HAVE YOU EVER heard this expression before? Bach is the one responsible for it!
PULL OUT ALL THE STOPS: To put all of one’s energies into something. This literally refers to pulling out the “stops” in a pipe organ so the maximum amount of air is flowing through the pipes and the organ is playing with the loudest volume. Bach not only “pulled out all the stops” in his music, proving himself to be one of the most creative and prolific composers in history, but he was also an expert in organ design and was called upon to examine new or repaired organs all over Germany. Bach’s first biographer recorded, “The first thing he did in trying out an organ was to draw out all the stops and to play with the full organ. He used to say in jest that he must first of all know whether the instrument had good lungs.”
Here you see the pipes of the Neuenfelde (Hamburg) organ, 1682.
Now that you’ve seen the “noisy” side of the organ, here’s the other part where the musician works at command and control:
Here you see the organist playing and the many “stops” on his left and on his right. You see one in just in the bottom right hand corner of this photograph. Each stop correllates to a particular or pipes. This particular organ has 34 stops which could all have possibly been opened, as well as two manuals (the two keyboards), plus a set of pedals which the musician worked with his feet. What a lot of work to play the organ–kind of like patting your head, rubbing your tummy, and dancing a jig with your feet all at once! Can you imagine Bach playing at this very spot?