i have an old pump organ and want to learn playing it a bit. I hope that is the correct english word for it, it looks like the one on the WIki picture here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pump_organ

I am not completely new to playing keyboard instruments as i learned to play an electronic keyboard in my childhood, but that was some time ago. Now i plan to get a bit practice and wonder what what to play. I suspect most of the religious pieces made for a church organ would work, but i would rather like to play some classical stuff. I am just not sure where to start, or what would make a piece of music suitable. So i need some recommendations of where to start - what would be suitable especially for a beginner? Does it play similar enough to a church organ that i could ask any organist for advice?

  • You can take almost anything written for keyboard instruments up until late '700 - while some things are not really ideal for organ, most of them are. There are collections of easy classical pieces for beginners (sometimes transcriptions, others they use the actual original score), including the series "My first ...": you can start from "My First Bach". Commented May 18, 2021 at 17:38
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    @musicamante - did you mean 700 or 1700?
    – Tim
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 17:41
  • @Tim Uhm, the apostrophe is used for omitted century or millennium, it's pretty common in Italian, but I know it's also used in English (but I'm not sure if it's more used in British or American). So, yes, 1700 Commented May 18, 2021 at 17:49
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    @musicamante - that's a completely new one for me. Obviously it couldn't be much else than a missing '1', but the effort saved is..?
    – Tim
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 18:13
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    @musicamante this style is definitely not used in German, or, English, or Norwegian. It didn't even occur to me that you could have meant 1700, and I wondered how pre-700 music could possibly be a good suggestion! Commented May 18, 2021 at 19:13

3 Answers 3


There were plenty of collections of music either originally for or arranged for harmonium, and some of them are still in print. One of them is "Harker's Harmonium Collection" published by G. Schirmer. (Or at least it was still in print when I bought it for my reed organ.) Some of the transcriptions work better than others.

The typical American reed organ has a five-octave range, wider on each end than a harpsichord, so you can play the preludes and fugues from Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" as well as most manuals-only organ pieces.

A modern work is "Music For a Found Harmonium" by Simon Jeffes and the Penguin Cafe Orchestra.


I know of exactly one piece by a major classical composer explicitly written for the harmonium*: Dvorak's Bagatelles Op 47. If the difficulty level looks appropriate, and if you can find two violinists and a cellist to play along with you, it's a fun little bit of chamber music!

* Yes, by "harmonium" Dvorak meant a foot-pumped organ like you describe, popular in Victorian parlors. Not to be confused with a hand-pumped version of the harmonium with a smaller range, popular in Indian music.

P.S. Yes, much music intended for organ would be an option, but there's one big difference: Although your feet are involved with this instrument, they can't actually play notes as with a pipe organ! You'll have to stick to single-manual works. The repertoire in Victorian parlors would probably include a lot lighter fare, like 4-part hymnody or arrangements of folk songs. The (foot-pumped) harmonium also found an enduring niche in Scandinavian folk music:


Something bold and powerful would go nice with such an instrument, which can create a powerful sound.

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    Hm, maybe I haven't met the finest specimens of their species, but those I've met run more toward wheezy than powerful, especially compared against their cathedral-roof-raising kin... Commented Oct 17, 2021 at 20:19

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