Around 200 B.C., the pipe organ appeared in Greece. Scholars argue that Ctesibius of Alexandria, engineer, invented the instrument. Rather than conceived as a musical instrument, for him, the organ acted as a demonstration of hydraulic principles. Thus, the earliest specific references of it being used as a musical instrument exist from 150 years after his time.

This instrument was found and used in Roman times after the Greeks. However, during the civilizational collapse of the fifth and sixth centuries, the Western Roman Empire lost its knowledge of it. Its restoration seems to have come 400 years later, between the ninth and tenth centuries.

During the 14th and 15th centuries, the pipe organ saw some significant improvements regarding the design. It was at this time that a keyboard, or several, replaced the sliders. The number of pipes used expanded greatly, increasing the total available notes to around 40.

Construction of the pipe organ

The pressing of any individual key opens wind to a row of pipes. Stops keep the wind from operating any of the other pipes in the same row. By 1474, S. Petronio, in Bologna, had a full-scale 50 note organ with nine stops. Each pipe produces only one pitch, so accommodating a musical scale requires several of them. The greater the length of the pipe, the lower the resulting pitch.

Organ pipes are made of wood or metal. Different types of wood available influenced wind box designs. Also, it was likely that the types of organs built had some effect on the nature of the music composed for them. Halfway through the 17th century, some standardization had developed in the form of the French Classical organ. This was true both of organ building and musical composition for it. It came as a result of the fact nearly all of the organ builders in France lived in Paris.

A console provides access to the organist’s controls, which include the keyboards, couplers, expression pedals, stops, and registration aids. The console is either built-in or separate from the organ case. A case almost always contains the pipes, action, and wind system. Additionally, the case blends the organ’s sound and helps it project into the room.

Sound production of the organ

As mentioned, the pipe organ’s mechanism blows air into pipes, causing them to oscillate and produce sound. The pipes sit in a row above a box known as the wind-chest. In essence, the mechanism that produces sound in the pipe organ resembles that of a recorder’s.

Action on the stops and manuals define the pipe or pipes that produce sound. The stop enables switching between timbres, and the manuals define the pitch played. The manual-driven mechanism moves vertically through the wind-chest, while the stops move horizontally, forming an arrangement that resembles an interconnected matrix, such as a three-dimensional grid.