Why Organ and Piano Are Different Instruments…No, Really

I promise I’ll have a better, longer, more interesting article later this week. But currently my wrist doesn’t enjoy typing thanks to taekwondo, so I’m going to settle for a small pseudo-rant that really needs to be on paper (screen?). On a side note, WordPress is very clunky for posting a mixture of videos, text, and pictures. Maybe I’m just silly and not sure how to mix the three. Anyway. Here goes:

Organ and piano are not the same instrument. At all. Period. No arguments.

Many people seem to have the mistaken idea that these two instruments are the same. In some respects they’re correct. The keys are the same, obviously, but the mechanics of actually playing these two instruments differ drastically. For clarification, I’m referring to Hammond Organs, not the gigantic pipe ones you see in churches— though I’m sure those are another animal entirely as well.

Piano relies more on a percussive attack, and as such, serves better as a leading instrument. You often hear piano starting out songs with or in place of a guitar.

Organ, on the other hand, is a follower. An organ’s power comes from the rich sustained tones you can get, and the variability of these tones with the draw bars. As such, organ often is used to fill the gap that other, more percussive instruments tend to leave open. A good organ can fill out an otherwise empty set of music.

Organs use a volume pedal. Organs use a switch to turn vibrato on and off, requiring extra movement just to get more musical expression. You can’t sustain notes on an organ like piano, so you have to learn how to walk between chords and switch fingers without letting the tone die down (an awkward act that generally involves holding your fingers in odd, crossed positions while you move between chords). Organs rely on chord inversions to make playing smooth and to keep the sound steady. The keys are lighter, the motions different— slower and more thoughtful, even in a fast song. As such, I have none of the physical dexterity of a piano player. My fingers are used to entirely different motions than on piano, frankly.

It is so different from piano.

And yet I continue to hear people assume that organ players are automatically good piano players. No. Case in point? Me. I don’t think I’m an awful organ player, but I’m a terrible piano player. It’s strange, because you expect your skills to transfer over— like switching from one saxophone to another— but they don’t. That being said, there are plenty of talented people who are amazing at both instruments, but it likely took individual work on each instrument to get there.

Anyway. End ranting. Hopefully it was at least informative ranting. If you’re interested in the mechanics behind the above song, check out this video below. He mentions ‘crawling’ about a minute into the video, which is what I was talking about above with the awkward finger positions.

Thoughts? I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to comment below. Now, off to an activity where my wrist does nothing: Legend of Zelda! =)


2 thoughts on “Why Organ and Piano Are Different Instruments…No, Really

    1. Awesome! Glad my rant could be of assistance. =) I try not to rant without purpose. I was going to link some of the terms I thought were jargon loaded to wikipedia or something, but WordPress was not cooperating. Oh well. Of course I play Zelda. Who doesn’t? ;D

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