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A close-up of the Hammond L-100 organ, with the drawbars in the foreground
The Hammond organ is an electric organ which was invented by Laurens Hammond in 1934 and manufactured by the Hammond Organ Company. While the Hammond organ was originally sold to churches as a lower-cost alternative to the wind-driven pipe organ, in the 1960s and 1970s, it became a standard keyboard instrument for jazz, blues, rock music and gospel music.

The original Hammond organ used additive synthesis of waveforms from harmonic series made by mechanical tonewheels which rotate in front of electromagnetic pickups. The component waveform ratios are mixed by sliding drawbars mounted above the two keyboards. Although many different models of Hammond organs were produced, the Hammond B-3 organ is most well-known. In the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, the distinctive sound of the B-3 (and in Europe, the C-3) organ was widely used in progressive rock bands and blues-rock groups. Although the last electromechanical Hammond organ came off the assembly line in the mid-1970s, thousands are still in daily use.

In the 1980s and 1990s, musicians began using electronic and digital devices to imitate the sound of the Hammond, because the vintage Hammond organ is heavy and hard to transport. By the 1990s and 2000s digital signal processing and sampling technologies allowed for better imitation of the original Hammond sound.


American engineer and inventor Laurens Hammond filed U.S. Patent 1,956,350 for a new type of "electrical musical instrument" that could recreate a pipe organ–type sound. He got the idea for the tonewheel by listening to the moving gears of his electric clocks and the tones produced by them. He understood the fact that every instrument sounds the way it does because of its many harmonic overtones and their varied intensities. The invention was unveiled to the public in April 1935 and the first model, the Model A, was made available in June of that year. The organ was first used for popular music by Milt Herth, who played it live on WIND marker soon after it was invented. Radio shows of the 1930s and 40s used the Hammond for not only mood music but more significantly, for sound effects. For example, if you wanted a clock chime, you would set the drawbars at 010010603. The Hammond organ was widely used in United States military chapels and post theaters during the Second World War, and returning soldiers' familiarity with the instrument may have helped contribute to its popularity in the post-war period.

Hammond had intended his invention to be an affordable substitute for pipe organs, as a replacement for the piano in middle-class homes, and as an instrument for radio broadcasting. However, by the 1950s, jazz musicians such as Jimmy Smith began to use the organ's distinctive sound. By the 1960s, the Hammond became popular with pop groups and was used on the British pirate station Radio 390. In Britainmarker the organ became associated with elevator music and ice rinks music. However, the overdriven sound of the Hammond gained a new image when it became part of 1960s and 1970s rock with artists like Gregg Allman, Steve Winwood, Keith Emerson, Jon Lord, and Rick Wakeman.

Hammond is now owned by Suzuki Musical Inst. Mfg. Co., Ltd., and distributed by Hammond Suzuki Co., Ltd. Today, Hammond build electronic organs that closely replicate the tonewheel organ sound using current technology.

Tone generation

Tonewheel rotates beneath electromagnetic pickup.

Additive synthesis

The original Hammond organ imitated the function of a pipe organ's ranks of pipes in multiple registers by using additive synthesis of waveforms from harmonic series to generate its sounds. The Hammond organ's individual waveforms are made by mechanical tonewheels which rotate in front of electromagnetic pickups. Although they are generally included in the category of electronic organs, original Hammond organs are, strictly speaking, electric or electromechanical rather than electronic organs because the waveforms are produced by mechanical tonewheels rather than electronic oscillators. Hammond organs use 96 tonewheels. Five of these are blanks, only present in order to balance out the rotating mechanical sub-assemblies. Thus the tonewheel assembly generates 91 frequencies, which are all that are required for the entire organ. The appropriate frequency outputs, nine per key, are routed to the key contacts for each note on the keyboards (generally referred to as manuals).


The component waveform ratios are mixed by sliding drawbars mounted above the two keyboards, which operate like the faders on an audio mixing board. When a drawbar is incrementally pulled out, it increases the volume of its component waveform. When pushed all the way in, the specified component wave form becomes absent from the mix. The labelling of the drawbar is derived from the stop system in pipe organs where the physical length of the pipe corresponds to the pitch produced. Hammond drawbars are set up in groups of nine arranged as follows:

16' 1 octave below fundamental
5 1/3' a fifth above fundamental
8' fundamental
4' 1 octave above fundamental
2 2/3' 1 octave and a fifth above fundamental
2' 2 octaves above fundamental
1 3/5' 2 octaves and a major third above fundamental
1 1/3' 2 octaves and a fifth above fundamental
1' 3 octaves above fundamental
The drawbars on the XB-1
Each of the drawbars has a range of 0 (off) to 8 (full on) and can be modified in real-time, allowing changes to be made while a song is being played. A given combination of drawbar settings creates a unique timbre, and is referred to as a registration. Registrations are notated using a 9-digit sequence where each digit corresponds to the level of its respective drawbar. Hammond called these "Harmonic Controllers" because they were intended to mimic harmonic overtones making it possible to come up with millions of combinations. Here are a few pages from the original Model A Console operating manual . Examples of the different drawbar registers can be found in a combined owner's manual of the model A, B, and E found here in PDF format.


In addition to drawbars, many Hammond tonewheel organ models also include presets, which allow defined drawbar combinations to be made available at the press of a button. Full Console organs such as the B-3 and C-3 models have a number of reverse colored keys (naturals are black, sharps/flats are white) to the left of each manual, with each key activating a preset. The two right-most preset keys (B and Bb) activate the corresponding left or right set of drawbars for that manual, while the other preset keys produce preselected drawbar settings that are internally wired into the preset panel . The image shows the preset panel on the right and all its color coded wires associated with its equivalent drawbar. The preset panel has sections corresponding to equivalent drawbar sets, e.g., Upper Manual and Lower Manual. Looking at the preset panel screws horizontally, each screw from left to right represents a Preset Key from C# to A. Looking vertically from the bottom to top each screw represents an increase in intensity from 0-9 like when a drawbar is pulled out. With the Preset Panel feature, favorite registers were essentially programmable by the organist for specific presets. The far left key (C), also known as the cancel key, de-activates all presets, and results in no sound coming from that manual.

Other Hammond models such as the M-100 and L-100 series have flip tabs for presets, situated across the top of the organ. The left hand flip tab reverts to the tone set by the drawbars. Some models such as the M, M-2 and M-3 spinet organs have only drawbars, and no presets, but after market products such as the Duet Sixteen, manufactured by the now defunct Electro Tone Corporation can be added to give preset functions.


Another facet of the distinctive sound of the Hammond is the harmonic percussion effect. The term "percussion" does not refer to a drum-type sound effect. Instead, it refers to the addition of the second and third harmonic overtones, which can be added independently to the attack envelope of a note. The selected percussion harmonic(s) then quickly fade out—a distinctive "plink" sound—leaving the tones which the player has selected using the drawbars. The percussion retriggers only after all notes have been released, so legato passages only have a percussion on the first note. Older Hammond models produced before the 3 series organs (such as the B-2 and C-2) do not have the harmonic percussion feature. Aftermarket percussion effects can be added using devices from Trek II and from the Electro Tone Corporation.

Key click

Hammond organs have a distinctive percussive key click, which is the attack transient that occurs when all nine key contacts close, causing an audible pop or click. Originally, key click was considered to be a design defect and Hammond worked to eliminate or at least reduce it by using equalization filters. However, many performers liked the percussive effect, and it has become part of the classic sound that modern imitators of the Hammond organ have tried to reproduce.


Although Hammond designed its own set of speakers, many players prefer to play the Hammond through a rotating speaker cabinet which, after several name changes, became known as the Leslie speaker, after its inventor Donald J. Leslie (1913–2004). The Leslie system is an integrated speaker/amplifier combination in which sound is emitted by a rotating horn over a stationary treble driver and a rotating baffle beneath a stationary bass woofer. This creates a characteristic sound due to the constantly changing pitch shifts that result from the Doppler effect created by the moving sound sources. It was originally designed to mimic the complex tones and constantly shifting sources of sound emanating from a large group of ranks in a pipe organ. The effect varies depending on the speed of the rotors, which can be toggled between fast (tremolo) and slow (chorale) using a console or pedal switch, with the most distinctive effect occurring as the speaker starts or stops rotating. During the 1970s, the Chicago, Illinois audio team of David J. Walat, P.E., and Paul Di Matteo, a musician by trade, were well known within the music industry for the modifications they made to Leslie cabinets. Their replacing the original transducers with an 18 inch woofer and dual high frequency drivers proved popular for high power stage applications. Examples of their work toured the world with bands such as Uriah Heep, Kansas and Procol Harum.

Keyboards and pedalboard

The manuals of the Hammond organ have a lightweight action, which allows for very rapid passages to be executed with more ease than on a weighted keyboard, such as a piano or pipe organ. Additionally, the "waterfall" style keys of early Hammond models make effects such as palm glissandi possible. Later models, starting with the M-100 and L-100 series, were produced with keys colloquially known as "springboard" or "diving board" keys.

Hammond organs come with a wooden bass pedalboard for the feet, so that the organist can play basslines. Hammond organ bass pedalboards do not usually have a full, 32-note American Guild of Organists (AGO) pedalboard going up to a G (3rd leger line above the bass clef) as the top note (see AGO pedalboard). Instead, a 25-note pedalboard, its top note a middle C, or a 30-note pedalboard, its top note the F above middle C, is often used. Several Hammond "concert" models, the RT-2, RT-3 and D-100 had 32-note AGO pedalboards. As well, they also contained a "Solo Pedal Unit" which provided several 32', 16', 8', and 4' voices for the pedal. The solo pedal unit used oscillators, similar to those used in Hammond's "Solovox." Hammond spinet models (L, M, T, etc.) had 12 or 13-note miniature pedalboards.

Hammond did offer a model with a 32-note radial arc Pedal Clavier. It was the Grand 100 (G-100) and was manufactured from 1963 to 1965. It was the biggest organ Hammond ever made.

Tonewheel and transistor organ models

Hammond tonewheel organs can be divided into two main groups: the Console models, such as the A, B, C, D, and R series, which have two 61-note manuals; and the smaller Spinet models, such as the M, L, and T series, which have two 44-note manuals. Production of tonewheel organs stopped in the mid-1970s. Hammond organs made after this time use electronic tone generation. Examples of these organs are the J/K/N series, the Hammond Aurora, and the Hammond Concorde.

Console organs

The first models of each console series organ were single letter models, e.g., A, B, C, D and E Consoles. The first B Console (no additional letter after it) was equipped with the chorus generator and a tremulant knob vs. the 3-position vibrato knob of the later consoles. It was produced in 1936 prior to the production of the BC of December 1936 and before the company changed names from The Hammond Clock Company to The Hammond Organ Company. Here are specifications for the A, B, and E consoles. The A / AB organs were produced from June 1935–October 1938. The B-2 / C-2 organs were produced from December 1949–December 1954. The B-3/C-3 were produced from January 1955–1974. The A-100 series was produced from April 1959–December 1965 (continued after 1965 in the UK under licence from Hammond). In the decades after their introduction, the B-3, C-3, A-100, RT-3, D-100, H-100,and E-100 series were used heavily in the Gospel, jazz, and blues genres and as theatre organs, providing live music between feature films or at public stadiums and ice rinks. The difference between the B-3 and the C-3 is purely cosmetic. The B-3 sits on four turned wooden legs, so the organist's feet are visible from all sides of the organ. The C-3 is covered on the front and sides which prevents the audience from seeing the organist's feet. This allows playing in a skirt while facing the audience. The Rt-3 and D-100 are exactly the same as the C-3 but has 32 pedals and a bass system. The E-100 and H-100 has all of the parts of the B-3 and C-3 but add such features as rhythm machines and more percussion stops. The H-100, A-100, E-100 and D-100 are pretty much the same in that they have internal speakers and a external speaker hook up.

B-2 / C-2 / RT / RT-2 / E / C / D

  • B-2 / C-2 production years: December 1949–December 1954
  • RT Model production years: July 1949–September 1949
  • RT-2 Model production years: November 1949–January 1955
  • E Model production years: July 1937–July 1942
  • C Model production years: September 1939–June 1942
  • D Model production years: June 1939–November 1942

B-3 / C-3 / A-100 / E-100 / H-100 / D-100 / RT-3 series

  • B-3/C-3 production years: December 1954–1974
  • RT-3 production years: January 1955–1973
  • A-100 series production years: April 1959–December 1965 (continued after 1965 in the UK under licence from Hammond)
  • E-100 series production years: June 1964–1969
  • H-100 series production years: June 1965–1974
  • D-100 series production years: June 1963–1969

In the decades after their introduction, the B-3, C-3, RT-3, D-100, E-100, H-100 and A-100 series were used heavily in the Gospel, jazz, and blues genres and as theatre organs, providing live music for feature films or at public stadiums and ice rinks. The difference between the B-3 and the C-3 is purely cosmetic. The B-3 sits on four turned wooden legs, so the organist's feet are visible from all sides of the organ. The C-3 is covered on the front and sides by "modesty" panels, which prevent the audience from seeing the organist's feet. This allows playing in a skirt while facing the audience. The A-100 series includes all the internal components and features of the B-3/C-3 plus built-in speakers and reverb (basically all the components of a PR40 tone cabinet inside).

  • The A-100, E-100, H-100, D-100 was marketed as a "home" console, since they had built-in speakers
  • The B-3 was marketed for musicians who wanted to use a separate tone cabinet (Hammond tone cabinet or Leslie speaker).
  • The C-3 was marketed for church use, because of its "modesty" or "privacy" panels, which hid the organist's—often a woman's—legs when the organ was positioned in front of the congregation.
  • The RT-3 was marketed for concert organists and church musicians who wanted the standard AGO pedalboard.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the B-3 was used in jazz bands (Walter Wanderley) and in organ trios, such as Jimmy Smith's organ trio. In the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, the B-3 and C-3 were widely used in rock bands ranging from Latin rock groups such as Santana (B-3) to progressive rock groups such as Procol Harum, Yes (C-3), Styx, Kansas, Keith Emerson, (of the band Emerson, Lake & Palmer (C-3, L-100), Boston (M-3), Pink Floyd (C-3), and Eloy to blues-rock groups such as The Allman Brothers Band (B-3), Deep Purple, Clutch, (C-3), the transcendent B-3 sound of "Gimme Some Lovin'" by the Spencer Davis Group, and Elbernita Twinkie Clark of The Clark Sisters is dubbed as the "Queen of the Hammond B3".

In the 1980s and 1990s, the B-3, C-3, H-100, A-100, E-100 and D-100 were used by many churches and also bands from a range of styles, including gospel, rock, hard rock, jazz, blues, and "jam" bands. This organ was also a favorite of renowned Grateful Dead keyboard player Brent Mydland as well as Page McConnell of Phish, Danny Federici of The E Street Band, and Tom Scholz of Boston. In the 1980s and 1990s, lightweight "clone" organs that imitated the sound were increasingly used to digitally recreate the B3's sound as a more portable (and less back-breaking) substitute, especially in live touring settings. Nevertheless, in the 2000s, some organ trios such as the Ken Clark organ trio still perform with vintage B-3 organs.

New B-3
In 2002, the Hammond company (now known as Hammond-Suzuki) relaunched the B-3 as the 'New B-3', a re-creation of the original electromechanical instrument using modern-day electronics and a modern sound generator system. The New B-3 is constructed to appear like the original B-3, and the designers attempted to retain the subtle nuances of the familiar B-3 sound. Hammond-Suzuki promotional material claims that it would be difficult for even an experienced B-3 player to distinguish between the old and new B-3 organs. A review of the New B-3 by Hugh Robjohns called it "a true replica of an original B-3 ... in terms of the look and layout, and the actual sound."

The New B-3 was used by well-known B-3 players such as Jimmy Smith and Joey DeFrancesco, who both played a New B-3 on the collaborative album 'Legacy' released in 2005 shortly before Smith's death. Neal Evans of Soulive also plays a Hammond B-3, using it to produce both the organ and bass lines for the group's soul based music. Additionally, Evanescence used the new B-3 organ in almost every song of their album The Open Door, released in October 2006. Hammond-Suzuki went on to release a portable version of the New B-3, the XK3 as well as a new version of the C-3 model.

New Hammond Elegante XH-272
Hammond Suzuki built this organ somewhere around the year of 2000. It took the place of the aging Super CX-3000, which was geared toward the home organ market.

D / DV

The D series Hammonds were produced from June 1939 to November 1942. The DV models, in which "V" stood for Vibrato, had Hammond Vibrato. DV models were not actually produced; instead, the vibrato kit was added in the field. The D series was aimed at the church market. It came with factory-preset manuals, but some users adjusted the presets. The vibrato affects all keys including the bass register.


Production years: January 1955–1973

Spinet organs

Spinet organs from the M, L, T and V series use two 44-note offset manuals, a built-in bass pedal keyboard, and internal speakers and amplification. The spinet organs' tonewheels do not go down as far in pitch as on a full console organs such as the B-3, which means there are no low tones on the keyboard. This means that organ players who want to play a bass line have to use the pedals. However, the pedal keyboard usually had one octave (13 notes, instead of the 25 notes on a B-3 console organ) and the pedals were much shorter than those found on a full-size Hammond pedal keyboard. Another difference is the way the spinets use drawbar foldback to make tones repeat for the higher notes. On spinets, the foldback does not go all the way up to the higher register, which gives a "thinner overall sound". If the 8th or 9th drawbars on Hammond spinets are pulled out, the final octave on the upper manual does not sound; on the A-100, B-3 and C-3, though, these harmonics would sound. To replace the missing harmonics, some 2000s-era users of spinet organs purchase foldback "mod" kits which add new bus bars and key contacts so that the missing foldback can be filled in.

M series

The M-series " . . . took the tonewheel technology of the bulkier previous models, refined it and scaled it down . . . to make smaller 'spinet' models that were more appropriate for the growing 'home market.' "

Several different types of M series instruments were produced between 1948 and 1964. The M model was produced from 1948–1951, the M-2 from 1951–1955 and the M-3 from 1955–1964. Organ repairman Tom Petro argues that the "closest organ in the spinet bunch" to approach the B-3 sound "is the M3"; he notes that it "even has waterfall keys", which facilitate glissando. Petro points out that while the M-100 series "added reverb to the organ...they have diving board keys, not waterfall" keys. Booker T. Jones of Booker T. & the M.G.'s used an M-3 on the 1962 recording "Green Onions".

M-100 series

Some M-100 series instruments were suited for home or church settings, such as the M100, which had "ornate, carved legs"; the M102 "had a more spartan cabinet that was better suited to gigging." All of the M-100 series instruments "had the same basic specifications,... 2 x 44-note "springboard" manuals, 13-note pedalboard, two sets of drawbars (one for each manual), six presets and 'touch percussion' effects (available on tabs above the upper keyboard manual), split vibrato, vibrato chorus, built-in spring reverb and speakers and a swell (volume) pedal." Matthew Fisher of Procol Harum used an M-102 on the 1967 recording "A Whiter Shade of Pale", John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin used an M-100 on the 1969 recordings "You Shook Me", "Your Time Is Gonna Come", & "Thank You". Rick Wright of Pink Floyd used an M-102 live from 1970–1972, and is seen in the film Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii. The M-100 series was produced from 1961–1968.

L-100 series

The L-100 series was produced from 1961–1972. The L-100 sounds different from the B-3 because of several changes made by Hammond engineers. At the Hammond factory, engineers found a way of removing the electrical key click sound from the L-100. Although jazz organists liked the key click sound of the B-3, Hammond engineers viewed it as a fault, and church organists tended to dislike it, because wind-driven pipe organs do not have a "click" sound at the start of every note. Hammond engineers removed the key click by raising the "output of the higher notes in the tone generator" and then cutting the "treble response in several of the amp stages". A side effect of these modifications was a change in the decay of the percussion circut. The audible effect is an increase in the decay time. The vibrato and chorus is a real weak point of the L, "either too much or too little and the chorus effect" lacks the "richness of the B".Keith Emerson of the progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer played an L-100 during concerts. In his first band "The Nice", Keith Emerson used an L-100 model as his main instrument, not only for playing but also for his wild stage antics. He also employed some of the instrument's features (self-starting motor and the built-in reverb tank) to produce a wealth of sound effects, such as wailing notes, bomb-like noises and feedback. Tony Banks of band Genesis played an L-122 from 1970 to 1974.An L-100 without a Leslie was part of punk band The Stranglers' Dave Greenfield's keyboard rig for the band's first three albums.

T series

The T series, which was produced from 1968–1975, was the first all-solid-state, transistor-powered Hammond. Tony Banks of Genesis used a modified T-102 from 1974 to 1980. He played the organ through an MXR Phase 100 phaser pedal and a Boss CE-1 analogue chorus pedal to replace the effect of a Leslie speaker. Other transistorized series produced in the mid to late 1970s include the "Romance" series (123000, 124000, 125000, 126000). Within those series, models were offered in numerical increments of 100 (e.g. 124000, 124100, 124200). These models also came with a built-in, hinged horizontal 2 speed "Leslie Tremolo Unit". The organ's rear panel has additional 9-pin Leslie speaker jack for use with a Leslie 700 series speaker cabinet.

V series

The V series organs, such as the Hammond Cadette, were designed for beginners, and as such, they had no drawbars. Hammond intended that beginning organists could learn on the instrument and buy a better organ once they had learned the basic techniques. Like the Spinet organ, the Cadette had two offset manuals with a one-octave bass pedalboard and an expression pedal (for controlling the volume). The sound produced by these organs was different from the sound produced by most other Hammond models. The upper manual had three instruments (flute, reed, and strings) and the lower manual had two instruments (tibia and cello). The pedal also had an instrument tab (for bass and accent). There was no Leslie, only a reverberation knob. The V series organs came with Auto Rhythm, which had seven different rhythms, a Cancel button at the far left, Synchro Start, and volume and tempo knobs. There were two tabs for vibrato (Light and Full). This series was built by Yamaha for Hammond.

Console transistor organs
In the 1970s, Hammond started making transistor organs. The first organ that was made was a organ that bridged the gap between tone wheel and transistor. This organ was call the R-182, with more features than a tonewheel. Later, Hammond introduced several different transistor organ models: Concord, Colonade, Commodore, Grandee, Regent, X-66, X-77 and the Elegante. This series of organs were developed as early as the 1970s, and continued in production through the early 1980s. Artists such as Bob Ralston and Ethel Smith played these organs. The X-77 was first used on an album recording by baseball pitcher Denny McLain, on his album "Denny McLain At The Organ".

The New Hammond Elegante XH-272
Hammond Suzuki built this organ somewhere around the year of 2000. It took the place of the aging "Super CX-3000" organ model which was geared to target the home organ market. As sales rose, dealers started selling more Hammond Elegante organs to churches because of the superb sound quality and multiple features that it provides. Some musicians say that Hammond has made a rival organ within its own company because of the outstanding sound production that it is capable of producing vs. the B-3. Many professional organists, such as Bill Horn, love this organ because of its versatility and attractive wood decor. If you like the Hammond B-3, you will love and adore the Hammond Elegante because of its sound and beauty.

Chop organ

A Hammond Chop is a slang term used to refer to any Hammond organ which has been modified to fit into one or more roadcases for easier transportation. Moving an unmodified Hammond organ generally requires special lifting equipment, a van and several people. The different components of a "chopped" Hammond may still have the same total weight as a regular instrument; however, by "chopping" the organ into separate sections, it becomes easier to lift the components and fit them into a regular-sized vehicle.

There are generally two methods of "chopping" a Hammond organ. The first is for players who do not use the bass pedals: The internal speakers and bass pedals are removed and any components in the base of the organ (reverb chamber, power amp, power supply, etc) are moved to the upper half of the organ, above the tone generator. The swell pedal can either be replaced by a volume knob on the front of the console, or placed in its own box with an appropriate plug connecting it to the rest of the organ. The entire lower half of the cabinet is cut off below the tone generator and a piece of wood is bolted to the underside. A folding stand or folding legs is then added.

The second type is for players who use the bass pedals: Again, internal Leslie unit and internal speakers are removed. Anything in the "middle" section is moved to the bottom or top. Components in the bottom that stick up rather far can be mounted in a different position or above the tonewheel, i.e. reverb chambers or heatsinks. Then, using appropriate bracing, the middle part of the chamber is cut off above the base and below the tone generator. Boards are bolted to the bottom of the upper part and the top of the lower part. The wires must be cut and soldered/connected to multi-pin plugs for easy removal and assembly. Aluminium or steel tubes are usually used to hold the console section up from the base.

Performance techniques

Manuals, drawbars, and effects

Pianists and synthesizer players who begin playing the Hammond soon realize that authentic performance practice involves a lot more than playing the notes on the keyboard. Hammond players vary the timbre of both manuals in real time through a combination of changing drawbar settings, engaging or disengaging the vibrato and chorus effects or percussion settings, and changing the rotating Leslie speaker system's speed setting. As well, performers obtain other effects by setting the Leslie's amplifier to maximum output (and controlling the effective volume using only the organ's volume pedal) to add overdriven distortion or growl for certain passages, or by briefly switching off the organ's synchronous run motor, which produces a wobbly pitch-bend effect.

There are playing styles that are idiomatic to the Hammond organ, such as palm glissandos, rapid repetition of a single note, tremolo between two notes a third apart (typically the 5th and 7th scale degree of the current chord), percussive drumming of the keyboard, and playing a chord on the upper manual, then sliding the hand down to duplicate the chord on the lower manual. Artistic use of the foot-controlled volume pedal is an important facet of performing on the Hammond.

Bass pedalboard

Tom Vickers notes that after Jimmy Smith popularized the Hammond organ in jazz, many jazz pianists “. . .who thought that getting organ-ized would be a snap . . . realized that the . . . B-3 required not only a strong left hand, but killer coordination on those bass pedals to really get the bass groove percolating."In the 1950s, the organist Wild Bill Davis told the then-aspiring organist Smith that it could take over a decade just to learn the bass pedals. Jazz organists such as Jimmy Smith developed the ability to perform fluent walking-bass lines on the bass pedals, mostly on ballad tempo tunes. He played up-tempo bass lines with his left hand, augmented by occasional taps on the bass pedalboard. Some organists like Barbara Dennerlein or Leon Kuijpers perform basslines on the bass pedalboard.

Many jazz organists from the 1950s onward perform the bassline for uptempo songs with their left hand on the lower manual. Organists who play the bassline on the lower manual may do short taps on the bass pedals-often on the tonic of a tune's key-to simulate the low, resonant sound of a plucked upright bass string. Playing basslines on the manuals may make the bass lines more light and fluid than if they are played on the bass pedals, especially for uptempo tunes. As well, playing basslines on the lower manual makes it easier to perform grace notes.

Clones and emulation devices

Due to the difficulties of transporting the heavy Hammond organ, bass pedalboard (a B-3 organ, bench and pedalboard weighs 425 pounds/193 kg) and Leslie speaker cabinets to performance venues, and due to the risk of technical problems that are associated with any vintage electromechanical instrument, musicians sought out a more portable, reliable way of obtaining the Hammond sound. Electronic and digital keyboards that imitate the sound of the Hammond are often referred to as "clonewheel organs". Some early emulation devices were criticized for their unrealistic imitation of the Hammond sound, particularly in the way they voice the upper harmonics and in their simulation of the rotary speaker effect. Refinements to Hammond emulations eventually led to the development of relatively lightweight electronic keyboard instruments such as the Roland VK-7 and the Korg BX-3 (dual manuals) and CX-3 (single manual), (and even Hammond-Suzuki's own XB-2/XB-5 models), which produce a fairly realistic recreation of the original Hammond tone.

By the 1990s and 2000s digital signal processing and sampling technologies allowed for better imitation of the original Hammond sound, and a variety of electronic organs, emulator devices, and synthesizers provided a reproduction of the Hammond tone, such as the Clavia Nord Electro keyboard. Hammond Suzuki USA currently markets numerous home, church, and professional models that digitally reproduce the sound of vintage Hammond tonewheel organs. Some sophisticated emulation devices have algorithms that recreate some characteristics of vintage Hammonds, such as "crosstalk" or "leakage" between the tonewheels and the sound of the Leslie speaker cabinet.

Currently, there are numerous B-3 clones on the market, from full-size, dual keyboard behemoths with real Leslie cabinets from Hammond/Suzuki, to inexpensive Casio WK series home keyboards that actually have a "tonewheel organ" function built in, to allow the user to simulate changing drawbars on the fly. Between these two extremes are numerous models from Hammond, Korg, Roland, Clavia (Nord Series), and virtual synths – notably the B4 by Native Instruments – computer simulations of every B-3 nuance down to key click, tonewheel leakage, dirty contacts, type of tubes – virtually any variable can be accommodated, though many aficionados consider them inferior to a real Hammond. The vintage synthesizer emulation software Bristol includes, among other organs, an emulation of a B3 which is called the Bristol B3. An article from Keyboard Magazine that reviewed electronic simulations of the Hammond sound claims that some aspects of the vintage electromechanical Hammond are not accurately reproduced by clones and emulation devices.

Notable uses of instrument

The sound of the Hammond organ can be heard in rhythm and blues pieces such as "Hello Stranger" (March 1963) written by Barbara Lewis with backup by The Dells. The Hammond B-3 organ can be heard in 1960s surf music, where the spinning Leslie speaker created distinctive special effects. The Hammond sound was a key part of the mystical soundscape of the 1967 Procol Harum song, "A Whiter Shade of Pale", in the Bach-like introductory measures played by organist Matthew Fisher (who actually played an M-102). Except for a few months in late 1976 and early 1977, Procol Harum has always (and still does after 40 years) appeared in concert with a Hammond. It was also popularized in Steve Winwood's soaring, animal-like "Gimme Some Lovin'" with The Spencer Davis Group, in The Small Faces' mod anthems "All or Nothing" and "Itchycoo Park" by Ian McLagan, and in the instrumental song "Green Onions" by Booker T. Jones of Booker T. & the M.G.'s. Billy Preston also played the Hammond organ in songs including "Outa-Space", which was one of the first songs that launched him into his solo career.

Hammond organs are also widely used in 1970s progressive rock music bands such as Pink Floyd's Rick Wright (First on a Hammond L-101, and later on a B-3); Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Keith Emerson (L-100 and C-3); Genesis's Tony Banks (a Hammond L-122 and later a Hammond T-102); Yes' Rick Wakeman (C-3); Kansas, notably on their song "Carry on Wayward Son". It also sparked the interest of the keyboard players in early heavy metal music bands such as Deep Purple's Jon Lord (C-3), Journey's "Walks Like a Lady" (B-3), Uriah Heep's Ken Hensley, and Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones. The Hammond organ has also rarely been used in modern heavy metal, one notable example the 2001 album Imaginary Sonicscape by the Japanese Avant-garde black metal band Sigh. In the 1990s, Rob Collins of The Charlatans integrated the Hammond organ back into British rock 'n' roll. The song Weirdo (1992, #19 UK charts) opened with a solo Hammond riff that returned at each chorus.

Popular culture references

In several sketches by Monty Python's Flying Circus Terry Gilliam plays a nude organist who provides a fanfare on a Hammond L-100 in "Blackmail" and "Crackpot Religions Ltd" as well as Terry Jones, for the opening scenes on the third season. The British adult comic Viz had (or has) an occasional strip featuring 'Captain Morgan and his Hammond Organ'. The strip's plot usually revolves around the crew sighting a treasure ship or similar lucrative opportunity, which they then miss due to the eponymous captain insisting on first spending some time serenading them with a selection of tunes played on said organ. The fictional character Arnold Rimmer (from the BBC TV science fiction-comedy series Red Dwarf) is a big fan of Hammond organ music. He is particularly fond of an artist by the name of Reggie Wilson (a satirical reference to Reginald Dixon), whose Hammond organ albums include "Lift Music Classics" and "Funking up Wagner". Rimmer has also taught the Skutters to play the Hammond organ and declared every Wednesday night to be "Amateur Hammond Organ Recital Night". None of the other crew of the Red Dwarf spaceship particularly enjoy Rimmer's taste in music.

See also


  1. Laurens Hammond. Electrical Musical Instrument. U.S. Pat. No. 1956350. Accessed 2 June 2008
  2. Hammond Organ History
  3. Milt Herth
  4. Department of the Army technical manual TM 10-751, Manual for Electronic Organ AN/TNP-1 (1949)
  5. Service Manual: A, A-100, AB,..., Organ Service Company, 196?
  6. Hugh Robjohns. Hammond B3: Modelled Electromechanical Tonewheel Organ Sound On Sound, July 2003
  7. - See the source.
  13. Tom Vickers. Organ Grinder Swing. Available at:|lang_fr
  14. Clonewheel Heaven: 18 cool organ products take aim at the mighty Hammond B-3 and Leslie duo. Keyboard Magazine
  15. Hammond registration, accessed January 1, 2008

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