Combination (organ)

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Push buttons for combinations on the console of an organ

A combination is in the organ , a game assistance with which the organist a predetermined registration activated quickly during the organ music tone and / or tone level to change. Especially in the case of organs with a large number of registers , manual re-registration during the game would take too long and possibly require the use of an additional person, a registrant .

As a rule, an electrical or pneumatic register action is required to control the registers. There are also combinations of organs with mechanical stop action, but the mechanical combination devices required for this are very complex to manufacture and are therefore rare. Therefore, on larger organs with a mechanical stop action, an additional electric drive is sometimes provided for each stop, which actuates the stop when a combination is used.

A distinction is made between free and fixed combinations. Shut- offs , shut-off valves and entry steps can have similar effects as fixed combinations, but are separate forms of registration aids (see below).

The dynamization of the organ sound through the "push of a button" or the automated sequential simultaneous switching on or off of several registers requires a corresponding control system. Circuits for this were only made possible with the introduction of pneumatic action in the 19th century. With the subsequent development of electrical actions, more complex electromechanical circuits could be implemented. The introduction of electronic circuits at the end of the 20th century expanded the possibilities many times over.

Fixed combinations

Fixed combinations are register combinations that have been determined by the organ builder and cannot be changed by the player. Dynamic gradations such as pp , p , mf , f , ff and plenum or tutti are common . Such fixed combinations have their history and origins in the pneumatic and mechanical stop action (German-Romantic organ) and are no longer built today, with the exception of General Abstell and Tutti .

The collective train or group train is a special case because it does not change the sound of the entire organ, but only affects a part of it. At the large organ in the Ratzeburg Cathedral there is z. B. three collective slides (for principals, mixtures and reeds), each of which switches all associated registers of the Hauptwerk and Pedalwerk on or off at the same time, all other stops remain drawn as before.

The register crescendo is nothing more than a sequence of fixed combinations determined by the organ builder, which can be called up one after the other. As a rule, however, the switches for the manual registers remain active (see storage ).

Free combinations

The organist can freely choose any combination .

Classic free combination

Above the rocker registers two rows of small switches for free combinations, below the pedal registers three rows for switching pedals, Liebfrauenkirche Ravensburg console

A free combination is another, mostly small, “switch set” on the gaming table. At the push of a button or with a piston , the registers selected in the corresponding combination are activated, those not selected are deactivated. While a combination is active, the hand registers can be changed as required. Some free combinations offer the possibility to also let the hand register sound ( + hand register ).

As a rule, two to four free combinations are common, but there are also versions with up to eight or more combinations, but this quickly becomes confusing due to the additional number of switches required.

Free pedal combination

In addition to the free combinations that affect all parts of the organ, it is not uncommon to find free pedal combinations in which only the pedal registrations can be preset. These additional combinations , sometimes called pedal switching (PU for short), were also available in a refined, automatic variant assigned to a manual (also known as an automatic piano pedal and invented around 1906). This playing aid activates the registration of the associated pedal switch as soon as a key on the corresponding manual is pressed. Up to two automatic pedal switchovers were possible on an organ with three manuals and pedal (PU for Manual II and PU for Manual III). But as soon as a key of the first manual is pressed, the previously selected registers will sound again, regardless of whether manual registers or a free or fixed combination.

Composer combination

A memory is located here behind the register switches (earlier via relays, now implemented electronically). By means of a setter button ("setter"), the registration selected by hand register is stored or "set" in a specific memory location. In this way, depending on the memory configuration, up to several thousand registrations can be saved today. In the meantime, typesetting systems with external storage options (e.g. with USB connection) are also in use in new buildings in order to permanently secure the combinations or to assign different memories to different organists. There is also software with which these combinations can be edited on the home PC . The combinations can be called up individually using a hand button or piston, and one after the other using a sequencer ( step switch ). These are buttons (usually two, one button each for “forwards / up” and “backwards / down”) with which the memory locations can be called up one after the other. As a rule, such pairs of buttons are multiple, e.g. B. for hand and foot actuation or also available for a registrant.

There were also mechanical typesetters based on systems from Rieger-Heuss and Aug. Laukhuff , which were, however, very complex and therefore both costly and error-prone.

While it is customary in German and French organ building to create combinations of all kinds in such a way that they affect all parts of an organ, English and American organs usually have separate combinations (so-called "divisionals") for each part, depending on the organ size between three and eight per manual and pedal , which can be coupled to each other again (“divisional couplers”).

Other registration aids


Deadbolt allow as its name suggests, the parking of all registers (Generalabsteller) , individual register groups ( Mixturen- or Zungenabsteller ) or specifically a single register. If (for example) a reed register is very out of tune, the individual stop prevents it from sounding, even if the register was actually switched on by hand, by a combination or the crescent swell. Shutters are always built reversible in their function, that is, the selected registration remains available and is restored after the shutdown is switched off. In connection with the register crescendo, there is also often a stop for the manual registers (more correct: for the manual register switches), as these would otherwise also sound.

Every newer organ with an electric stop action has a general stop (often just marked with a “0”), which pushes a button to push all registers off. In contrast to the other shutters, pressing it again does not, however, result in a return to the previous state. The previous registration is usually lost, so that it cannot be viewed as a game aid, but rather as a kind of "reset". The organ is brought into a passive and "harmless" basic state so that unintentional use of the keyboards does not produce any notes.

Shut-off valves

Stop valve in the ark of an organ

Stop valves in organs should only be viewed indirectly as a combination. They are used to completely switch individual sub-plants on and off by interrupting the supply of wind to them. In larger historical organs, especially from the Baroque era, there are often wind shut-off valves, with the help of which the wind flow is only directed to the parts of the organ that are also acutely needed. As a result, the wind (which was still generated with human power and generally scarce) could be used more economically and leaks could be avoided. Large organs also sometimes have two separate pedal units, one of which contains the stronger registers and the other the weaker registers. Both pedals can be connected to the pedal via two shut-off valves. This enables a quick change in volume and tone color without laborious re-registration. In addition, especially in the baroque organs on the Iberian peninsula, there are often more parts than manuals. Here the sub-units are connected to the existing manuals via shut-off valves as required. In connection with the loop division at c 1 / c sharp 1 , which is usual with these instruments , even single-manual organs offer an unusually large wealth of timbres in some cases and thus allow playing with a correspondingly variable sound. Nowadays, with the advent of electronic setter, check valves are becoming less important.

Introductory steps

Like the shut-off valves, these switch certain register groups on and off. However, these are not understood as separate sub-works, but are grouped according to their function. Such institutions were widespread in France and Italy (Tiratutti). While in the French romantic organs (cf. Aristide Cavaillé-Coll ) the partial works were always divided into two groups, the “Jeux de Fond” (basic voices) and the “Jeux d'Anches” ( reeds and mixtures) and the latter via shut-off valves , the so-called "Appels" could be switched on and off, the Italian "Tiratutti" is used to switch on all individual registers belonging to the Ripieno at once.


  • Wolfgang Adelung: Introduction to organ building. 4th edition. Breitkopf & Härtel, Wiesbaden 1979, ISBN 3-7651-0088-9 , p. 147 ff.

See also