Maintaining and Preserving Your Pipe Organ

op7naveWhat can we do to ensure a good service visit and preserve our organ?

A pipe organ is a legacy instrument. With regular tuning and service any well made instrument can last several life times like the European organs of old. There are many things you can do to help us provide you with the best service to keep your instrument sounding and performing at its best. Here are some things we recommend our clients to consider...

Do we need to set the temperature in advance?

Please do! Because organs are a wind instrument, their ability to be in tune is very much dependent on the ambient air temperature of the room. In order to be in tune the organ must reach the temperature in which it was tuned at. It is very difficult to achieve a solid and stabile tuning while the temperature is still adjusting. The best thing to do prior to the technician coming is to have the room temperature set for when the organ will be used the most (such as at the time of church services) many hours in advance of the scheduled tuning time. In some cases it may be best to do this overnight so that all parts of the organ which may be heated or cooled may all reach the same temperature. This is especially true of instruments in chambers where heating and cooling may not reach the pipes in the same way as exposed pipes out in the room. Remember that it often takes many hours for an entire room to stabilize to the temperature set. We would be happy to advise you in determining the best time to set your thermostat. Be sure to call us a few days in advance with any questions regarding the setting of your heating and cooling.

How often does the organ need tuning?

As no two organs are alike, neither are their needs. Each instrument is installed particularly for the room it is placed in. There are many varying factors which will determine the frequency of needed tuning or maintenance. One of the largest influences already discussed is the temperature of the room. The presence or lack of proper heating or air conditioning and how frequently it is used play a significant roll on the tuning of a pipe organ. Several of our clients have regular quarterly or more frequent visits to keep their instruments in top performance condition. Others elect for twice a year, or seasonal tuning, while some opt for once a year tuning. We will assist you in determining the needs of your instrument, music program, and budgetary considerations to keep your instrument in the best condition. We can also work with you in scheduling special complete or touch up tuning visits for occasions such as recitals, recording, or special performances.

Does the organist need to do anything?

One of the most helpful things the organist can do is to leave us a detailed and descriptive list of problems before we arrive. This will save us vast amounts of time, and you money, so more effort may be spent in getting your instrument playing at its best rather than searching for an irregular problem. Be sure to note which stops are involved, what is or isn't happening, and general observations about the problem. If it is something you think may take extra time or materials be sure to give us a call before your next scheduled visit or right when the problem occurs. Then we may arrive prepared and more likely to solve the problem without a return trip. If there is a mechanical, electrical, or any other suspicous situation that in any way hinders the playing of your organ please contact us right away by calling (206) 521-0954 to schedule a visit. Often an ounce of prevention will save vast sums of money in the future.

Do we need to provide anything?

If we do not have any keys on file for your institution, having access to all sections, and parts of the organ (including those in remote places like the blower) ready to go prior to the scheduled time is a big help and huge time saver. This may also include the availability of ladders upon our arrival, unlocking, but not opening of doors (to prevent drafts) to the interior parts of the organ etc. As we fully understand the need to keep your facilities safe and secure we appreciate any help in getting us in and out of your building. Any keys or security information in our possession will be specially coded and accessible only to our technicians.

Does the room need to be quiet?

As most of us here at Marceau & Associates are church and professional musicians as well, we understand the busy schedules of the room your organ may be in. We will work very closely with you to pick a time where the instrument and room will be free from extraneous noises like talking, vacuums, or construction and maintenance. As we do our best work when the room is quiet and without distraction we will select a time where the instrument and room will be quiet and available. Doing a fine tuning requires a great deal of listening and concentration as well as communication between the console and interior parts of the organ. We would appreciate your help in advising any custodial staff, day care staff, technical services, decorating personnel, persons wishing to rehearse, and just curious onlookers, of our visit so that it may better help us meet your service needs in the shortest amount of time possible.

Do we need to tell you if there is any work occuring in the room where the organ is?

We wholeheartedly recommend you notify us of any construction or projects taking place in or around the room where your organ is located. We can then assist you in taking any measures necessary to protect your instrument from possible and expensive damage. We are also available to consult with construction crews, or other workers, on what things need to be done to avoid costly damage to your organ. Many an organ control cable has been cut, or pipe damaged because of circumstances that could have been avoided by just communicating with construction personnel and informing them of organ components and systems. Starting a project? Call us today!

How will you notify us when a technician is coming?

As we approach the regular seasons of tunings we will phone or e-mail the individual we have on file to schedule the most advantageous time for the instrument and the room schedule as well as reminding to set any needed heat or A/C. This will help us avoiding any possible conflicts (such as special music programs, or services) which could delay our completing your instrument and increase your service cost. Even in this business time is money. Should a conflict arrise please contact us at (206) 521-0954 as soon as the conflict arises so that your visit may be rescheduled with a minimum of problems. As we often schedule more than one client each day it takes a great deal of time on the part of our office staff to rearrange schedules which may also affect our other clients. We would also appreciate being notified of any changes in office or music staff so that we can maintain our high level of customer service with you.

If you are not one of our clients with a regular service package please notify us as soon as possible so that we may schedule your service call while we are in your area. This will ensure that your bill is kept as low as possible and you will not incure the extra cost of additional travel for a special service trip.


Hear Marceau Opus VII

Hear Marceau Opus VII as featured on PipeDreams in a performance by Barbara Harbach.

listen-icon-smListen to excerpt #1.
listen-icon-smListen to excerpt #2.




See the shop in action

The shop, crew, and Opus IV, were the focus of a feature at Seattle Refined.

Read the article, and watch the video, here.

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