Page 1 of 1

Uses for toe studs (foot pistons)

PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2022 1:46 pm
by mnailor
I'm curious what other people who have toe studs on their console choose to use them for. Since the number is limited (15 on mine), it seems like the choices might say something about what's most important to be able to change hands-free.

I tend to play more French symphonic music than anything, so I have reversibles emulating Anches ventils (8 4 and 16 8 4 per manual division and 16 8 and 32 16 8 4 for pedal), reversibles for some couplers, and stepper advance, retreat, and retrigger.

These are assigned globally and used the same way for every organ from about 1850, just so I don't have to remember a lot of inconsistencies. Not used for earlier organs.

Other uses? Thank you!

Re: Uses for toe studs (foot pistons)

PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2022 2:25 pm
by IainStinson
My use is quite conventional.

I have a lower row of toe pistons; 4 on left of expression pedals are Pedal divisional 1 to 4, 4 on the right are Pedal divisional 5 to 8.

Higher row (4 in total) left of the Expression pedals Swell to Pedal, Swell to Grt. To the right of the expression pedal Great to Pedal, Sequencer Advance one frame. The coupler toe pistons are reversibles.

I tend to use this for all organs.

I have tried using the toe pistons as coupler stops and ventils (cf a Cavaillé-Coll console) with some French instruments, but I wasn’t very fluent when trying to use that arrangement.


Re: Uses for toe studs (foot pistons)

PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2022 8:37 am
by mnailor
Thanks, Iain.

Re: Uses for toe studs (foot pistons)

PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2022 11:42 am
by JulianMoney-Kyrle
I have two MIDI toe stud units, originally designed (I think) for electric guitars, and each one with five studs. Unfortunately one of them isn't working at the moment, so I only have five studs on the right. From the middle outwards, I use the first one to advance the stepper, the second as a reversible piston usually controlling the Sw-Gt coupler or equivalent, and the other three I have set as scoped pistons which I set according to the particular organ I am using and the piece I am learning.

My organ teacher discourages me from using the stepper as very few organs in the UK have one, so relying on it isn't a very useful or transferrable skill. Most medium-to-large organs have at least some divisional pistons, so he is requiring me to learn how to get the most out of them, though the organ where I have my lessons has a few general pistons as well, and all of the pistons are user-programmable (in many UK organs the pistons are set up by the organ builder and can't readily be changed).

At the moment he has me learning Herbert Howells's Psalm Prelude set 1 No. 1, which relies on being able to build up a smooth crescendo from ppp to fff and then take it down again, a good exercise in the use of divisionals.

One thing that I would be very interested to know is how people programme their pistons to achieve this, given that about 5 or 6 pistons per division is fairly typical in the UK, which does limit the combinations that you can use.

Re: Uses for toe studs (foot pistons)

PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2022 12:52 pm
by mnailor
Thanks, Julian.

I don't really play any music that expects a smooth cresc from ppp to fff, but am amazed when it's done with divisionals.
An easy solution is the crescendo pedal (not found on most English organs I guess), but which I don't have the patience to set up in detail for a dozen organs or more. I just use it to add the principal chorus vertically in 6 blocks of 5 stages, since my reversibles add the chorus reeds and supporting fonds, but no upperwork.

I do have 7 divisionals for each manual, 5 for pedal, in increasing order, but my left hand is atrophied and shakes; hitting thumb pistons while playing isn't easy (right thumb often busy covering for L.H.), so I don't even try what you're doing. Music with a lot of quick registration changes is just beyond me, unless I felt like setting up a lot of stepper frames by piece, which I don't.

I use 10 stepper frames as generals, stepping from Bourdons 8 to fonds 16 8 4, with chorus reeds added separately on reversibles and upperwork on the cresc pedal as the main modifiers. I can jump back to the last fonds registration with Retrigger after changing it with divisionals, reversibles, etc.

Re: Uses for toe studs (foot pistons)

PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2022 4:19 am
by JulianMoney-Kyrle

The only time I have ever seen a crescendo pedal was when I played the organ in Hereford Cathedral, which was many years ago. My HW console has 20 pistons per keyboard and two swell pedals, in addition to the foot switches I mentioned, and with the HW internal pistons etc. it is possible to set up all kinds of shortcuts. However, although there is no real organ that I regularly play, I don't want to be completely reliant on them.

I recently visited Oxford with a local organists' group and we had the opportunity to play a number of organs belonging to the various colleges. As their requirements are rather different from those of most churches in the UK they were quite unlike most instruments I had previously played and very interesting. Mostly they were fairly new tracker instruments, but taking in quite a number of different styles, including classical French, Romantic French, Neoclassical, Organ Reform Movement and more. Playing aids were quite limited, with divisional pistons in most but not all of them, though some had general pistons and a couple had steppers.

Most UK organs have a stop knob labelled "Great and Pedal Combinations Combined" which links the pedal toe pistons with the great thumb pistons, so that you have the option of using them separately or together. This is something that I would like to see in Hauptwerk, though of course you can set up different registration files with different scopes.

I suppose what I am saying is that managing the organ is a skill that is expected of UK organists, and if I want to develop it then I have to learn to use mostly divisional pistons rather than anything else. I have to say, I do find them much quicker to programme than the stepper.

I still haven't come up with a consistent scheme for programming pistons, and at the moment I am setting them up individually according to which piece I am learning (at least HW lets you save multiple registration settings). I have the console set up with 8 divisionals per division (5 for pedals) and 10 stepper frames used as generals. However, I have found that some of the pistons can be quite difficult to reach when I am playing.

Thank-you for sharing your scheme; I am very interested in what other people are doing here, and what works best for which sample set, though of course it must depend on whether you are playing French Romantic music, English or whatever.


Re: Uses for toe studs (foot pistons)

PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2022 3:15 pm
by mnailor
I do have a consistent piston scheme, however boring it is, for the middle 8 divisionals (grouped 1 5 2) on the CMK keyboards, where at least they are reachable. The 1 is reversible, the 5 and 2 groups are scoped. The other 5 scoped to the right are mostly salads, but are consistent on the Swell. Three right side single pistons are reversibles for trem.

Swell: +/-Tr8 F8 V8 VF8 DVF8 VF8Hb8 full 8+ full 16+ F8 4 VxC8 VxH8 trem Hb8 Tr8 (need to rethink redundant last two)

Great: +/-fonds 16 B8 through fonds 8 fonds 84 full 8+ full 16+ (last 5 are any useful flutes, strings, reeds)

Choir: same as Great where applicable

Pedal: cancel B16 8 VB16 8 fonds 16 8 +Trombone 16

Solo: +/-pedal fonds 32 F8 F84 V8 VC8 VF8 tubas 8 16 8 up to 5 for character reeds

(Baroque scheme is not remotely similar.)

Re: Uses for toe studs (foot pistons)

PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2022 3:51 pm
by Organorak
i have a page up and page back toe piston for my digital music desk which I use more than any other.

For Caen I do use pistons as ventils BUT have duplicated each ventil as a drawstop (using a custom jorgan interface). So I can always see their status and operate by toe or by hand. Works brilliantly well.

For English samples I use them as intended.

Re: Uses for toe studs (foot pistons)

PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2022 4:07 pm
by GLMounk
I would use some to turn the tremolo switches on and off. I do that but with a knee switch from an old Yamaha organ.

Re: Uses for toe studs (foot pistons)

PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2023 6:13 pm
by mnailor
Following Julian to some extent, I've quit using the stepper and most generals, leaving 5 general thumb pistons just for starting a movement quickly. I got really tired of setting stepper frames and generals but hardly ever using them except between movements.

Now my thumb pistons are 15 divisionals each for CH, GT+PD, and SW, 10 for PD alone on the 4th manual, and 5 generals on the 4th manual. The rest are a few reversibles per division and various Hauptwerk controls like Scope, Setter, Cancel, All Keys Off, and Shutdown.

Due to physical limitations, I stopped using the 4th manual and now assign any 4th manual division to the 1st or 2nd manual, including it in those divisionals' scopes.

Toe studs are now all reversibles: 6 couplers, one free reversible, 8 chorus reed reversibles as mentioned in the first post.

I'm still using the master crescendo to add the principal chorus, since I don't include upperwork with the reversible toe studs. Slowly converting the crescendos on bigger organs to a gradual buildup of flues instead of chunks of identical stages.