Welcome to The Latter-day Saint Organist's Resource 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.

Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review: Roland C-330 Classic Organ

Roland C-330 Classic Organ

I had the opportunity early this month to attend a luncheon and demonstration of the new Roland C-330 Classic Organ by Hector Olivera at Heritage Church Organ Company.


I was initially intrigued by the size. With an older organ plus two external speakers taking up a large amount of space in my living room, the compact footprint of this new organ with satellite speakers that tuck away into the back of the organ would be a welcome change.

Organ back

At first glance, the stops did not look impressive to me. With 33 stops, it seemed to cover just the very basics of organ registration.


Manual I

Manual II

Then the demonstration began, and I was amazed.

This tiny organ is magnificent. Beginning with Bach's organ in Arnstadt, Maestro Olivera took us on a wonderful journey through time, exposing us to organs throughout the world and through the centuries. Every one of these organs was played on this tiny new Roland, and I felt as if I were being transported to each church and cathedral as he played.

Then we were introduced to the orchestral oboe, clarinet, flute, and trumpet. I never imagined such sound could come from an organ! The pedal harpsichord was just icing on the cake.

The stoplist is extremely large, with three alternate voice palettes totaling 108 voices, plus an additional 72 which can be accessed on any keyboard through two user selected stops on each. Unlike with some other organs, palettes can be mixed and matched at will.

The keyboards have "true" tracker action (they even make wind noise when no stops are pulled), and are velocity sensitive for stops such as the orchestral trumpet.

My favorite feature, however is that no computer is needed to change the stops of the organ. Volume, octave, chiff, presence, warmth, windchest panning, and more are at your fingertips.


I can't even begin to cover everything that this organ does in one post. For more information, you can fill out a form on this website, or read the information on the official Roland site.

Oh, and if you want to buy one for me, I won't complain. :)

August 7, 2010 Update: I had the opportunity to play on this organ this past week at the BYU Organ Workshop. The built in speakers aren't nearly as powerful as the speakers in the above videos. They sound cheap. It also lacks a sub-woofer (which you can purchase separately), so the bass isn't as prominent, either. Also, in the bit of time I had to play with it, I did not see how to change all of the fun things (like chiff, presence, etc.). I was unable to mimic Hector's sounds. It is still a good little organ, and the price is "affordable," relatively speaking. It just wasn't as impressive when I played it as it was when Hector Olivera played it, which is to be expected, but was disappointing, nonetheless.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Lesson 21: The History of the Organ

Click here for lesson 20: Transcribing Piano Music for the Organ

Now that we've covered a lot of the basics, I thought it was probably time for a bit of a history lesson.

In listening to the Sunday Songs, you might have noticed that pipe organs have distinct sounds, depending on when they were built. While the organ dates back quite far, today I'll start with the Renaissance.


When the Renaissance began, organists usually were able to play on a single 8' Principal stop, or the Blockwerk, which included every stop on the organ.


During the late Renaissance and Baroque periods, the organ's sound became more varied with stops such as the krummhorn and the viola da gamba. This is often considered the organ's golden age.

During this time period, different national styles of organ building began to develop. According to Wikipedia:

"In the Netherlands, the organ became a large instrument with several divisions, doubled ranks, and mounted cornets. The organs of northern Germany also had more divisions, and independent pedal divisions became increasingly common. "

"In France, as in Italy and Spain, organs were primarily designed to play alternatim verses rather than accompany congregational singing. The French Classical Organ, became remarkably consistent throughout France over the course of the Baroque era, more so than any other style of organ building in history, and standardized registrations developed."

"English organs evolved from small one- or two-manual instruments into three or more divisions disposed in the French manner with grander reeds and mixtures."


Organ music was seldom written in the Classical era--the organ pretty much skipped the classical period in favor of the piano.


During the Romantic period, the organ became more symphonic. Due to new technologies, it was now possible to build larger organs with more stops, which meant more variation in sound and timbre, and more divisions. The desire for louder, grander organs required that the stops be voiced on a higher wind pressure than before, so Cavaillé-Coll configured the English "Barker lever" that we discussed here.

During this period, organ builders began to use more 8′ and 16′ stops and created a warmer, richer sound. Camille Saint-Saëns and Gustav Mahler used the organ in their orchestral works.

Modern Day

Pipe organ require a lot of space and a huge amount of money in order to be built. Instead, modern electronic organs are often preferred due to their smaller size and lower price tag. Electronic organ builders are constantly striving to make their organs sound as authentic as possible by sampling authentic pipe organs.


Continue practicing the organ as often as you are able so that you continue to retain what you have learned. Feel free to choose another hymn to mark and learn.

Take some time to read up on the history of the pipe organ online. Spend time listening to different online videos of pipe organs. Listen to and enjoy all of the different tonal colors that are out there.

In Conclusion

I am about as far from an expert as you can get when it comes to the history of the organ, but it does fascinate me. One of the reasons I love the organ so much is because of the numerous colors that are available at my fingertips, and because every organ is a new experience.

Continue on to lesson 22.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Song: Come, Come Ye Saints

Happy Pioneer Day yesterday!

Today's Sunday Song is "Come, Come Ye Saints" performed in the Tabernacle by Clay Christiansen. Listen for the Nauvoo Bell at the end.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Organs on Temple Square to be Featured on Pipedreams

Conference Center Organ Console

Pipedreams from American Public Media will air a radio broadcast featuring performances on the notable instruments of Temple Square (including the Mormon Tabernacle, LDS Assembly Hall and Conference Center, plus Salt Lake City’s Cathedral of the Madeleine) the week of July 26.

To view the selections on the program, visit http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/listings/2010/1030/.

To find stations that will broadcast this program, and the time of the weekly broadcast, visit http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/stations/.

For more information on Pipedreams, visit http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/.

Update August 10, 2010: Visiting http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/listings/2010/1030/ will allow you to listen to the full length program.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lesson 20: Transcribing Piano Music for the Organ

Click here for Lesson 19: Registering the Organ for Choir Accompaniment

A month ago I shared the first guest lesson by Carol Dean, on how to register the organ for choir accompaniment. Today I'll share the second lesson, which shows how to transcribe piano music for the organ.

If you have ever tried to play a piano accompaniment on the organ, you've probably realized that changes need to be made. Here, Carol Dean shares some ways to do this.


Octaves often become single notes, in both the treble and bass clefs. If needed, add higher-pitched stops for additional brilliance in manuals. In the pedals, using 16' and 8' stops automatically gives bass octave doubling.

In general, you will play the upper notes of bass octaves and the lower notes of treble octaves.

Bass Lines

Pedals do not always have to be used. If a bass line is simple and well defined, it may be played in its entirety.

Play a very rapid bass line on the manuals with the 16' pedal only on the accented beat.


Thin out the chord texture by putting chords in "open" position and getting rid of "doublings." Remember that when using 4' and 2' stops, doublings occur automatically.

Doubling piano

Doubling organ


A compromise must be obtained between too much repetition and too much tying. Sustained block chords would rob a piece of its inherent motion, but repeating every note would result in too choppy an effect.

Repetition piano

Repetition organ


Arpeggios are especially problematic when transcribed for the organ.

Arpeggio piano

Use a louder registration for right hand than left hand:

Arpeggio organ 2

Or this:

Arpeggio organ 2

For a lighter sound:

Arpeggio organ 3


Although rare, tremolos do occur occasionally. Sustain the outer voices, and let the inner voices do the repercussing.

Tremolo piano

Tremolo organ

Thank you again, Carol, for a wonderful lesson!


Using the choir piece you selected in lesson 19, modify it as outlined in this lesson for the organ, then begin practicing it, making additional modifications as necessary.

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, so that you don't lose what you've gained.

In Conclusion

In the Church, many treat the organ and piano as the same instrument. In reality they differ greatly, as this blog constantly strives to teach. The tools taught in this lesson will help you play pieces that were written for the piano effectively on the organ.

Continue on to lesson 21.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Song: The Thunderer

The Thunderer by John Philips Sousa. Arranged and performed by Linda Margetts.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Article Review

Throughout this year a number of articles have been published which are of interest to my readers. I'm taking a moment this week to review them, in case you missed any.

The Importance of Proper and Consistent Tempo shares through video example why proper tempo is so important in congregational singing.

Which Organ is Best--Johannus, Allen, or Rodgers? is my personal review of the three current options for LDS chapels.

Review: Nine Hymn Studies by D. Kim Croft is my review and recommendation of this extremely simple yet beautiful compilation of hymn arrangements.

Breathing is an article on why it is important for the organ to breathe, and what happens when the organ breathes in the wrong places. It has video examples.

Seek the Good is an inspiring reminder that music in the Church should not be elitist--it is for everyone.

Organ Tour: The John Wanamaker Grand Organ highlights the world's biggest pipe organ through two videos and a link to more information.

Articles and the AGO is a request for guest articles and an introduction to the American Guild of Organists.

Confidence and Preparation shows the difference between a well-prepared and unprepared organist through word and video, and explains the importance of preparation.

Free Bach downloads shares a link to free audio downloads of all 270 Bach organ works.

Magnum Opus is Again Available brings attention to an excellent behind-the-facade glimpse of the design and building of the Schoenstein organ in the Conference Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Using Hymns Made Easy shares different ways to utilize this hymn book in Sacrament Meetings.

Guest Article: Allen AP-22a compared to AP16 is a guest article written by Barry Holben, Vice President of Sales for the Allen Organ Company, and also includes videos of Mr. Holben playing the organ.

Happy 325 Birthday, Bach! is a brief biographical sketch of the supreme composer of the Baroque, and as one of the greatest of all time.

Playing with Injuries is an article I researched after I sprained my ankle quite severely. What do most organists do when they suffer an injury?

Tracker Action compares this action to the manual typewriter's action though visualization and videos, and explains what track action actually means.

Organ Tour: The oldest playable organ in the world shares pictures and videos of a "swallows nest organ" from the 14th-century, the oldest playable organ in the world.

Free Accompaniments explains that free accompaniments are not arrangements you can get for no cost, but they can be valuable if utilized sparingly in your congregation.

Guest Article: Playing Preludes from a Hymnal was written by Mike Carson, former dean of the Utah Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, and current Bonneville District Convener in the AGO shares valuable information on how to play effective prelude directly from the hymnal.

Help me spread the word! is a request for helping share the resources on this blog with others. It includes a file that can be printed, then shared with those around you.

Organ Tour: The Great Stalacpipe Organ shares information on what is not technically an organ, but what is the world's largest instrument, covering 3 1/2 acres.

A new approach to organ technique shares my discovery of a new way of thinking after David Chamberlain shared his philosophy on organ technique.

The Mormon Tabernacle Organ Websites shares some great resources on the organs of Temple Square.

If you would like to write a guest article or have suggestions for future articles, please leave a comment or email ldsorganistblog @ gmail . com.

Thank you!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lesson Review

For some of you, like me, summer is a crazy time! I recommend taking this opportunity to review the lessons that have been covered to this point. As you practice the organ, reviewing past lessons will allow you to perfect skills you may have missed the first time around.

Before We Begin: Acquiring the Essentials discusses proper organ shoes, Carol Dean's marked hymnal, and how to compile your organ's stoplist.

Lesson 1: Understanding Parts of the Organ covers the organ console, the manuals, the pedal board, expression and crescendo pedals, stops, couplers, pistons and combination action, and the organ bench.

Lesson 2: Demystifying the Organ Stops, Part 1 explains the meaning of the numbers and Roman numerals on the organ stops.

Lesson 3: Demystifying the Organ Stops, Part 2 explains the flue pipes, the reed pipes, and their families and types.

Lesson 4: Hymn Registrations briefly explains the different types of registration and how to create chorus registrations for congregational accompaniment.

Lesson 5: Interpreting the Hymn Text teaches the importance of tempo, registration guidelines, and how to better share the message of the hymn through registration.

Lesson 6: Breaking in Those Shoes teaches proper bench positioning, the importance of clean pedals, pedaling basics and symbols, and intervals up to a fourth.

Lesson 7: More Pedaling quickly reviews lesson 6, then covers larger intervals, heel playing, prelocating, and releases and note value.

Lesson 8: The Manuals teaches proper posture, seven organ techniques, common tones and tying, and practical application.

Lesson 9: Playing Your First Hymn teaches the 15-step and 7-step methods for learning hymns using hymn 285, "God Moves in a Mysterious Way."

Lesson 10: More Techniques in Hymns covers the techniques needed to learn hymn number 4, "Truth Eternal," from pedaling and fingering, to common tones and repeated notes.

Lesson 11: Prelude Registration is from Don Cook's The New LDS Organist packet and covers chorus and solo and accompaniment registrations.

Lesson 12: Prelude and Postlude shares the importance of prelude and postlude, what to play, and when to start.

Lesson 13: Thumb Glissando and a New Hymn shares a video of proper thumb glissando technique and how to implement it in hymn number 11, "What Was Witnessed in the Heavens."

Lesson 14: Marking a Hymn, Part 1 teaches how to mark hymn 296, "Our Father, by Whose Name" for breathing.

Lesson 15: Marking a Hymn, Part 2 teaches how to mark hymn 296, "Our Father, by Whose Name" for pedaling.

Lesson 16: Marking a Hymn, Part 3 covers how to mark hymn 296, "Our Father, by Whose Name" for common tones and tying, direct fingering, and redistribution of the inner part.

Lesson 17: More on Stops, Couplers, Pistons, and Combination Action explains stops and couplers, pistons and combination action in more depth and explains how to utilize programmable pistons.

Lesson 18: Seeking More Instruction shares numerous websites, books, software, courses, and workshops that are available to organists of all skill levels.

Lesson 19: Registering the Organ for Choir Accompaniment is Carol Dean's first guest lesson and covers the basics for choir accompaniment registration.

Coming soon is the second part of Carol Dean's choir accompaniment lesson. Stay tuned!

As always, if you have any suggestions for future lessons, please leave a comment.

Thank you!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Song: Bossi's "Entrée Pontificale C-Dur"

A fairly unknown work, but one that I love: Marco Enrico Bossi's "Entrée Pontificale" played by Felix Bräuer in the Cathedral of St. Peter.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sunday Song: "Hymn Improvisation: National Hymn - God of Our Fathers, God Bless America"

Played by John Hong at the Allen Organ Company in Macungie, PA, this piece concludes the special patriotic Sunday.


Sunday Song: "Stars and Stripes Forever"

Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" played by Cameron Carpenter at Trinity Church Wall Street. This piece is amazing!

Sunday Song: "Concert Variations on the Star-Spangled Banner"

John Hong plays Dudley Buck's "Concert Variations on the Star-Spangled Banner" on the Moller 4-manual Pipe Organ at the Washington Memorial Chapel.

Sunday Song: The Liberty Bell

"The Liberty Bell" by John Philip Sousa, arr. Richard Elliott from the CD: Organ of the Mormon Tabernacle

Sunday Song: Patriotic Medley

Happy Fourth of July! Today five different songs will be posted, so stay tuned!

The first song today is Charlie Balogh playing a Patriotic Medley on the Organ Stop Pizza's Mighty Wurlitzer.