Photo: C. Bassett ©

Dr.Jeannine Jordan interviews Martin Ott.

August 2010 Pro-Motion Music newsletter

Dr. Jordan also authors the PromotionMusic Blog, rich in news about music, pipe organs, and travel.

Opus 107, console with solid-state action and 100 memory levels.

Photo: C. Bassett ©

Metal pipes are purchased from German pipe makers and are tailored to Martin Ott specifications. Wooden pipes are built at the St. Louis workshop using oak, maple, or cherry.

Martin has 24 cousins on his father’s side; every one plays a musical instrument, several at high professional level. House music was an important part of growing up. His father, Alfred Ott, played the cello, his mother the piano, his sister Barbara the piano, Martin plaid the violin and his brother Nicolaus the piano.

Martin Ott by C. Bassett ©

Distler's house organ build in 1938 by Paul Ott.
Photo source: Hugo-Distler-Archiv, Lübeck

The Orgelbewegung, Distler’s teachers, and the Zeitgeist of the early 20th century influenced Distler’s compositional output. But nothing influenced Distler’s organ music as prominently as the instruments themselves. Distler wrote his works for two main organs: a historical Stellwagen instrument in Lübeck’s St. Jakobi-Kirche and his own house organ in Stuttgart, built by Paul Ott. (Source: Celebrating Hugo Distler: 100 Year Anniversary of the Birth of a Genius. -Diapason Magazine)


Distler's house organ has a 16' Pedal stop named a TRICHTERDULZIAN (dulzian with funnel shaped resonator). This stop was reportedly invented by Paul Ott.

Paul Ott Organ, 1946, (12 Stops)

(2 of the stops made from cardboard), from the house of Wolfgang Adelung (author of organ reference book: Einführung in den Orgelbau). (Source: Ladack Instruments)

Antoine Bouchard at the Ott organ, Laval University, Quebec (12 stops)

Canadian organist and historian, Antoine Bouchard ordered four small tracker organs for Quebec from the German firm Paul Ott in 1963.

Bouchard catalogued and recorded the Complete Organ works of Pachebel in 1995. His book: "Quelques Reflexions Sur Le Jeu De L'orgue", 2003. ISBN: 2-7637-8018-0, demonstrates the value of tracker organ for baroque organ music.)

Opus 37 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, 1977, (17 stops)

Built by Paul Ott in 1977, the Russian organist Valery Maisky, who just then imigrated from Russia to Tel Aviv, gave the inauguration recital.

In 1994 it was restored by Ernst Junker, himself a student of Paul Ott.


Oct 15, 03:17 AM

Our Methods: About Our Pipe Organs

Tonal Design

Our instruments speak clearly and choruses blend together for a cohesive sound. Our influence on tonal design is German, but we also draw from other traditions to suit an American organist’s needs. For example, we frequently include French style reeds so that our instruments can successfully play French Romantic music. In both worship and non-worship settings, every effort is made to produce tonal designs that will enhance our clients' music traditions.

When organs will be used in a worship setting, our main concern is flexibility. Even though congregational singing will be the main purpose for the instrument, our organs can play a variety of organ literature. Every stop is unique, yet each one contributes to the overall ensemble. This gives an organist variety in registration, even on our small instruments. Most small churches do not have space for a large organ, so we ensure that our small organs are equally adept at playing preludes, postludes, liturgical music, hymns, anthems, and most recital literature. Many organists have told us that they never tire of hearing and playing our instruments. Large instruments do not have the spatial constraints of smaller instruments. However, we are careful to produce a tonal design that is comprehensive without being redundant.

Opus 90, a larger instrument of 51 stops as well as more modest ones like Opus 105 amongst others, exemplify the tonal signature and acoustic envelop one associates with a Martin Ott instrument.


In 1991, Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) was introduced to the company. Previously, all drafting was produced on manual drafting boards, a labor intensive and inefficient method as compared to CAD. Accuracy is dramatically increased. Now, libraries of individual components can be inserted into a drawing, eliminating the need to redraw similar pieces. Drawing can be quickly labeled and plotted for shop use. Files can be rapidly transmitted via email between the architect, consultants, and committee members.


Martin Ott keeps close relations with his German organ-pipe making colleagues. All metal pipes are purchased from German pipe makers and are tailored to our specifications. Metal Gedeckt pipes are usually tuned by adjusting the ears on either side of the mouth of the pipe. This method of tuning is more durable because the ears are less likely to move with weather changes than an adjustable cap. Cone tuning, also a stable tuning construction, is used for open metal pipes smaller than 1 ¼" in diameter. Larger metal pipes use tuning scrolls. Principal pipes are 75% tin while Flutes are 40% tin. Wooden pipes are built on the premises using oak, maple, or cherry which are high quality hardwoods. Only quarter-sawn lumber is used for wooden pipes because it resists warping.


Slider windchests are used because these provide the cohesive, gentle sound typical to Martin Ott pipe organs. In a slider windchest, pipes which sound the same note but are from different stops receive wind at the same time. Another benefit of this design is slow entry of wind from the chest to the pipe resulting in a gentle sound.


Quality hardwoods are used in the construction of the keyboard and pedal board. Our console dimensions and layout follows AGO standard specifications. The wood is chosen to complement the casework. The majority of our organs are mechanical action but we also have extensive experience building electric pull-down action. Keyboard and stop action are mechanical. On medium and large organs, the stop action uses electric solenoids so that solid-state combination action can be used. This solid-state action has multiple memory levels.

When the musical needs outweigh a mechanical action approach, we employ electric pull-down slider chest action. This allows for a free-standing and moveable console, if needed. Since every situation is unique, we work with the organ committee to determine what type of action is best suited for their needs. For example, Opus 91 (71 ranks) in Battle Creek, MI and Opus 97 (61 ranks) in Jackson, MI use electric pull-down slider chest action.


All casework uses mortise-and-tenon joint construction, known in cabinetry as the strongest possible wood joint. Wood species commonly used for casework are red and white oak, walnut, cherry, and Poplar (painted casework).

Martin Ott is particularly proud of the casework for Opus 106. The instrument aesthetic embodies all the years of refinements and design Martin Ott is renowned for. As well, Opus 106 became a source of inspiration, echoed masterfully by the building architect for the design of other elements of the contemporary St Mark's Lutheran Church in Aurora, Illinois.

Nathanael Ritz



Photo: Opus 54, C. Bassett ©


The Opus 54 film project was created and produced by Caleb Bassett and Ian Welch.

Opus 54 features interviews and commentary from several key figures from the history of the organ, as well as the talented musicians who make the instrument sing. (90 minutes DVD). You can order your copy at:

Photo: Martin Ott voicing the Kornett pipes on Opus 32. By Nelson Vigneault, October 2012.


Opus 90. 51 stops | 69 ranks | Mechanical key action. Built in 1997 for the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lansdale, Pennsylvania. This instrument was selected for the AGO (American Guild of Organists) Convention Recital 2002, and was performed by Cherry Rhodes.

Photo: (BACK FROM LEFT TO RIGHT) Paul Ott, Julius Ott, Emil Koser (the technical director at Paul Ott company), Ludwig Doormann, (Godfather to Dieter Ott), Alfred Ott, Dieter Ott. (FRONT) Martin Ott.

The Grand Organ designed by Ronald Sharp for the Sydney Opera House

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