A Quick Way to Play the Organ

The organ is a keyboard instrument of one or more pipe divisions; each of these divisions is played with its own keyboard, either with the hand or with the feet using pedals.

It is the most complex, the longest and the most involved musical instruments in western music.

You can find the organ in use with many modern styles of music.

Besides traditional gospel music, the organ can also be seen in jazz, pop, swing, new wave, rock and roll and many other types of music.

The organ is one of the most interesting and most fascinating instruments to play.

This is why it is often called “The King of Instruments” due to its ability to produce sounds across wide ranges of both volume and pitch.

Learning the organ can seem very difficult but at the same time, it can also become extremely rewarding, as the musical variety they are capable of is astounding.

By starting with the piano and obtaining the right materials, you will be on your way to the organ success.

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History Of The Organ

The organ is a relatively old musical instrument.

It history date back to the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria, the inventor of the water organ between 222 BC to 285 BC.

It was played throughout the Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman world, particularly during races and games.

During the early medieval period it spread from the Byzantine Empire, where it continued to be used in non-religious and imperial court music, to Western Europe, where it gradually assumed a prominent place in the liturgy of the Catholic Church.

Subsequently it re-emerged as a secular and recital instrument in the Classical music tradition.

Types of organs

There are many variations of the organ. Take a look of these major ones:

Chord organ

The chord organ is a kind of home organ with a keyboard and a set of chord buttons, enabling the musician to play a melody or lead with one hand and accompanying chords with the other, like the accordion.

It was invented by Laurens Hammond in 1950 as an electronic home organ based on vacuum-tube circuits similar to the Novachord and Solovox.

In addition to Hammond, Wurlitzer, Farfisa and Estey also made chord organs.

In the 1960s, Magnus Harmonica Corporation introduced their electric chord organs similar to electrically blown small home reed organs.

Since then, chord organs were generally designed as toy instruments, and separated from the mainstream of home electronic organs.

Pipe Organ

The pipe organ is a musical instrument commonly used in churches or cathedrals.

This type of organ produces sound by driving pressurized air through pipes selected via a keyboard.

Because each organ pipe produces a single pitch, the pipes are provided in sets called ranks, each of which has a common timbre and volume throughout the keyboard compass.

Most organs have multiple ranks of pipes of differing timbre, pitch and loudness that the player can employ singly or in combination through the use of controls called stops.

A pipe organ has one or more keyboards played by the hands, and a pedalboard played by the feet, each of which has its own group of stops.

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Positive Organ

A positive organ is a small, usually one-manual, pipe organ that is built to be more or less mobile.

It was common in sacred and secular music between the 10th and the 18th centuries, in chapels and small churches, as a chamber organ and for the basso continuo in ensemble works.

The smallest common kind of positive, hardly higher than the keyboard, is called chest or box organ and is especially popular nowadays for basso continuo work; positives for more independent use tend to be higher.

From the Middle Ages through Renaissance and Baroque the instrument came in many different forms, including processional and tabletop organs that have profited relatively less from the renewed popularity

Reed Organ

The reed organ is the type of organ that generates sound with bellows.

More portable than pipe organs, reed organs were widely used in smaller churches and in private homes in the 19th century, but their volume and tonal range are limited, and they generally had one or sometimes two manuals, with pedal-boards being rare.

The finer instruments have a unique tone, and the cabinets of those intended for churches and affluent homes were often excellent pieces of furniture.

Several million reed organs and melodeons were made between the 1850s and the 1920s.

During this time Estey Organ and Mason & Hamlin were the popular manufacturers.

Regal Organ

The regal was a small portable organ, furnished with beating reeds and having two bellows.

The instrument enjoyed its greatest popularity during the Renaissance.

The name was also sometimes given to the reed stops of a pipe organ.

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Serinette Organ

A serinette is a type of mechanical musical instrument consisting of a small barrel organ.

It appeared in the first half of the 18th century in eastern France, and was used to teach tunes to canaries.

Its name is derived from the French serin, meaning “canary.”

Serinettes are housed in a wooden case, normally of walnut, and typically measuring 265 × 200 × 150 mm.

The instrument is played by turning a crank mounted on the front.

The crank pumps a bellows to supply air to the pipes, and also turns a wooden barrel by means of gears.

Driven into the barrel are brass pins and staples with which the pieces of music are encoded.

Wanamaker Organ

The Wanamaker Grand Court Organ, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is the largest operational pipe organ in the world, located within a spacious 7-story court at Macy’s Center City.

The largest organ by some measures is the Boardwalk Hall Auditorium Organ.

The Wanamaker organ is played twice a day Monday through Saturday, but more frequently during the Christmas season.

The organ is also featured at several special concerts held throughout the year, including events featuring the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ Festival Chorus

Water Organ

The water organ or hydraulic organ is a type of pipe organ blown by air, where the power source pushing the air is derived by water from a natural source or by a manual pump.

Consequently, the water organ lacks a bellows, blower, or compressor.

On the water organ, since the 15th century, the water is also used as a source of power to drive a mechanism similar to that of the Barrel organ, which has a pinned barrel that contains a specific song to be played.

The hydraulis in ancient Greek is often imagined as an automatic organ, but there is no source evidence for it.

One of the oldest automatic instruments known is the automatic flute player invented by Banū Mūsā brothers in 9th-century.

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Organ Vs. Piano

The piano and organ are two of the most popular keyboard instruments in the world.

Both of them are very similar, however, there are some key differences that really set them apart.

Organs rely on air moving through pipes to project musical pitches.

Pianos, on the other hand, rely on hammers striking a set of strings and projecting via the soundboard.

Pianos also have 88 keys compared to an organ which has 61 keys.

A piano and an organ both use a keyboard as means for performance, but the mechanics behind the keys is different.

On a piano, whenever there’s a stroke on a key that is mechanically attached to a hammer, a sound is produced.

When this happens, the hammer will hit a metal string on a large frame that is held in tension.

The different strings of a piano are tuned to distinct frequencies, giving chords and sounds characterized by dissonance.

This is achieved when a player hits more than one key stroke at a time.

Keys are hit repetitively so as to sustain the piano’s sound, as the vibrations from the key strokes only last a while.

An organ keyboard on the other hand, creates sound electronically when a key is depressed.

There are no physical strings to be hit but rather, an electronic circuit is completed with each key depression.

The notes will sustain endlessly so there’s no need to strike the keys repetitively.

This is a key difference between an organ and the percussive piano.

A piano is a percussion instrument while an organ is a wind instrument.

Piano keys are mechanically attached to a hammer while organ keys are not.

Piano key strokes create sound that lasts a short while organ sound persists.

Piano key strokes need to be repetitively stroked to maintain sound whereas for an organ it’s not necessary.

How to Play the Organ

Learning the organ can seem difficult but also extremely rewarding.

Below are few key points that can help you play the organ.

Learn about the keyboard

Before you can learn to play the organ, you must have some experience on the piano.

In fact, many organ teachers will not accept you without at least one year of piano training.

Begin your journey by learning about the keyboard on the piano.

You must first understand what the various keys do, and which notes they can produce.

Each key represents a note on the musical staff, and the notes ascend or descend with the keyboard.

To practice actually using the keys, put your fingers on the keys, one on each key, with your hands curved so it’s like you have a ball under each palm, and practice pressing each key.

•        The keyboard of a piano repeats its notes from top to bottom across several octaves. This means that the notes change from low to high but don’t vary in pitch.

•        There are twelve notes a piano can produce: seven white key notes and five black key notes.

Learn to read music

As organ is considered an advanced instrument, most teachers will expect you to be able to read sheet music before you begin organ study.

Learning to read music can be challenging at first, but it is a crucial skill for mastering any musical instrument, including piano and organ.

•        Learn about the treble clef.

•        Move on to the bass clef.

•        Learn about the parts of the note (the note head, the stem, the flag).

•        Learn about meter and rhythm.

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Learn and Practice Scales

As you learn how to read music and more about the keyboard, you will eventually learn about scales.

Scales are sets of musical notes ordered by fundamental frequency or pitch.

A scale ordered by increasing pitch is an ascending scale, and a scale ordered by decreasing pitch is a descending scale.

Some scales contain different pitches when ascending than when descending.

Though you don’t need to know scales to play most songs, scales help you know how music is structured and will help you learn musical pieces faster.

Practice using your hands independently

Once you have become comfortable with piano scales, and perhaps started playing some simple compositions, you must learn to use each of your hands independently.

Eventually, you must be able to play two different movements, one with each hand at the same time.

This simultaneous playing must be mastered before you can advance to organ play.

Find an organ teacher

You can do many of the steps above on your own but one of the best ways to learn to play the organ is to get a teacher.

Though a teacher can be a financial investment, if you want to learn the organ, it will be well worth your time.

Not only can a teacher give you shortcut to help you learn faster, but they can also recommend better ways to learn the organ.

Also, a teacher will have access to an organ so you can begin playing before you commit to buying one.

If you choose to talk to a local Church Organist, make sure that they are well-qualified to teach.

When you make contact with a teacher, be sure to find out about their minimum requirements because every teacher may have a different requirement.

Once you have located a teacher in your area, create a regular schedule of lessons.

Find out if there is anything you must bring with you to each lesson.

Organize your other life obligations so that they do not conflict with your lesson times.

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Get An Organ

In order to learn the organ, you will need to practice outside of your lessons.

An organ is a large and expensive instrument, so before you can begin serious organ study, you must ensure that you have access to a practice instrument.

Speak to your instructor about the possibility of practicing at the studio, inquire at local churches, or obtain a small digital organ for home.

You Need An Organ Book

An introduction to organ book will help you to study the basics alongside what you learn during your lessons.

Most music stores will carry such a book.

Speak to your organ instructor about a book they recommends to work well alongside their teaching.

Get an organ shoe ready

Pedals are a unique aspect of organ playing, and having the proper footwear will help you develop efficient technique.

Additionally, since you will only be wearing your organ shoes when sitting at the organ, they will not pick up dirt or grime which can damage the pedals.

•        You can purchase them online for around sixty dollars.

•        Some instructors may require you to have proper organ shoes before you can play on their organ.

Study Pedal Technique

The primary difference between piano and organ is the introduction of a third voice, by way of the foot pedals.

To play organ, you must practice proper pedal form and technique.

Work to keep your heels together at all times.

Additionally, your knees should also be touching.

Finally, play on the inside of your foot, which means turning your ankle in.

Practice Legato Playing

With the organ, you do not want there to be any space between notes.

You likewise do not want the notes to overlap.

This is what is known as “legato playing.”

Legato playing also involves a technique called “trapping the note.”

This means holding a key down with one finger so that you can advance to another key (note) with a different finger.

For example, if you initially press a key down with your first finger, you may need to use your thumb to keep that key down, so that your first finger can advance to another key.

Work your way across the keyboard and back to master this technique and achieve a legato effect.

•        Begin practicing legato playing using only the white keys. Once you feel comfortable with this, work to incorporate the black keys.

•        When you feel comfortable playing legato with your hands, advance to practicing your legato playing with both hands and feet.

There is only one way to master any instrument, and that is practice, practice and practice.

Create a daily practice schedule for yourself and stick with it.

The more practice you can put in, the more you will get out of it.

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What You Must Know

Before playing the organ there are some things you must know.

1. There is no sustain pedal. This means you have to keep your finger on that note or it’ll stop playing immediately.

2. The pedals will be an interesting challenge for you if you haven’t done it before. Your fingers know right where to go, but your feet will not. Imagine playing the theme of a Bach fugue with your feet.

3. Emotion takes a different technique than the piano, because it doesn’t matter how hard or fast you hit the key. It’s more important on how long you hold the key or very slight changes in tempo. There are other tricks also.


The organ is a popular instrument used in many different styles of music.

As is true with other musical instruments, learning to play the organ takes time, practice and a good deal of patience.

The best way is to start with simple melodies, before progressing to the more complex songs.

This will help you to gain a sound understanding of the instrument and all of its capabilities.

What is your take on the organ as a musical instrument?

Leave your comment below.

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