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How Do You Tune a Pipe Organ and How Often Do They Need Tuning?

KDFC’s Alan Chapman has a lot to say about music, but can he say it in 60 seconds? That’s the Chapman Challenge. We ask a question and Alan has a minute to answer it.

Today’s question is from Bob Marcotte who wants to know “How do you tune a pipe organ and how often do they need tuning?”

Hit play below to listen to this week’s Chapman Challenge.

How Do You Tune a Pipe Organ and How Often Do They Need Tuning?

Well, I figure the answer should be accompanied by some organ music, so let’s go with some Handel.

Organ technicians will tell you that a pipe organ is a delicate musical instrument. Some are more temperamental than others, but all of them need regular care and service. And the most common maintenance is tuning. Pipe organ tuning is affected by temperature changes, so you might expect to tune an organ when seasons change, when the heat is turned on in the winter and when the air conditioning is turned on in the summer.

Since the pitch of each note depends on the length of the pipe, tuning means making changes in the lengths of the pipes. One method involves tapping up or down on the metal collar at the top of a pipe to raise or lower the pitch. One technician works inside the organ while another sits at the keyboard.

And it can take a while. There’s a set of pipes for each different sound. For example, the organ at Walt Disney Concert Hall has 6,134 pipes. The initial tuning of that organ took a year.

Written by:
Alan Chapman
Alan Chapman
Published on 01.14.2020