4/34 Robert Morton Organ
Ohio Theatre - Columbus, OH
Solo Chamber
Traps and Percussion

Traps are another feature of a theater organ which separates it from its classical counterparts. Since the purpose of the theater organ was to accompany and eventually replace the orchestra for silent films, the organ had to be able to play all four units of the orchestra: brass, woodwinds, strings and percussion. The pipes take care of the brass, woodwinds and strings, while the traps take care of the percussion.

Traps and Percussion

Here's a good overview of the traps and percussion in the Solo Chamber. This angle gives a good perspective of where things are with respect to the pipes (seen in the foreground), and the expression shades which are on the left side. The Solo Chamber is more or less the shape of the state of Nevada, and this view shows that we are looking at the part of the chamber which narrows to a wedge. Maneuvering in this area without bumping into anything is a challenge.

On this organ, all of the percussion and traps except for the chrysoglott reside in the Solo Chamber.

This photo shows the majority of the traps on the Morton. Visible in this photo are from the bottom left corner to the center: snare drum, telephone, horse hoofs, fire gong, tambourine, tom tom, triangle, wood block. On the right side is the small Chinese gong and the wood bar harp. Note the gray air supply pipes all through the chamber. The lower level swell shutters are behind the traps on the left. traps

traps and percussion

Here's a closer view of some of the traps. Also visible are some of the smallest pipes of the 16' Tibia Clausa rank.

traps and percussion

Here's a close up of the bass drum, small Chinese gong and band cymbal.


This photo gives a better look at the traps on the right. The wood bar harp or marimba is in two sections as can be seen by the two rows of metal pipes sitting adjacent to the wood blocks of the instrument. Behind the harp are some of the larger pipes of the 16' Tibia Clausa.

wood bar harp

Here's a view of the other side of the wood bar harp seen above. The wood rectangles with white in the middle are the individual air chambers for each striker on the instrument. All of these were recently releathered. This is a good illustration of how much work it takes to keep all the parts of the organ in tip top shape.


Just above the wood bar harp or marimba are the roll cymbal and the surf (the black box in the background). The surf is actually a number of small ball bearings inside a metal box. The box gently sways back and forth to simulate the sound of waves at the ocean.

bird whistle Left: This funny looking think is the bird whistle for the organ. The snare drum is on the right.

Right: Here's a closer view of the fire bell, tambourine, triangle, and tom tom. Note the triangle beater is below the triangle.


This is the wind chimes which has a nickname of "the Whirly-gig." This is one of the newer additions to the organ, added in 1999. Normally wind chimes are in a straight line, but coming up with a device which will simulate a hand running the length of the chimes proved difficult. The solution is to put the chimes in a circle, then have a striker rotate around, hitting each chime as it goes. The striker is not visible in this photo.

big Chinese gong

Doesn't every organ need one of these??? Another addition to the organ is the large Chinese gong, seen in the photo to the right. The gong is located on the top level of pipes in the chamber. Note its proximity to the expression shades to the left. The rank of pipes in the foreground is the 8' English Horn.

Tower Bells In the front corner of the chamber in front of the CCC Diaphonic Diapason pipe are the two tower bells. A guess is that the longest bell is about 7' long. On the right is a close up of the shorter bell which reveals that it was built by J.C. Deagan Company of Chicago, IL. Here are a couple links about the company and its founder.

J.C. Deagan

Deagan Organ Chimes
JC Deagan Chimes