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REED ORGANS



There are many different types of organs but principally there are pipe organs and reed organs.


Pipe organs, as you discovered in the “Bach and the Pipe Organ” CD/MP3, are built into a room. You cannot move them. Reed organs, however, are more the size of an upright piano and can be moved. Other than size and portability, how are they different?


Pipe organs make their sound with wind passing through the pipe and out through the “lips” of the pipe. This is very much like how a flutist make a sound on the flute.


Reed organs make their sound by wind vibrating a reed, very much like an oboe or a bassoon.





Unlike the pipe organ where you have an electric motor pumping air into the bellows, with the reed organ you fill and empty the bellows by moving the pedals up and down with your feet. You must pump the entire time you are playing.


NOTE: It is interesting that the pipe organ pipe calls its opening the “lips” and the reed organ calls the vibrating part the “tongue.”

Reed organs were very popular in the 19th century both in Europe and the United States.


A common model found in a home in America might look like this. It has various stops to create different sounds, like “flute” or “oboe” or “coupler” that connects two octaves so that you can get a bigger sound, but they never have as many stops as a large pipe organ. There were pump organs made with more than one manual (keyboard) but they are more unusual.




Reed organs are softer and more mellow than a piano and have a very pleasing sound. My father had one in our winter house and our summer house and when we were too small to have our feet reach the pedals, one of us children would sit on the floor and pump the pedals with our hands so the other could play on the keyboard. Finding repairmen for the reed organs was never easy and there was always a search when a reed needed to be replaced, as it probably would have to come from an older, non-functioning organ.


This is a very unusual reed organ, the Apfelorgan (“apple organ” in German) which has a wonderful sound.


As you can see, this the organ on the left takes two people to play, a pumper and a player.


- Bonnie Simon, Executive Producer and Creative Director, Maestro Classics

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