This page lists definitions for words and acronyms related to pipe organs. Also covered are electronic organs, organ music, churches, and acronyms,. The other words encountered since starting on my journey to become a church organist may also be included.

This is a work in progress.  Some words will link to an external resource or to a blog post providing more information or the story behind why I choose the word.  In time, I hope to build a complete list of terminology.

An explanation as to why I am building this list can read at the blog post here.

If you were looking for complete, already built lists, check out these sites: Glossary of Organ terms from a pipe organ builder.


AGO – American Guild of Organists. Their mission is to enrich lives through organ and choral music. Anyone who supports their mission can become a member.

BWV – Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis, Germam for Bach Works Catalog. This is the standard numbering for works composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. BWV is written first and followed by the number. Example: BWV 556.

Cabinet Pipe Organ – A small organ that is built inside of a cabinet

Chorale Prelude – an organ piece based on a chorale

The American Organist Magazine magazine published monthly by the AGO. It is the most widely read journal devoted to organ and choral music in the world. It is the official journal of the American Guild of Organists and the Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America.

Finger substitution occurs when depressing a key with one finger, you move another finger onto that key. Then the original finger moves off of the key. This enables the organist to have their hand in position for the next note. This is required sometimes so notes can be played legato (no break between notes).

Fugue – A fugue is a piece of music written for more than one voice (part or instrument). The initial voice states a theme and then each additional voice imitates the theme. The music progresses with different sections which may or may not repeat the theme. At the end of the theme is usually repeated by one (or perhaps all) of the voices.

Organ shoes: Narrow shoes designed to be worn by organist when they are playing the organ. They usually have a thin suede sole and a 1 and 1/4 inch heel.

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