Geigen German
Geigen Diapason German/English
Geigen Principal German/English
Geigenprincipal German
Geigenprinzipal German
Violin Diapason English
Grand Viol English
Viol Diapason English
Violin Principal English
Viol Principal English

The Geigen, whose name comes from the German geige, meaning “violin”, is a common diapason/string hybrid. While its tone varies between builders, it is usually (and properly) more diapason than string. It blends well, and is often used as the 8' foundation in Swell divisions. It is most often found at 8' pitch, though 4' examples are not uncommon, and has also been made at 16' pitch.

Groves dates the Geigen from around 1620 in central Germany. It was quite popular in the 19th century, and remains popular to this day. Most English Geigens of the 19th century were really Horn Diapasons.

This stop is usually made of open cylindrical metal pipes, though it has also been made of wood; Audsley provides a drawing, reproduced here, of a wooden Geigen by Thomas Pendlebury. Audsley and Bonavia-Hunt insist that it never be slotted, lest its tone become horny. It is often fitted with harmonic bridges. Scales cited in the literature range from 4" to 5.5" at 8' CC, with a 1/4 to 2/7 mouth and a 1/4 to 1/3 cutup. Adlung and Locher, however, claim it to have a “very narrow” scale.

Irwin claims that the name Violin Diapason denotes a different stop, being stringier than the Geigen. Skinner lists Geigen, Geigen Principal and Violin Diapason separately, but the descriptions he gives are compatible, though not identical. Locher lists Violino and Violina as synonyms for Violin Diapason. The names Viol Diapason, Viol Principal and Grand Viol are mentioned only by Audsley. There is an alternative meaning for Grand Viol.


Geigen Fifteenth
Geigen Super Octave
Geigen Twelfth
Viol Octave


Osiris contains 175 examples of Geigen Principal, 65 examples of Violin Diapason, 37 examples of Geigen Diapason, 31 examples of Geigen, 5 examples of Viol Principal, 3 examples each of Grand Viol and Violin Principal, and one example of Viol Diapason. The vast majority of these are at 8' pitch, with a handful at 16' and 4', except for Geigen Principal, where about one in six are at 4' pitch. The oldest known examples are given below.

Geigenprincipal 8', Oberwerk; Schlosskirche, Altenburg, Germany; Trost 1739.

Geigen 4', Swell; Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire, England; 1885.

Geigen Diapason 8', Swell; St. John's Lutheran Church, Chehalis, Washington, USA; Koehnken & Grimm 1895.

Geigen Diapason 8', Choir; Immaculate Conception Church, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Hook & Hastings 1875.

Violin Diapason 8', Swell; Immaculate Conception Church, Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA; Hutchings 1875.

Violin Diapason 8', Swell; Chickering Hall, New York City, New York, USA; Roosevelt 1876.

Violin Diapason 8', Choir; St. Andrew's Halls (Public Halls), Glasgow, Scotland; Lewis 1877.

Grand Viol 16', Solo; John Wanamaker Store, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

Grand Viol 16', Chancel Pedal; Cadet Chapel, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, USA; Moller 1911.

Grand Viol 8', Grand Great; Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA; Midmer-Losh.

Viol-Principal 8', Swell; St. John Vianney Catholic Church, Hacienda Heights, California, USA; Biugelow 1992.

Viol Principal 4', String Organ II; Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA; Midmer-Losh.

Viol Principal 16', 8', Great; First Baptist Church, Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Petty-Madden 1993.

Viol Principal 8', Swell; Ferguson Hall, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Van Daalen 1986.

Violín Principal 8', Manual II; Cathedral, Jaen, Spain; Amezúa 1941.

Violin Principal 8', Choir; First Baptist Church, Jackson, Mississippi, USA; Keates-Geissler 1990.

Violin Principal 8', Great; Concert Room, John Wanamaker Store, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; 1920.

Viol Diapason 8', Enclosed Great; Cadet Chapel, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, USA; Moller 1911. This is the only known example of this name.

Sound Clips

See the Sound Files appendix for general information.

Geigen Principal 8', Swell St. Anne's Church, Moseley, Birmingham, England Brindley & Foster, 1907 arpeggio St. Anne
Geigen Diapason 8', Swell Culver Academies, Indiana, USA Möller 1951 arpeggio St. Anne


Adlung[1]: §177 Prästant. Audsley[1]: Geigenprincipal; Violin Diapason. Audsley[2]: I.XIII Geigenprincipal; II.XXXIV Geigenprincipal; II.XXXVI Geigenprincipal. Bonavia-Hunt[1]: Diapason; Geigen; Viola. Grove[1]: Geigen. Hopkins & Rimbault[1]: § 592. Irwin[1]: Geigen Diapason; Violin Diapason. Locher[1]: Geigenprincipal; Violino. Skinner[1]: XII Geigen, Geigen Principal, Violin Diapason. Sumner[1]: Geigen; Violin Diapason. Wedgwood[1]: Geigen Principal.
Copyright © 2003 Edward L. Stauff, all rights reserved.
Geigen.html - Last updated 13 February 2009.
Full Index