Innovation in a traditional craft

Adjusting pipe organs to spatial acoustics

The research group for musical acoustics at the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics has been investigating the acoustic interactions between rooms and pipe organs for many years, developing technological solutions for organ builders. The Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum (SEZ) helped the Fraunhofer Institute and the Orgelbau Mühleisen GmbH – a leading European organ builder from Leonberg – to acquire EU subsidies. The SEZ was also carrying out the project management. By working with external research partners, organ builders now have access to innovative technological solutions.

Pipe organ building is a traditional industry in Europe – and an important part of Europe’s cultural heritage. The sound quality of pipe organs is a major factor for the competitiveness of small and medium-sized organ builders. And this quality is always affected by the space in which the organ stands. What you, the listener, hear, depends on both the pipe organ and the spatial acoustics. Stateof- the-art acoustic techniques have yet to be applied in the organ building industry. The reason? Acousticians and organ builders have completely different approaches – and terminology.

Adapting a pipe organ to the acoustic qualities of a church or concert hall can be a major challenge. Ten organ building firms from across Europe have joined forces with the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics to meet this challenge head on – in the project INNOPIPEORG. One of the aims of this EU project is to build a bridge between the fields of spatial acoustics and organ building.

As well as addressing problems of mutual understanding – which are more or less subjective – the team looked at the objective difficulties of applying spatial acoustic methods to pipe organ measurement, developing standard acoustics methods for pipe organs and documenting the sound power of the organ pipes.

As a result of the project, some innovative measuring techniques and systems were created, resulting in a new scientific basis for measuring and adapting pipe organs to the acoustic properties of a church or concert hall. A first in the long tradition of organ building.

The European Commission awarded the project 350,000 euros of subsidies over 28 months. The Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum helped the participating firms apply for funding and did the project management. The SEZ does already support the project partners in a new project receiving funding by the European Commission: the EU project “INNOSOUND – Innovative Methods and Tools for the Sound Design of Organ Pipes” will address the design and construction of organ pipes.


Prof. Dr. Norbert Höptner
Dr. rer. nat. Jonathan Loeffler

Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum (Karlsruhe)

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