Is It Important How Many Stops My Pump Organ Has?
Stops, sometimes called draw knobs, are those wooden things with Old English writing on them that you have to
pull out in order for your pump organ to make any kind of sound or to make a greater volume of sound.
They may be more appropriately called “make or stop” handles because when they’re pulled out, you have music,
and when you push them back in, the music stops.
It’s not uncommon for people to tell me that their pump organ doesn’t work, only
for me to find out that their organ works fine. They just need to pull out some stops when they work the
A typical pump organ will usually have 7, 9, or 11 stops. However, as the number of stops goes up beyond 11 it’s
a good indicator that you’ve got a pretty good quality organ. Usually, the more stops an organ has, the higher its
quality and the greater its value in the marketplace.
In most cases (but not always) pump organs will have an odd number of stops. As an example, let’s say your organ
has 9 stops, with the 5th stop being the center stop. So you’d have 4 stops on either side of the
5th stop for a total of 9. Generally speaking your center stop activates an item called the “Vox Humana”
Latin for human voice) which is a device that sits inside the
back portion of the organ that adds a vibrato effect to whatever stop selection you’ve made. However, not everyone
enjoys the vibrato effect. Some people feel it sounds like you’re at an ice skating rink.
Typically one of the first things I’ll ask is “how many stops does your organ have?” This tells me several
things. As I mentioned earlier, it’ll give me a fair idea of the quality of the organ because most pump organ
manufacturers would charge more based on the number of stops it had.
The higher the number of stops, the higher number of different musical sounds it can make. This is especially
true with today’s electric church organs which can have dozens and dozens of stops that can create a wide variety
of different sounds.
It’s probably not necessary for me to point out that when I say different sounds I’m not talking about pig calls
and the like; I'm talking about creating different organ tonal sound variations. In other words by activating
different stops together, you can create any number of different organ sounds. It all boils down to the number
of stops your organ has.
See also: Common Stop Face Names