Materials for studies

The first pipes built by me were wooden pipes for the register Stopped Diapason.  A drawing of this pipe can be found in any book about organ building, but that was not sufficient to know how I should made them and voice them to the desired sound. Books about organ building are not written for amateurs who want to build a chamber organ. There was only one book which was focused to this group, Heimorgelbau by Karl Bormann. He describes the voicing as: aim the wind flow slant to the upper lip. The angle was very critical and has been determined by using a mould. The process demanded a lot of experience and just a single amateur reached a good sound.

I've experimented two years with searching for a better way. I changed the angled surface to a right, directing the wind flow upwards to the upper lip. From the right surface was a very low bit removed parallel inwards from the languid. Together with an u-shaped part of paper between the languid and the front part, the wind were directed to the upper lip and reached the best possible sound. For everyone it was easy to copy the method. After the publication in Dutch, German and English organ magazines, it has become the usual method. Later I have improved the method, as described on the page Holpijp

It turned out that the second method corresponds to the methods that were common around 1600 and it differs greatly from the current constructions. This pipe constructions are found by restorations of organs of Joachim Richborn in Germany and Christianus Smith in England.

For the sound of an open pipe is wood an excellent material and the Stopped Diapason is available in each organ. However, the most beautiful register of the organ is the Principal 8' and this stop cannot be produced from wood. Where I met wooden Principal stops in organs made by amateur builders, I missed the typical attributes of the Principal sound. When I had designed an electronic organ, I gave much effort to produce the typical Formant-sound of the Principal register as authentically as possible. The wooden Principals is lacking the Formant-sound; my electronic organ could reproduce them even better.

Silberne Kapelle in Innsbruck

In Innsbruck I get to know the organ of the Silberne Kapelle, an organ which was built 450 years ago in Italy. All pipes were wooden Principal pipes, stopped pipes were not used. The construction of these pipes differed very much from the usual forms of wooden pipes. The sound is unique, only an organ in Montepulciano (it) is somewhat similar, but the sound there is less interesting. It was worth to examine the sounds in Innsbruck carefully. After many years of experiments I succeeded in making copies of the sounds. The sound is very characteristic with many overtones, it is a sound like Gottfried Silbermann organs. 
However, better Principal sounds can be achieved with metal pipes.

I have carefully described the method found by me, but there are not many organ builders, amateurs and professionals, which can produce the sound also. It is not only the capability of the trade, but you must have the sound in your ears, to be able in voicing them. 
Based on my in-depth research in Innsbruck, Kristian Wegscheider in Dresden designed a Violon 8' as pedal stops for the organ in Dresden-Loswitsch. The organ was further based on the organ sounds of by Gottfried Silbermann and the sounds of organs of Zacharias Hildebrandt.

Professional training to build organs

In the television studios were the working conditions so changed, that I could finish it on a relatively young age on favourable terms, and now I could start with my training organ builder. I've learned all aspects of the professional organ building and organ designing to a high grade of perfection and I did several examinations. The production of metal pipes proved to be very interesting and above all its refined voicing. Although the soldering of pipes is the oldest handicraft and it was exercised at least 1000 years unchanged, I still discovered new possibilities. Usually, they were previously discovered, but are no longer needed. That wasn't right, I found out.

When designing the table of measurements, I discovered a pattern, that connects all scale relationships to each other. In this manner pipes can be calculated previously, with a consistent sound and a homogeneously course from pipe to pipe. Even with the security that the sounds of all the registers are perfectly merge to each other. Now it makes no longer sense to take over an existing scale list, because from each organ the desired sound can be calculated immediately. The method is described in my book Building a Positive organ and the method has been defended in a dissertation already. By listening the sounds of an organ I can immediately write down the scale list. There I have an absolute pitch I can do this with great certainty. The lessons I gave about the voicing have proven, that anyone can learn it, even when someone does not have an absolute pitch.

Forty years I have been busy in every respect with the construction of the organs. As a member of the ArbeitsKreis Hausorgel (AKH), I worked with German organ builders. Transferring my knowledge to others has become an important task for me, finally I could have learned it only by the courtesy of specialist organ builders in many countries. In addition to teaching I have written ten books about the building of organs. A good skill with AutoCAD drawing made it possible to represent the most complicated constructions in perspective drawings. Short texts in three languages ensured that it was understood in many countries around the world.

About the making of metal pipes I made an instruction film where each act was filmed very close. The instructions are in Dutch, but I made three versions with subtitles for other languages. More than 400 copies are sold and it is the only film, which shows the operating procedure of the oldest handicraft.

The GdO (Gesellschaft der Orgelfreunde) gave me the recognition: Orgelbaumeister and published it in the journal Ars Organi.

Chamber organ and acoustics

The sound of musical instruments comes only in its own, if the sounds can bring the surrounding space in resonance. Pipe organs are built for large rooms with good acoustics. Open air organs such as in Kufstein can be heard miles away, but there is no resonance and thus the beauty of sound is missing. The same applies to chamber pipe organs; how beautiful the pipes are voiced, they bring the room in the house not in resonance. Only dry sounds can be heard. For small organs is the lack of resonance less important, because there are intimate sounds. But the vividly sound of a large organ needs a good acoustics.

I sold one of my chamber organs and the new owner has rebuilt it in a church. I have tuned the organ myself, and with astonishment I heard the richness of the sound that could just now thrive in this large room. An organ sound has shine and brilliance, but that only to hear if a room with good acoustics makes it possible to develop these properties.

Very low sounds are not possible in a house, because its wavelength is too long for a room. On the other hand, it is not the wavelength, which makes the high notes of mixtures and cymbals unsuitable for a small room. The human ear is very sensitive to these frequencies and undergoes the high notes as too shrill. At best, two feet pipes are the limit, still not really nice sounds, but they are acceptable. But in a large room with good acoustics the high register become rushing sounds.

Broadcasting studio with reverb room

The technicians in the broadcasting studios have the disposal of special reverberation studios, large empty spaces under the studios. If hall is a need they send the sound of the studios into the reverb room. The reflected sound, complemented with acoustics of the large room, are captured by microphones and sent back to the studio. Because of the added acoustics the sounds resonate now free in the large room and that makes the listening more pleasant.

Sometimes I made a tape recording of my pipe organ at home and send it to the reverb room studio. When I heard the record with added reverb, it was as if a church was added to my living room. I've always regretted that I had no practical way to use it permanently. Today, this is possible with the Lexicon MX 300.

Hauptwerk Organ

Digital organs do have good acoustics, but they sounds artificially. A Hauptwerk organ don’t have that objection, because real pipe sounds are used, along with the real acoustics of the church room. The Hauptwerk organ I play at home sounds like a church organ.

Chronik eines Orgelbauers
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Color television and Organ building

My experiments were focused exclusively on pipe organ sounds. Over the years, I've built and designed various electronic organs. After a photo and film education, I applied at the TV studios and worked as a cameraman, later as a lighting designer. The many broadcasting from churches gave me an easy access to the organs and so I could always compare the generated sounds at home with the sound of the real pipe organs.

Philips in Eindhoven had the color-TV technically so far developed, that they were in search of the cooperation with the studios in Hilversum for the practical application. I visited regularly the Philips Physical Laboratory in Waalre. I worked for Philips in the Switzerland with Ir. Tan and I got to know Ir. Nico Franssen from the met audio lab. His task was to develop an electronic organ, which produces the same sounds like a pipe organ. Because it was a scientific research the costs played no role. Every facet of the pipe sound was examined to develop an electronic replacement. Ir. Franssen succeeded in building an electronic organ with sounds, which differed not much from pipe sounds. However, this organ cost much more than a pipe organ. A short time Philips provided a simple electronic organ named Philicorda. But the development of the electronic church organ has been discontinued.

Kroniek van een Orgelbouwer
Building pipe organs

Ir. Nico Franssen built a chamber pipe organ at home and convinced me that the electronic sounds could never achieve the beauty of real organ sounds. It was an incentive for me to take the next step; creating a real organ with pipes. For years, I had used the opportunity to get to know the organ at the many television broadcasts from churches and I looked in the organ cases to study the constructions. It was a good base to start a serious study and I built pipe organs. I discovered one of the most striking features of good designers of electronic organs. To make an electronic equivalent of a pipe sound, you have to examine each property of the pipe sound thoroughly. Now, I could apply this knowledge with the construction of pipes, that produces exactly the sophisticated sounds of my strive

I liked to be a trade organ builder and that's why I visited practically every organ builder in the Netherlands. They were willing to familiarize myself with the different structures of the organs. Sometimes I borrowed organ parts and with making a replica in my own workshop I understood the construction. It didn’t remain until the Netherlands, I made acquaintance with different organ builder in Germany, Austria and Switzerland also and they trained me about their specializations. So, I built a broad knowledge about the different styles of the organ.

Chronicle of an organ builder

After the high school I had decided to study electronics. One of the most attractive applications was building an electronic organ. After the first experiments with a simple organ with valves the price of transistors lowered considerably; I bought thousands of these. It was at one time the electronic organs were still not for sale and everyone has to find out himself, how to create electronic sounds that were similar to pipe sounds. Experimenting for many years was the only way to learn.

The study was interrupted by a training as a military pilot. Later, I could use the many lessons about aerodynamics, in the study of the behavior of the wind in organ pipes. After the pilot school I graduated for the electronic study and in my spare time I did continue the experiments with the electronic organs.