Second touch (or ‘double touch’) is a facility by which additional stops can sound by pressing harder on the keys. The additional stops may be pipes, percussions or couplers. The second touch stopkeys are normally located on the backrail above the top manual.
The most frequent application of this is to provide accompanimental counter-melodies or accents to the ensemble. Second touch is normally provided on the Accompaniment, and infrequently nowadays on the Great. A special example is Pedal Second Touch, used almost exclusively for non-tonal percussion accents (eg Triangle, Cymbal etc.).
With practice and planning, Second Touch can be most effective. The eminent British stylist Reginald Porter-Brown gained the sobriquet “the organist with three hands” through his total mastery of the Second Touch. Other well-known exponents included the American organist, Jesse Crawford.
Second touch can also be found on some types of stop key action. In this case, depressing the stopkey through to second touch causes other stopkeys in that department to cancel, a facility found on Compton theatre organs.