Temperature is critical for accurate tuning. If you’ve ever played a wind instrument, you probably remember warming up prior to tuning. This is necessary because the temperature of the player’s breath affects the pitch of the wind instrument. The same concept is true with organ pipes.
Flue pipes (principals, strings, and flutes) change pitch by approximately 2 cents for every Fahrenheit degree of temperature change. There are 100 cents in a half-step, so the difference of a few degrees can be very noticeable. Reed pipes are less affected by temperature and typically stay closer to pitch. Although it may seem that the reed ranks have gone out of tune, it is really the flue ranks that have moved.
As temperature fluctuates away from the “normal” or “occupied” setting, the organ will sound out of tune. If temperature changes are moderate, the organ will revert to good tune when the occupied temperature is reestablished. The variables related to achieving the occupied temperature are different for each situation. Keep in mind that it will take longer for organ components to acclimate to the occupied temperature than it does for the air in the sanctuary to acclimate; often several hours are required to achieve a stable environment.
The ideal, occupied temperature is 70°F. When the room is not in use, temperatures can vary quite a bit, but preferably not more than 10° to 15°F from the normal setting. If necessary, a summer and a winter temperature can be maintained (e.g. 68°F in the winter and 72°F in the summer). Only the most critical of listeners will notice the slight variation in pitch caused by a few degrees difference in temperature. The placement of the organ pipes, the effectiveness of your HVAC system, and ceiling fans are just a few of the other variables to consider. We will work closely with you to ensure the organ is tuned under the best conditions possible.