Instruments | Positive Organ | Medieval Era | Classical
The larger positive organ was not intended to be moved. The biggest difference between medieval and modern organs is that the positive organ’s pipes were all of the same diameter; the pitch was defined by the length. This caused variation in tone quality across the range, making it ‘flutier’ as the pipes became shorter. Gradually organ-builders introduced ‘reed’ pipes, which concealed a vibrating reed and had an oboe-like sound. Some flue pipes were open tubes like a recorder, while others were stopped – they had their ends plugged, which dropped their pitch by an octave, widening the compass of the instrument.
All organs require air to be pumped through pipes; the journey of the air and the choice of the pipe (and thus the note), is made by playing a keyboard. Graded by size, the pipes of the positive organ sat inside a series of matching openings in a windchest, where the pressure built up as air was fed in from manually operated bellows. The entrance to each pipe from the windchest was concealed by a pallet, which was a kind of hinged doorway or valve. It could be deliberately opened or closed by a mechanism of rods which were directed by the keyboard or ‘manual’.
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