The OHS Pipe Organ Database

Stoplists hold a fascination for many organists, and the OHS Database includes links to almost 20,000 such documents.

As is the case with all our auxiliary documents, we are dependent on the efforts of our site visitors to send us stoplists of organs they visit. To make your job easier, we have three different ways you can do that:

  • Use our Upload Stoplist form.
  • Use our Online Stoplist Addition form.
  • Send them to us as e-mail attachments.

You will find more details about each of those forms on our Add Stoplists page.

If you have never sent us a stoplist, we hope you will begin to do so soon. The two sections that follow will help you with some guidelines for preparing to do just that.

Of Stoplists and Specifications

Organists and organbuilders have their own vocabulary, of course, and often we use different ones interchangeably. Perhaps the most common pair of terms we use carelessly is this one: stoplist and specification. There are many instances where our choice of which to use doesn't cause confusion, and certainly that's a common situation. The OHS Pipe Organ Database, however, uses the terms to indicate two specific types of documents.

We use stoplist to mean a simple listing of speaking stops on a given instrument, separated into different groups according to the manual or division to which they belong. Although a stoplist might include an indication of couplers as well, that isn't always the case. Simple stoplists are often included with recital or concert programs, where they can provide additional information to listeners.

The OHS Database keeps stoplists separate from photographs and other digital documents. They are requested by site visitors more than almost any other type of document, second only to photographs. When it is possible for us to do so, we include them on the page of information about an organ, rather than simply posting links to them.

An annotated stoplist usually contains more details, quite often indicating the number of pipes in each stop or giving some idea of the origin of certain stops. This is a level of detail one doesn't often see in concert programs, but it is not uncommon to find annotations on stoplists that are included in organ dedication booklets.

The OHS Database treats these documents as it does simpler stoplists.

An organ specification contains much more information than an annotated stoplist and is often an integral part of a contract between a builder and the purchaser of an organ. Such details vary from one to another, but these are some of the elements you might find on specifications.

  • Couplers
  • Wind pressures
  • Pipe construction
  • Origin of pipework
  • Scaling of individual ranks
  • Mixture composition
  • Thumb pistons and toe studs
  • Placement of each division within the room
  • Descriptions of decorative elements or cases

The OHS Database treats specifications differently from stoplists. Because we receive digital copies of archival originals, we include only links to them on pages of information about organs. They are then accessible on their own through a separate window or tab.

Stoplist Formats

At their heart, stoplists are simply text documents, and as such, they can be stored in a variety of digital formats. Most of the stoplists catalogued in the OHS Pipe Organ Database are saved on the server as plain text files. These are universally readable, and our choice is to display them as a part of a page of information about a specific organ. In the past we have offered an online form through which site visitors can enter stoplists directly, subject to review by a member of the Database Committee before being posted to the website.

We have also received many stoplists from site visitors as PDF files, most often via e-mail. Such stoplists are often scanned from historical documents, and they often contain hand-written annotations that are an important part of the historical record. When we have such stoplists available, we do not post them directly on the page of information but post a link to the document instead.

Publication and Privacy

When you send us a stoplist you give us the right to publish it on the OHS Pipe Organ Database website. We will not publish it further, particularly in any of our print media, without seeking additional permission from you to do so. However, as described above, the content of the stoplist is actually in the public domain, so we have no control over it.

When we publish your stoplist on the Database website, we will acknowledge your contribution by name, but we will not share your contact information beyond OHS. If we receive inquires about you or your contribution, we will send you that individual's email address and allow you to initiate contact, should you decide to do so.