simple things:
1. If the organist has any particular problems with the organ, a note should be left on the console so we can make any needed repairs.
2. Let your church and custodial staff know we are coming, and ask them to help us by staying out of the sanctuary while we are working. Conversations and vacuum cleaning can make tuning much more time-consuming, and sometimes impossible.
3. Have the heat or air-conditioning at Sunday morning temperature levels. Set these levels in the sanctuary the day before our visit. If the heat or A/C in the room isn't stable, the tuning will not be accurate.
Daniel Foster, Member, American Institute of Organbuilders