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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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lesson 19: Registering the Organ for Choir Accompaniment

Click here for lesson 18: Seeking More Instruction

I think it is safe to say that most ward choirs, and many stake choirs, in the church are accompanied by the piano. I have had the privilege to live in a stake where the choir for stake conference was always accompanied by the organ, and it really added something to the music and to the spirit of the meeting.

Earlier this year I had our stake choir's accompaniment be on the organ for the first time. The spirit of the meeting was greatly magnified, and I was told by the Stake President that the music has never been as powerful as it was in that meeting. The organ is a truly magnificent instrument.

I challenge you to work towards utilizing the organ in your ward and stake choirs as well.

A Guest Lesson

Today's lesson is Carol Dean's first guest lesson on accompanying the choir on the organ. Carol Deal is the individual who made Hymns from the L.D.S. Hymnal Marked for the Organ available to us! This hymnbook is priced at cost and I often state that it is worth its weight in gold. (Especially since Hymns: Simplified Accompaniments is over $26 from the Church Distribution Center and that volume still doesn't have any fingering or pedaling marked.) If you'd like to order it, email her at carolorg1111 @ gmail . com email me at ldsorganistblog @ gmail (dot) com.

Today she will cover registration. Here are Carol's tips for registering the organ for choir accompaniment.


Set up the Swell as a softer manual with flutes and strings (8's or 8's + 4's).

Use the Swell for softer portions of the accompaniment, adding possibly a 4' Principal and/or 2' Flute as needed until the volume of the Swell approaches the volume of the Great.


Use the Great to Pedal reversible to balance pedal with Swell or Great. Turn it on when accompanying on the Great; turn it off when on the Swell.


Transfer to the Great when the accompaniment needs more support, gradually adding Swell to Great and more 4's and 2' Super Octave as volume increases.

In General

Do not use celestes, as they distort the pitch, except possibly once in a while for a different effect in a particular area of a piece.

Avoid heavy reeds, mutations, and mixtures. While mixtures can occasionally add brilliance, they should be used judiciously.

Dynamic changes can be effected by the use of the Swell pedal, registration changes, or manual changes. Crescendo pedal may be used to achieve sudden "louds" or "softs" or to achieve a longer, gradual crescendo if hands are too busy to pull on more stops. However, if the crescendo pedal is used, much care must be taken when further engaging the pedal so that louder stops don't pop on while holding chords.

A solo/accompaniment registration may be used to feature an interesting melodic line in the accompaniment or as a descant or obbligato to the choir.

For accompaniments with very high and very long ranges (remember, the piano has 88 keys, the organ only 61), bring the notes into the middle area of the organ. When 4's and 2's are on, any really high passages will be much higher and much more shrill than on the piano.

Remember that the only way to achieve accent on the organ is with silence, delay, or a combination of both. When you are preparing an accompaniment that is very orchestrally conceived (many ties and few rests), remember that you must provide articulation before strong beats in some of the voices to keep the forward motion and sense of rhythm clear to your choir and to the congregation.

Your job as an accompanist is to support the choir, not drown them out.

Arrange for as many rehearsals accompanying your choir on the organ as possible. The size of the choir determines the size of your registration. It takes time and trial and error to come up with the best possible solution to accompany effectively on the organ. It will not happen with just one choir/organ rehearsal.

Thank you so much, Carol! I hope my readers take your lesson to heart, and I look forward to posting your next installment.


Review this lesson and try some different registrations on the organ, that are geared towards choir use. Choose a choir piece that you would be interested in accompanying (there are many resources online: defordmusic.com, petriefamily.org/ldsmusic, or jackmanmusicexpress.com for a small fee are just a few). Think about how you would like to register the piece, and be prepared to adapt it for the organ in a future lesson.

Continue practicing your 3-stave hymn.

Continue working on previous homework assignments that haven't been mastered, and continue to practice the hymns and prelude pieces that you have learned in the past.

If you are interested, seek out a private, certified organ instructor or utilize the resources available through BYU (outlined in lesson 18).

In Conclusion

The organ is beautifully suited to accompany the choir. Through judicious use of stops, the organ can enhance the message of the choir and fill the room with a greater spirit of the music. While the piano's sound never varies from the hammer on the string, the organ can change from flutes, to light reeds, to full principals, as the text and accompaniment dictates, allowing a much richer experience for the congregation.

Continue on to Lesson 20.

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