Physics of Chilly Magnus Chord Organs ("Timothy C. Justus" )

Subject: Physics of Chilly Magnus Chord Organs
From:    "Timothy C. Justus"  <Timothy.C.Justus(at)DARTMOUTH.EDU>
Date:    Mon, 4 Jan 1999 22:09:39 EST

Dear list - Could someone please explain to me the relationship between the temperature of an instrument and its pitch? As you know, the pitch of an instrument is usually low when it has been out in the cold. Is this more a function of the rigidity of the matter that is vibrating? The slow speed with which particles move in cold air? A colleague of mine recently posed this question to me, in reference to a Magnus Chord Organ (part of his message is below), and I thought this might be an interesting question for the auditory list. Thanks - Timothy Justus Part of my colleague's message: "... finding a Magnus Chord Organ... I was able to find two of these organs, both in working condition. Unfortunately, both are a full half-step sharp in pitch. Transposition while playing is an option while using the keyboard, but not the push buttons that play chords, and there's a gag in the piece that involves the push buttons. I believe these organs are constructed as follows: when the organ is turned on, a fan provides an air-stream; when a key is depressed, the air stream is released and channelled in such a way as to vibrate the reed underneath the key (I suppose a reed-organ or an accordian function the same way, with the air stream generated manually). I have a few questions: "How would temperature affect pitch in such an instrument? The temperature in this shop was pretty cold; if the thing was warm, might the core pitch change? If it did, isn't it more likely to go higher, rather than lower? "If the instrument's core pitch is indeed a half-pitch sharp, are there ways to "tune" it?" Email to AUDITORY should now be sent to AUDITORY(at) LISTSERV commands should be sent to listserv(at) Information is available on the WEB at

This message came from the mail archive
maintained by:
DAn Ellis <>
Electrical Engineering Dept., Columbia University