The Pipe Organ Education Project

"Behold the marvelous art of Archimedes, I allude to the Hydraulic Organ; so many members, so many parts, so many joints, so many sound conduits, so much tonal effect, so many combinations, so many pipes, and all at one touch." -Tertullian [1]

Dobson Organ at The University of South Carolina

Welcome! You have reached the Pipe Organ Education Project. This project is the first step in a larger program designed to revive interest in the pipe organ. The organ is an incredible instrument but needs more organists and audiences if it is to be appreciated in the future. My hope is that as the public learns more about the pipe organ, public support for it will increase. This site will explain how the organ works. 

NEWS UPDATE: This website has moved yet again but this new URL will be the final stop. My apologies for not updating this site in over two years. However, new and exciting additions will be coming in the next several months. I just spent a year apprenticing with a pipe organ builder, so now I will incorporate my new knowledge into this site. Look for better a explanation of the different types of pipes and new guides on purchase and maintenance. 

If you wish to send me email, please use this new address:

A Brief History

The quote above by Tertullian refers to a predecessor of today's organ: The Hydraulis Organ. It was invented around the 3rd century before Christ.The earliest known organist was Ctesibius of Alexandria, who lived around 200 B.C. Pipe organs existed throughout the ancient world although they were quite different from the organs of the 16th century and later, which are the organs familiar to us today. The Hydraulis organ used the weight of water to keep the wind under pressure so that the wind blowing through the pipes would be steady. These early organs did not have manuals but used levers. The levers were further apart than today's keys on a manual.These organs did not have pedals because the pedalboard was not invented until the late 15th century. The largest organs had 22 pipes and four different kinds of pipes per note. Today's organs have 61 notes and can have over 100 different kinds of sounds per note, although the average large organ will have about 50 to 60 different sounds to use. When Tertullian wrote about the organ, he was speaking of the small organs of ancient times. Imagine how he would feel if he heard today's organs! (Audsley, George A., The Art of Organ Building.)


Last updated September 18, 2001.
This site is part of the Pipe Organ Education Project. © Copyright 1996-2001 by Marya J. Fancey.