A recent experience as a supply organist
reminded me of what may be an under-used feature on some organs
(even by experienced organists), what I call "intra-manual
couplers." Not every organ has them, but for those that
do they can extend an organ's sounds significantly. Intra-manual
couplers are couplers that don't couple sounds to a different
manual (such as Sw. to Gt. 8'), but rather cause the sounds on
that same manual also to play at higher/lower pitches (such as
Sw. to Sw. 16') or NOT to play at their given pitches (such as
Sw. Unison Off).
Obviously many of you organists know
all of this, so you can go grab a Coke if you wish! But for any
of you organists who don't know how you might use this feature
creatively, read on. (This also will re-state a theme I bring
up for organists now and then: the concept of DISCOVERY, where
you set time aside to make sure you are not overlooking your
organ's "hidden" sounds.)
This particular instrument had no 16ths
on either manual. In such a situation the Sw. to Sw 16' coupler
can be useful in adding the 16' pitch to the 8' pitch (as if,
for example, you had separate Flute 16' and a Flute 8' stops).
If you don't WANT the 8' pitch also sounding you would add the
"Sw. Unis. Off" coupler (see next paragraph).
A unison-off coupler means that whatever
the given octave of the stop is (8' for example), that octave
will be silenced. (Thus if you selected only the Unison Off coupler
you would get silence!) For example, your organ might have only
an Oboe 4' but you prefer to play it at the 8' octave. Using
the Sw. to Sw. 16' coupler in combination with the Sw. Unison
Off would lower the pitch one octave plus cancel out the 4' sound,
meaning you could play the Oboe notes at the normal place on
the keyboard (rather than an octave lower).
So then, by combining various combinations
of these couplers with various combinations of stops, you can
get all sorts of refreshing sounds to think of a way to use!
The best education you can get about this is EXPERIMENTATION!
This would include selecting various single stops and listen
to that stop while trying various combinations of the intra-manual
couplers. You then would select several stops together--especially
of different lengths (such as Flute 8' and Flute 4')--and trying
them with various combinations of the intra-manual couplers.
When using stops of differing lengths
(such as 8' and 4') remember that the same Sw. to Sw. 16' that
puts the 8' down an octave also puts the 4' down an octave. But
if you add the Sw. to Sw. 4' to that, it will add an octave to
each stop: Your 8' would be playing at the 16' and also the 4'
octaves and your Flute 4' would be playing at the 8' and 2' octaves.
One 8' stop, then, would be sounding at three octaves as would
your 4' stop, for a total of four octaves sounding at once. This
is easier to grasp if you'll refer to the graphic below, which
gives two examples of what pitches would be heard when certain
intra-manual coupler combinations were used.
To give an example of how I used this
in the church where I supplied--where the organ had neither a
Flute 16' or a Flute 2', a stop combination that's one of my
favorites-- I was able to get it by using the intra-manual couplers.
These couplers have no effect on the
inter-manual couplers. For example, if a Flute 4' was selected
and the Sw. to Sw. 16' plus Sw. Unison Off couplers were used,
it wouldn't affect your using the Sw. to Gt. 8' coupler. Along
that line, here's an interesting possibility, again using our
friend the Flute 8' stop:
SW: Flute 8', Sw. to Sw. 16', Sw. Unison
Off, Sw. to Sw. 4'
GT: Sw. to Gt. 8'
In this example only ONE stop is being
used, yet you can accompany your Swell manual melody on the Great
manual with the same Flute 8' stop! And by the way, when experimenting
don't leave out adding/removing the mixtures, or at least the
moderate ones. Sometimes some pleasant ensembles can be created
that way, for use on such bright and quick things as "Pat
One last point: some sounds you will
create may make good solo sounds while others will be useful
for ensemble playing (as with a hymn). In some cases, adding
the 16' pitches would make it possible to play a hymn verse on
the manual only yet retain a certain bass foundation, which would
add some variety to a hymn verse. But be careful about your left-hand
notes, because since they are sounding one octave lower as well
they can get muddy if they are too closely spaced.
Now, if your eyes are starting to glaze
over, just move back up to the fifth paragraph, note the word
EXPERIMENTATION, do it, make notes to yourself about combinations
that you like, then delight that you have discovered some new
sounds you didn't know your organ had.