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Thread: Tuning Celeste Stops

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    ppp Pianississmo straubie's Avatar
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    Tuning Celeste Stops

    Hello.
    I'm on a team that maintains a small Wurlitzer theater pipe organ.

    We don't have much knowledge or experience. I am looking for advice on how to tune Celeste stops. The two ranks for our Celeste stops are Viol d'Orchestre and Viol Celeste. It's easy enough to set "Celeste Off" and tune the VDO rank, but how does one tune the Viol Celeste rank? It can't be played by itself without disabling the VDO somehow. I was looking at the user manual for the iPhone "Tuner Lite" app. It has support for tuning Celeste stops, including the number of beats per second when that is constant across the range. Can a tuning meter or app allow one note played with "Celeste Off" not selected to be tuned? Is there a procedure for tuning the Celeste stops by ear? Am I even asking the right questions?

    Thanks for any advice or education.

    Bob Straub.

  2. #2
    mp Mezzo-Piano VaPipeorgantuner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by straubie View Post
    Hello.
    I'm on a team that maintains a small Wurlitzer theater pipe organ.

    We don't have much knowledge or experience. I am looking for advice on how to tune Celeste stops. The two ranks for our Celeste stops are Viol d'Orchestre and Viol Celeste. It's easy enough to set "Celeste Off" and tune the VDO rank, but how does one tune the Viol Celeste rank? It can't be played by itself without disabling the VDO somehow. I was looking at the user manual for the iPhone "Tuner Lite" app. It has support for tuning Celeste stops, including the number of beats per second when that is constant across the range. Can a tuning meter or app allow one note played with "Celeste Off" not selected to be tuned? Is there a procedure for tuning the Celeste stops by ear? Am I even asking the right questions?

    Thanks for any advice or education.

    Bob Straub.
    If the organ has been properly wired, the celeste (in your case, the Viol Celeste) should be controlled by it's own stop tab, and not a tab that turns on both the prime rank and the undulant (celeste). If that is not the case, then the contact finger that turns on the prime rank could be 'disabled' by CAREFULLY slipping a thin sheet of paper under the contact finger IF there are seperate contacts for both the prime rank and the celeste...this assumes that you are not using a solid-state or computerized relay.
    You CAN tune the ranks together...you have to tune the prime rank FIRST (by itself), then ear-tune the undulant rank to get the desired beat rate. The beat rate doesn't HAVE to be perfectly even from bottom to top, altho some find that the most desirable, some tuners will slightly increase the beat speed (emphasis on slightly) towards the top of the register. Tuning the celeste rank at the same offset (number of cents sharp) thruout the register will give a wildly beating result as you ascend.

    To tune the celeste (since there doesn't appear to be an experienced tuner in your group??), start by tuning the celeste rank to be in perfect tune with the prime rank, then tap the celeste note slightly sharp until you introduce the desired beat rate between the two pipes. It helps if the two ranks are NOT physically next to each other, as they will tend to draw into tune with each other and 'snipe' rather than beat smoothly...but that may not be under your control. this tuning process goes note by note until you reach the top. There are other methods, but this one is going to be the easiest for a beginning tuner.

    Rick in VA

  3. #3
    ppp Pianississmo straubie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VaPipeorgantuner View Post
    If the organ has been properly wired, the celeste (in your case, the Viol Celeste) should be controlled by it's own stop tab, and not a tab that turns on both the prime rank and the undulant (celeste). If that is not the case, then the contact finger that turns on the prime rank could be 'disabled' by CAREFULLY slipping a thin sheet of paper under the contact finger IF there are seperate contacts for both the prime rank and the celeste...this assumes that you are not using a solid-state or computerized relay.
    You CAN tune the ranks together...you have to tune the prime rank FIRST (by itself), then ear-tune the undulant rank to get the desired beat rate. The beat rate doesn't HAVE to be perfectly even from bottom to top, altho some find that the most desirable, some tuners will slightly increase the beat speed (emphasis on slightly) towards the top of the register. Tuning the celeste rank at the same offset (number of cents sharp) thruout the register will give a wildly beating result as you ascend.

    To tune the celeste (since there doesn't appear to be an experienced tuner in your group??), start by tuning the celeste rank to be in perfect tune with the prime rank, then tap the celeste note slightly sharp until you introduce the desired beat rate between the two pipes. It helps if the two ranks are NOT physically next to each other, as they will tend to draw into tune with each other and 'snipe' rather than beat smoothly...but that may not be under your control. this tuning process goes note by note until you reach the top. There are other methods, but this one is going to be the easiest for a beginning tuner.

    Rick in VA
    Thank you! I can hardly wait to try your suggestions. Our organ does not have a way for the Viol Celeste rank to be played by itself. It has several yellow Celeste stops and a "Celete Off" tab on the backboard that disables the Viol Celeste rank when Celeste stops are selected. I have to find out about separate contacts. Our organ was extensively renovated when moved from its theater decades ago, but most of the ranks are still wired through the original Wurlitzer stack switches. Your tuning instructions are greatly appreciated. We will try to tune by ear first chance we get.

    Thanks again,
    Bob Straub.

  4. #4
    mf Mezzo-Forte Jay999's Avatar
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    1 members found this post helpful.
    When I first started tuning, many years ago, I tuned the celeste rank almost tight with the parent rank. Then ran a tune through my head, in my case...Sabre Dance...picking up the down beat of the song. I would start tapping my foot, or nodding my head, until I had the beat going in my head. Then I would start tuning the celeste rank to the same beat. Sabre Dance is a good one to tune a slow beat on the down beat, or faster (theatre organ style celeste) if you make the celeste beat twice to each down beat. Hope that works for you.

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    mp Mezzo-Piano VaPipeorgantuner's Avatar
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    well, you answered your own question in a way...turn the strings ON and turn on the "Celeste off" tab ON also...then tune the prime rank as you would any other rank in the organ. when the prime rank is finished, turn the "celestes off" tab OFF, then tune as I suggested before, tune the pipes till they are close in tune, then tune the CELESTE rank sharp until you get the desired beat rate.

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