The Real Pipe Organ
(Hosted on the
Raspberry Pi - a web server for 25.00 - and consuming only 5 watt!)

PLEASE NOTE: in 2021 the web address of this site changes to: (NB.: no "www")
The old site-address ( will cease to exist during 2021!

This page provides a brief introduction to the "real" pipe organ.
There would be no virtual organs without the real pipe organ, and we should remember that the former is not intended to replace the latter, except perhaps in those circumstances where it is not usually possible to have a real pipe organ - such as in a home (at least of standard size).

NB: at the bottom of this page, you will find details of a real pipe organ that is available for the cost of removal and a donation. If you'd like a pipe organ at home, this is your chance!
 (UPDATE: that organ was relocated quite some time ago)

Please note that if you were expecting to see the My Guitars page here, it has been moved. To see the "My Guitars" page, simply scroll down this page and click on the "My Guitars" link.


The pipe organ seems to possess many superlatives in it's descriptions.
First, it dates back a very long way - quite possibly to a period at least as far back as the Ancient Greeks.
Then, for many years (possibly hundreds of years) organs were the largest and the most complicated machines in existence, and could also be the loudest of all musical instruments.

As it's name suggests, the pipe organ is based on creating musical notes from pipes. Of course many musical instruments consist of a pipe - the flute, the trumpet, the French horn, the saxophone and many more. But the pipe organ is more like a set mechanically blown pan-pipes, where each note has its own pipe, rather than varying the length of a single pipe so as to create the different notes, as in a recorder or flute.

Organ Divisions

In most organs, most of the pipes are actually unseen. What you may see are some facade pipes which are often decorative and may not even speak. What you will also see clearly visibly, is the "console" which contains the manual keyboards (a variable number, often at least  three) which are played with the hands, a pedalboard for playing with the feet, and a set of knobs, or stops, which enable the organist to control the sound.

Usually each manual keyboard and the pedalboard, controls its own set of pipes, known as a "division". Thus an organ with three manual keyboards and a pedalboard will have four divisions - the usual names of these keyboards are taken from the divisional names - the lowest (in an English organ) being the "choir", the one above the choir being the "great", and the one above the great being the "swell".

One characteristic of the swell division is that it is enclosed in a chamber, separated from the church or concert hall by a set of shutters. By opening and closing these shutters with a foot pedal, the volume (and to some extent the tone) can be adjusted. This can be a useful facility as an organ has no innate volume control - its power depends on the number and type of stops which have been pulled.
If the organ has more than thee manuals, the upper two may be named "solo" and "echo".
The division played by the pedals is referred to as the "pedal" division. Each division has it's own set of pipes, although most organs have controls called "couplers" which allow the pipes of one division to be played using one the manual of different  division.

Playing the organ in a small parish church

At the console of a small parish church organ
Organ Ranks

Most organ manuals cover five octaves, which is 61 notes, and the pedalboard commonly has 30 or 32 pedal keys. An organ will have several, often very many, different types of pipes. The pipes are grouped together in "ranks", each usually consists of 61 pipes for a rank in a manual division, or 30/32 in the pedal division. Within a rank, each pipe is associated with just one key of its manual, so that when that key is depressed wind is released to blow through the pipe, and the required note will be produced. The lowest notes require longer pipes, and the higher notes require shorter pipes. The length of the pipe required doubles with each octave. A manual division with 10 ranks will require 10 x 61 = 610 pipes, but large organs will have many more ranks in each division. The largest organs have well over 10,000 pipes. Each rank is "turned off" by blocking its wind supply using the stops - thus opening a stop enables pipes of that rank to speak when its keyboard is played.

Types of Pipe

The pipes in an organ are divided into several categories, generally depending upon how the pipe makes its speech.
"Flue" pipes form the largest group, and are similar to a recorder - the air is blown across a mouth of the pipe, and the air vibrates at a pitch determined primarily by the length of the pipe. Note the it is the air which vibrates, not the pipe itself. Flue pipes are commonly metal (a lead and tin alloy), or wood. The typical "organ sound" is produced by the "diapasons" which are metal flue pipes of moderate cross-section.
"Flute" pipes, also in the flue pipe group,  are often of wood and of larger cross-sectional area, and produce a deeper, richer tone.
"String" pipes are commonly metal, but of much smaller cross-sectional area, which makes their tone thin, resembling a stringed instrument. The string-like tone may be enhanced by producing each note from a pair of pipes tuned each to very slightly different pitch, so that a shimmering string effect is produced.
"Reed" pipes work quite differently, producing their tone from a tuned brass reed which vibrates in an airstream in a similar fashion to an oboe or clarinet. Reed pipes usually produce a louder sound, with a much brighter tone. The nature of the resonator pipe attached to the reed determines the tone, and may be conical, wide or narrow. Some reeds are especially suited to playing the solo line of a tune, whereas others may be quieter and may suit blending as an ensemble. Although real-life trumpets and tubas have no reed, the organ rank of trumpet and tuba is commonly a reed in order to produce the bright tone and louder volume.

Mutations and Mixtures

Many organs have ranks of pipes which do not produce "C" when a "C" is played - these are called "mutation" stops. For example a stop known as the "Nasard" produces the third harmonic, which is actually the "G" in the octave above the "C" key actually played. Mutation stops are not played on their own, but when pulled with ordinary stops, they add "bite" to chords.

Not all ranks have a single pipe to produce one note A well-equipped organ will have stops which play more than a one pipe to produce a single note. These stops are called "mixtures" and often three or four pipes are used per note. Mixture stops may include a mutation pipe as well, and add body and bite to the chosen sound.

Ranks of pipes in a large organ 
At the console of a large Cathedral organ
At the console of a large cathedral organ equipped with four manuals.
Note the stops for three of the organ divisions on the right hand console
 jamb and the (smaller white) combination buttons beneath the manuals.

Rank Names

The name of a rank (or the stop controlling it) is taken both from the length of the longest pipe and its type. Thus a stop labelled "8 foot diapason" tells us that it is a metal flue pipe of medium tone and with a pitch that gives the same note as middle-C on a piano, when the organist plays middle-C on the keyboard manual. On the other hand a stop  to a stop labelled "16 foot bourdon" will commonly be found in a pedal division, and is a wooden flue pipe with a pitch an octave below middle-C. In each case, the 8 or 16 foot refers to the length of the longest pipe in the rank - the bottom C on the keyboard or pedalboard.

Combinations and Couplers

Organists usually pull a set of stops to produce the desired volume, tone and blend of sound. The typical organ sound is produced from a chorus of diapasons of say 8, 4 and 2 foot pitch, whereas the thundering pedal notes will be produced from the pedal reeds of 16 and 32 foot pitch. A quiet gentle sound can be produced from two or three string ranks, or a rather typical baroque sound by pulling 8 and 2 foot flutes together.
To aid the rapid change from one combination of pipes to another, special "combination pistons" and provided for operation by either the foot or the thumb, These can be preset to suit the programme of music to be played, before a concert performance.

It has already been mentioned that the manual of one division can be "coupled" to another division, enabling one keyboard, or the pedalboard, to play more than one division. This is one means whereby the very full, spine-tingling sound of a large organ played in tutti can be produced.

Theatre Organs

It is worth mentioning that the theatre or cinema organ is constructed somewhat differently from the classical pipe organ. Robert Hope-Jones invented a scheme, known as "unification" whereby 16, 8, 4 and 2 foot ranks of the same type of pipe where coalesced into a single rank. Thus pulling the 16' stop played the pipes from 16 foot upwards, and pulling an 8 foot stop played the pipes that were an octave higher. It reduced the size of the organ overall so that it could fit into a smaller space, but at the cost of a limited chorus of pipes, as in the unified organ, there is only one pipe of a given size for each rank of a given type. Also in the theatre organ scheme, most ranks are shared between most divisions, which somewhat dilutes the concept of a division - often a single chamber being used for all pipes.
The theatre organ owes it characteristic sound to the use of a very strong tremulant (generated by varying the wind pressure about 4-6 times a second), and by the use of pipes of wide cross-section, and by percussion and novelty sounds.
Although Hope-Jones was English, and some of his early organs survive in some English churches, most of his work was done in the USA, where he merged his company with Wurlitzer.

Playing a pipe organ for Sunday Services

Many organists play regularly on Sundays and at other times for the various church services. Here is an example of accompanying a service in a small village church which is fortunate enough to have arather nice small pipe organ, now well over 125 years old, two keyboard manuals, a pedalboard of 30 notes, and with 11 stops.
Playing two hymns in Sunday services
(The congregation singing seems quiet because the video camera microphone was used, in the organ gallery)


(Note: these MP4 videos may not yet be playable in all web browsers.
Therefore, if the video does not play, try Chrome, Firefox, Opera or Safari.)
{Please note that some of these videos were recorded with the camera microphone
rather than out of Hauptwerk, with a resultant pedalboard noise and decrease in audio quality.)


We are trying to find a good home for a pipe organ which is currently installed in a very small Methodist Chapel in East Anglia. The building is being reconfigured to incorporate more social space, and the organ is superfluous to requirements. The organ must be removed before 1st January 2012 as builders will start conversion work immediately after that date.

(Please note: this organ has now been successfully relocated, and is therefore no longer available

Builder:         SE Gilks, Organ Builder of Peterborough.
Date:            Circa 1956.
NPOR:          G01127

The organ is in excellent condition, having been examined, tuned and maintained in half-yearly visits until 2009. The organ has not been played regularly since 2009, and so there are a few silent pedal pipes, but no issues that would not be readily overcome by maintenance.


Pedal:               Compass C-F      30 keys.
                         Bourdon 16'
Coupler:    Manual -> Pedal.

Single manual:   Compass C-F3    54 keys.
                         Diapason 8', Dulciana 8', Lieblich Gedakt 8', Principal 4', Fifteenth 2'
                         Coupler:    Super octave.
Hear and see the organ here: YouTube video
The organ is very compact, and could be installed in a space about 10'x10'. It would be suitable for installation as a home organ or in a small chapel.

Most of the manual division is enclosed, and there is a single swell pedal controlling the swell shutters.
The front fascia pipes are part of the diapason 8' rank, whilst the fascia pipes on each side are non-speaking.

Terms & Conditions
The organ is available for collection from the building, with the receiver of the organ bearing all costs and responsibility for safe removal. The receiver must make good any damage to the building caused during removal.
Whilst there is to be no charge for the organ, the church would be grateful to receive a donation from the receiver.

Contact:        In the first instance, email (THIS ORGAN IS NOW SUCCESSFULLY RELOCATED)

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Click below:

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