Can Pianists Play Organ? Everything You Need to Know

Are you a seasoned pianist? Do you want to know whether you can play the organ instrument at the churches, at a cathedral or at your home? Well, all your queries would be addressed in this article holistically.

Pianists can usually play organ with comfort and ease. Piano and organ are very similar instruments which are quite homologous to each other. The key structure, tuning and pitches are mostly the same. Hence it takes a very little time to get started with an organ playing for a seasoned pianist.

In this article, further we shall discuss about organs, how similar it is when compared to a piano and what could be possible replacements for organs with the same sounding instruments.

What is an organ?

An organ is a keyboard based musical instrument very similar to a piano. Players use both hands to play the notes and the sound is created based on the pipes placed at varying intervals. The pitch of the sound is controlled based on the size and length of the pipe which is used. Typically, organs have higher octave sizes than a standard piano due to the varying lengths of the pipes.

Organs are highly bulky and come in sizes similar to a grand piano because of the huge mechanical parts involved in its design. Organs are usually used in churches, cathedrals, schools and colleges for musical performances.

Free An Old Wooden Keyboard Instrument Stock Photo

A Baldwin Organ used in the recent days for home performance

Differences between Piano and Organ

Here are some the basic differences between Pianos and Organ instruments:

  • Sound Source for the Instrument

    The pianos have a hammer-string mechanism for the sound generation. The strings are the source of the actual sound which are stroked using hammers to produced the sounds. However, the sound generation of organs is from the pipes of varying length using air-pressure based sound generation.

  • Key Ranges

    Piano has usually 88-keys with an 8-octave key range. Organs however are of varying key ranges, between 3 octave 36 keys to a whopping 9-octaves in size.

  • Timbre Texture

    Piano produces a plucked / stringed sound and the sound usually does not sustain for a long time. However, organs have a blowing / reed like sound with a sustain effect till the keys are pressed.

  • Sound Control Mechanism

    The sound of a piano is usually controlled using sustain, sostenuto and damper pedals or note sustain, expression and holding of notes. In case of organs, the control is usually made using the stops / registers and sometimes using pedals such as crescendo and volume/expression.

  • Presence / Usage

    Pianos are used more extensively at homes, studios at places of worship such as churches, educational institutions such as school, colleges. Organs are usually found in churches, cathedrals and some select schools and music colleges/universities. Finding organs at home is not a frequent occurrence like the pianos.

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Can Pianists play organ?

Most of the pianists can play organ comfortably. The keys, pitches and tone structure are quite similar for a piano and organ. The arrangement of scales – black and white keys are exactly the same. Hence any piano notation would produce similar kind of output on an organ.

In 20th century, new developments on organ design have made the organs more compact and electronic versions have also been created. These organs are quite similar to digital pianos and can be easily played by a pianist or keyboardist.

Most of the organists, who have started their music aspiration from organ playing, can also play the piano alternatively. Here are some of the steps which pianists have to take-up to conveniently play the organ:

  • Learn the functionality of stops/stoppers and organ registers along with the way to control the pitches and the volume of the organ.
  • Keys on organs are usually not weighted, so pianists would take some time to adjust with the velocity control of the notes while playing the organ which usually have a flat response in comparison to the piano.
  • Pianists need to get used on using the various organ pedals – such as crescendo, volume control and expression pedals. Although some are quite similar to the piano pedals, yet the way an organ sounds are controlled is different in comparison to a piano.

Free A Beautiful Antique Organ Stock Photo

A 5-octave pipe organ of 20th Century

Is there any replacement for Organ?

Modern day musicians and composers are actively looking for beautifully sampled organs from the comfort of their PC/MAC. This has been possible with the advent of VST plugins for present day music production software called the DAWs (Digital audio workstation).

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We recommend using Lake Side Pipe Organ VST or EZ-Keys Pipe Organ VST Instrument for your recording and music production needs. These plugins packed great sounding pipe and church organs which can be easily played using your MIDI Keyboard / digital piano connected to your PC/MAC.

EZ Keys Pipe Organ VST Interface Snapshot from toontrack website [All the manufacturers’ product names are trademarks of their respective owners, which are in no way associated with Musicdetailed]

Lakeside Pipe Organ - Pianos and Organs - virtual instrument sample library for Kontakt by Soundiron

Lake Side Pipe Organ VST Interface Snapshot from Soundiron website [All the manufacturers’ product names are trademarks of their respective owners, which are in no way associated with Musicdetailed]

For more information, do check-out our dedicated articles on the following:

Top 10 Organ VSTs for 2022 

What are VST Instruments? 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some the frequently asked questions by our fellow musicians and pianists regarding organ instruments: 

1) Which instrument is easier to learn – A piano or organ?

Both instruments can be learned with the same level of ease as both organ and piano are keyed instruments and the scales, notes and chords are the same.

2) Can all organists also play piano easily?

Yes, they can, however there playing style would be bit different that seasoned pianists who have been trained with the piano fingering styles.

3) How can I play organ sound on my PC / MAC System?

Yes, there are few organ VSTs which are available for purchase. Also, free organ VSTs are available for users to try on their PC/MAC. For more details, please check our article on Top 10 Organ VSTs for 2022 .

4) I am keyboardist, how can I play organ instrument from the comfort of my home?

We recommend to go for an affordable MIDI keyboard and connect it to your favourite organ VST instrument such as Lake Side Pipe Organ VST or EZ-Keys Pipe Organ VST and start playing authentic organ sounds from the comfort of your home.

5) What are the key ranges of an organ usually?

Organs can range from 3 octave (36-38 leys) to 9 octaves (100 plus keys) depending on their build and utility.


From the above points of discussion, it is clear that pianists can play organ easily and comfortably. They need to understand about the drawbars and other mechanical parts of the organ for a full-blown playing experience. Organs and pianos are therefore, quite similar and hence pianists would not face any major issues while splaying this instrument.

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For more insightful articles on Piano, music keyboards, VST Plugins and much more, please visit our website

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