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[Phys-L] Saving Money on Tuning a Pipe Organ

Hi Phys-L,

A local church was recently celebrating having just gotten their pipe organ tuned. I responded by declaring that they could save money if considering the following:

1. Temperature: Presumably the organ pipes are kept within a 40-degree temperature range throughout the year, in which case there would be no significant change in any pipe dimension, so, temperature variability would not be an incentive for “tuning.”

2. Humidity: If humidity cannot be kept constant (within 1 or 2 %) then the organ will never be in tune, because the humidity normally changes at least daily irrespective of time of year. However, the average humidity is lower in winter, but we cannot predict how cold a winter is coming. Therefore I claim that humidity cannot be a reason for organ “tuning.”

3. Vibration: The more the organ is played the more the pipes assembly will be vibrated, and the more the pipe sleeves will drift downward. Therefore, after a newly-installed organ has been played for a year, and the pipes and their mountings have gravitationally settled, then the sleeves could be stabilized so they can no longer move.

4. No further tunings should be necessary, barring an earthquake or nearby excavation, or other incident such as a prank, a stolen pipe, or a rat dragging foreign matter into a pipe, or a local soprano out of control.

5. The congregation should not have been told that the organ had been tuned, rather they should have been asked to report any changes in organ sound as the months went by. That would have enabled objectivity. A log of these reports would sometimes enable correlating organ sound changes with common organ sound-affecting incidents.



Bill Norwood
U of MD at College Park
Since 1966

I have no experience tuning organs - just guitars.

Sent from my iPhone