Welcome to The LDS Organist Blog

The purpose of this blog is to help pianists learn to become true organists. Many individuals believe that if you play the piano you can play the organ, but the instruments differ greatly. While this blog is specifically geared towards members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, much of the information shared can be utilized by all. I hope that the information I share here will help you become an effective organist in your ward, stake, or other congregation.

Feel free to browse and search this blog. It was started in January 2010 and while new posts aren't added very often, this blog contains a wealth of information and is a wonderful resource for all organists. If you're a new reader, you can find the first lesson here: Before We Begin: Acquiring the Essentials. Also, please "like" the corresponding facebook page, which is updated more often. A link is provided on the right sidebar, or you can click here.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tracker Action

In some Sunday Songs I've mentioned tracker action. What is this action?

Tracker action

Tracker action is also referred to as mechanical action on pipe organs, as opposed to electrical. It's a similar comparison to a manual typewriter and electric typewriter. In one, the keys are connected to each individual letter:

Manual Typewriter

In the other, electric components tell the typewriter which letter to type:

Electric typewriter

This video demonstrates the tracker mechanism and action (from 3:18 to 3:56):


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As you can see, comparing this action to the manual typewriter's action helps visually explain this action (to those of us familiar with these typewriters).

When couplers are used on an organ which utilizes tracker action, the coupled manuals' keys are also depressed.

Here the Great and Swell are coupled to the lower keyboard (from 5:14 to 5:27):


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Finger Strength

As you can imagine, the more stops and/or couplers used, the more manual strength is needed to overcome wind pressure in order to to play the keys. On larger organs a Barker lever/machine or other pneumatic action is often employed to ease the pressure needed.

Tracker and the Allen AP-22a

While the new Allen organ being installed in LDS buildings is not a pipe organ, the touch of the keys mimics the feel of a tracker. Many pianists have remarked that the touch feels more like that of a piano. as there is now a slight resistance to the manuals. The couplers, however, use electronic action.

In Conclusion

Many of my readers don't have the opportunity to play on a pipe organ with tracker action. However, if you ever get that opportunity, I recommend taking it, or searching it out. I think it's a lot of fun to play these manual pipe organs.

There's a great view of the keys on coupled manuals in the first minute of this video:

1 comment:

  1. It is a little late to comment, but I just discovered this blog and I love it!

    I am quite the lucky LDS organist. Our stake has an electro-pneumatic 16-rank pipe organ installed in our building. I'm currently trying to convince the stake to purchase another pipe organ from another church that is selling off their small 4 rank organ for $5,000. I doubt it will go over well, the stake that purchased the pipe organ in the 1960s has a far diffierent attitude towards music than the current stake.

    Anyway, I play on that for LDS services, but I also play professionally at a local congregation. They have a small 12-rank self contained tracker organ. I must admit it was unusual getting used to it, but now I love the feel so much more than the electro-pneumatic action of our Casavant at the LDS chapel.

    The hardest thing to get used to was the pressure when using the couplers. The congregation is small (120 members usually show for Sunday services) but they are incredibly enthusiastic in their singing. This requires me to pull out all the stops (minus celestes) and the pressure becomes quite intense on the great manual.

    Our local AGO chapter hosted our local Pedals, Pipes, and Pizza there this year and the kids went wild. The organ is self contained and can be wheeled around the room, so the tracker action was at eye level with the children and they were able to observe it quite intimately. It was also at that time we found a couple of mice living directly under the bellows. :)

    On this particular organ the reversibles prove to be difficult as sometimes the piston doesn't quite have the "strength" the pull out the combinations. Nonetheless, I love playing on it. I believe that it was built better than our Casavant at the LDS church and has a far better selection of stops (it uses quite a few rank extensions).

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