Voicing the Organ

Voicing the organ–giving each pipe the correct volume and timbre and ensuring that it responds correctly to the pressure and speed of the performer’s touch–will take about half a year, says Munetaka Yokota, organ designer, builder, and pipe voicer.

Although Yokota took into account the acoustics of Anabel Taylor Chapel when he designed the organ, it was impossible to predict exactly how the pipes would sound once the organ was assembled.

It turns out that the acoustics in the chapel tend to accentuate very high pitches. Although every pipe produces overtones and some very high partials, Yokata discovered that in the chapel the pipes can produce a great deal of high frequency noise. “That kind of noise is too strong and destructive to our ear,” he says. “But if the noise is reduced too much, the sound doesn’t have a lively feeling.”

Yokota must make very fine adjustments to each pipe to in order to create the sound he wants, such as making the 8-foot flute sound less “shy,” or giving a pipe an “extravagant character.”