Hammond organ is an electric organ, invented by Laurens Hammond
and John M. Hanert and first manufactured in 1935. Various
models have been produced, most of which use sliding drawbars to
specify a variety of sounds. Until 1975, Hammond organs generated
sound by creating an electric current from rotating a metal tonewheel
near an electromagnetic pickup, and then strengthening the signal with
an amplifier so it can drive a speaker cabinet. Around two million
Hammond organs have been manufactured. The organ is commonly used
with, and associated with, the Leslie speaker.
The organ was originally marketed and sold by the Hammond Organ
Company to churches as a lower-cost alternative to the wind-driven
pipe organ, or instead of a piano. It quickly became popular with
professional jazz musicians in organ trios, a small group centered on
the Hammond organ. Organ trios were hired by jazz club owners, who
found that organ trios were a much cheaper alternative to hiring a big
band. Jimmy Smith's use of the Hammond B-3, with its additional
harmonic percussion feature, inspired a generation of organ players,
and its use became more widespread in the 1960s and 1970s in rhythm
and blues, rock, and reggae, as well as being an important instrument
in progressive rock.
The Hammond Organ Company struggled financially during the 1970s, as
they abandoned tonewheel organs and switched to manufacturing
instruments using integrated circuits. These instruments were not as
popular with musicians as the tonewheels had been, and the company
went out of business in 1985. The Hammond name was purchased by the
Suzuki Musical Instrument Corporation, which proceeded to manufacture
digital simulations of the most popular tonewheel organs. This
culminated in the production of the "New B-3" in 2002, which provided
an accurate recreation of the original B-3 organ using modern digital
Hammond-Suzuki continues to manufacture a variety of organs for both
professional players and churches. Other companies, such as Korg,
Roland, and Clavia, have also achieved success in providing more
lightweight and portable emulations of the original tonewheel organs.
The sound of a tonewheel Hammond can also be emulated using modern
software such as
Native Instruments B4.
1.1 Keyboards and pedalboard
Vibrato and chorus
1.5 Harmonic percussion
1.6 Start and run switches
2.1.1 Console organs
2.1.2 Spinet organs
3.1 Tone cabinet
3.2 Leslie speaker
4 Tone generation
5 Clones and emulation devices
6 Notable users
7 See also
9 External links
A number of distinctive
Hammond organ features are not usually found
on other keyboards like the piano or synthesizer. Some are similar to
a pipe organ, but others are unique to the instrument.
Keyboards and pedalboard
The two manuals of the Hammond B-2.
A single note (C) played on a Hammond organ
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American Guild of Organists
American Guild of Organists pedalboard, a console Hammond
normally has 25 pedals.
Most Hammond organs have two 61-note (five-octave) keyboards called
manuals. As with pipe organ keyboards, the two manuals are arrayed on
two levels close to each other. Each is laid out in a similar manner
to a piano keyboard, except that pressing a key on a Hammond results
in the sound continuously playing until it is released, whereas with a
piano, the note's volume decays. No difference in volume occurs
regardless of how heavily or lightly the key is pressed (unlike with a
piano), so overall volume is controlled by a pedal (also known as a
"swell" or "expression" pedal). The keys on each manual have a
lightweight action, which allows players to perform rapid passages
more easily than on a piano. In contrast to piano and pipe organ keys,
Hammond keys have a flat-front profile, commonly referred to as
"waterfall" style. Early Hammond console models had sharp edges, but
starting with the B-2, these were rounded, as they were cheaper to
manufacture. The M series of spinets also had waterfall keys
(which has subsequently made them ideal for spares on B-3s and
C-3s), but later spinet models had "diving board" style keys which
resembled those found on a church organ. Modern Hammond-Suzuki
models use waterfall keys.
Hammond console organs come with a wooden pedalboard played with the
feet, for bass notes. Most console Hammond pedalboards have 25 notes,
with the bottom note a low C and the top note a middle C two octaves
higher. Hammond used a 25-note pedalboard because he found that on
traditional 32-note pedalboards used in church pipe organs, the top
seven notes were seldom used. The Hammond Concert models E, RT, RT-2,
RT-3 and D-100 had 32-note
American Guild of Organists
American Guild of Organists (AGO)
pedalboards going up to the G above middle C as the top note. The
RT-2, RT-3 and D-100 also contained a separate solo pedal system that
had its own volume control and various other features. Spinet
models have 12- or 13-note miniature pedalboards.
The sound on a Hammond is varied using drawbars, similar to faders on
an audio mixing board
The sound on a tonewheel
Hammond organ is varied through the
manipulation of drawbars. A drawbar is a metal slider that controls
the volume of a particular sound component, in a similar way to a
fader on an audio mixing board. As a drawbar is incrementally pulled
out, it increases the volume of its sound. When pushed all the way in,
the volume is decreased to zero.
The labeling of the drawbar derives from the stop system in pipe
organs, in which the physical length of the pipe corresponds to the
pitch produced. Most Hammonds contain nine drawbars per manual. The
drawbar marked "8′" generates the fundamental of the note being
played, the drawbar marked "16′" is an octave below, and the
drawbars marked "4′", "2′" and "1′" are one, two and three
octaves above, respectively. The other drawbars generate various other
harmonics and subharmonics of the note. While each individual
drawbar generates a relatively pure sound similar to a flute or
electronic oscillator, more complex sounds can be created by mixing
the drawbars in varying amounts.
Some drawbar settings have become well-known and associated with
certain musicians. A very popular setting is 888000000 (i.e., with the
drawbars labelled "16′", "5 1⁄3′" and "8′" fully
pulled out), and has been identified as the "classic" Jimmy Smith
Preset keys on a
Hammond organ are reverse-colored and sit to the left
of the manuals
In addition to drawbars, many Hammond tonewheel organ models also
include presets, which make predefined drawbar combinations available
at the press of a button. Console organs have one octave of reverse
colored keys (naturals are black, sharps and flats are white) to the
left of each manual, with each key activating a preset; the far left
key (C), also known as the cancel key, de-activates all presets, and
results in no sound coming from that manual. The two right-most preset
keys (B and B♭) activate the corresponding set of drawbars for that
manual, while the other preset keys produce preselected drawbar
settings that are internally wired into the preset panel.
Vibrato and chorus
Hammond organs have a built-in vibrato effect that provides a small
variation in pitch while a note is being played, and a chorus effect
where a note's sound is combined with another sound at a slightly
different and varying pitch. The best known vibrato and chorus system
consists of six settings, V1, V2, V3, C1, C2 and C3 (i.e., three each
of vibrato and chorus), which can be selected via a rotary switch.
Vibrato / chorus can be selected for each manual independently.
The B-3 and C-3 models introduced the concept of "Harmonic
Percussion", which was designed to emulate the percussive sounds of
the harp, xylophone, and marimba. When selected, this feature
plays a decaying second- or third-harmonic overtone when a key is
pressed. The selected percussion harmonic fades out, leaving the
sustained tones the player selected with the drawbars. The volume of
this percussive effect is selectable as either normal or soft.
Harmonic Percussion retriggers only after all notes have been
released, so legato passages sound the effect only on the very first
note or chord, making Harmonic Percussion uniquely a "single-trigger,
Start and run switches
Console Hammond organs such as the B-3 require two switches; "Start"
to drive the starter motor and "Run" to drive the main tonewheel
Hammond organ can produce sound, the motor that drives the
tonewheels must come up to speed. On most models, starting a Hammond
organ involves two switches. The "Start" switch turns a dedicated
starter motor, which must run for about 12 seconds. Then, the "Run"
switch is turned on for about four seconds. The "Start" switch is then
released, whereupon the organ is ready to generate sound. The H-100
and E-series consoles and L-100 and T-100 spinet organs, however, had
a self-starting motor that required only a single "On" switch. A
pitch bend effect can be created on the
Hammond organ by turning the
"Run" switch off and on again. This briefly cuts power to the
generators, causing them to run at a slower pace and generate a lower
pitch for a short time. Hammond's New B3 contains similar switches to
emulate this effect, though it is a digital instrument.
The Hammond organ's technology derives from the Telharmonium, an
instrument created in 1897 by Thaddeus Cahill. The telharmonium used
revolving electric alternators which generated tones that could be
transmitted over wires. The instrument was bulky, because the
alternators had to be large enough to generate high voltage for a loud
enough signal. The
Hammond organ solved this problem by using an
Laurens Hammond graduated from
Cornell University with a mechanical
engineering degree in 1916. By the start of the 1920s, he had designed
a spring-driven clock, which provided enough sales for him to start
his own business, the Hammond Clock Company, in 1928. As well as
clocks, his early inventions included three-dimensional glasses and an
automatic bridge table shuffler. However, as the Great Depression
continued into the 1930s, sales of the bridge table declined and he
decided to look elsewhere for a commercially successful product.
Hammond was inspired to create the tonewheel or "phonic wheel" by
listening to the moving gears of his electric clocks and the tones
produced by them. He gathered pieces from a second-hand piano he
had purchased for $15 and combined it with a tonewheel generator in a
similar form to the telharmonium, albeit much shorter and more
compact. Since Hammond was not a musician, he asked the company's
assistant treasurer, W. L. Lahey, to help him achieve the desired
organ sound. To cut costs, Hammond made a pedalboard with only 25
notes, instead of the standard 32 on church organs, and it quickly
became a de facto standard.
On April 24, 1934, Hammond filed U.S. Patent 1,956,350 for an
"electrical musical instrument", which was personally delivered to
the patent office by Hanert, explaining that they could start
production immediately and it would be good for local employment in
Chicago. 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. Over 1,750 churches purchased a
Hammond organ in the first
three years of manufacturing, and by the end of the 1930s, over 200
instruments were being made each month. For all its subsequent
success with professional musicians, the original company did not
target its products at that market, principally because Hammond did
not think enough money was in it. The Hammond Organ Company
produced an estimated two million instruments in its lifetime; these
have been described as "probably the most successful electronic organs
ever made". In 1966, an estimated 50,000 churches had installed a
In 1936, the
Federal Trade Commission
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint claiming
that the Hammond Company made "false and misleading" claims in
advertisements for its organ, including that the Hammond could produce
"the entire range of tone coloring of a pipe organ". The complaint
resulted in lengthy hearing proceedings, which featured a series of
auditory tests that pitted a Hammond costing about $2600 against a
$75,000 Skinner pipe organ in the University of Chicago Rockefeller
Chapel. During the auditory tests, sustained tones and excerpts
from musical works were played on the electric and pipe organs while a
group of musicians and laymen attempted to distinguish between the
instruments. While attorneys for Hammond argued that the test
listeners were wrong or guessed nearly half the time, witnesses for
the FTC claimed that Hammond employees had unfairly manipulated the
Skinner organ to sound more like the Hammond. In 1938, the FTC
ordered Hammond to "cease and desist" a number of advertising claims,
including that its instrument was equivalent to a $10,000 pipe organ.
After the FTC's decision, Hammond claimed that the hearings had
vindicated his company's assertions that the organ produced "real",
"fine", and "beautiful" music, phrases which were each cited in the
FTC's original complaint, but not included in the "cease and desist"
order. Hammond also claimed that although the hearing was expensive
for his company, the proceedings generated so much publicity that "as
a result we sold enough extra organs to cover the expense."
A key ingredient to the Hammond organ's success was the use of
dealerships and a sense of community. Several dedicated organ dealers
set up business in the United States and there was a bi-monthly
newsletter, The Hammond Times, mailed out to subscribers.
Advertisements tended to show families gathered around the instrument,
often with a child playing it, as an attempt to show the organ as a
center-point of home life and to encourage children to learn
Hammond organs, as manufactured by the original company, can be
divided into two main groups:
Console organs have two 61-note manuals and a pedalboard of at least
two octaves. Most consoles do not have a built-in power amplifier or
speakers, so an external amplifier and speaker cabinet is required.
Spinet organs have two 44-note manuals and one octave of pedals, plus
an internal power amplifier and set of speakers.
A medley played on a 1935 Model A
Hammond organ through a Leslie
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The B-3 was the most popular Hammond organ, produced from 1954 to
The first model in production, in June 1935, was the Model A. It
contained most of the features that came to be standard on all console
Hammonds, including two 61-key manuals, a 25-key pedalboard, an
expression pedal, 12 reverse-color preset keys, two sets of drawbars
for each manual, and one for the pedals.
To address concerns that the sound of the Hammond was not rich enough
to accurately mimic a pipe organ, the model BC was introduced in
December 1936. It included a chorus generator, in which a second
tonewheel system added slightly sharp or flat tones to the overall
sound of each note. The cabinet was made deeper to accommodate
this. Production of the old Model A cases stopped, but the older
model continued to be available as the AB until October 1938.
Criticism that the
Hammond organ was more aesthetically suitable to
the home instead of the church led to the introduction of the model C
in September 1939. It contained the same internals as the AB or BC,
but covered on the front and sides by "modesty panels" to cover female
organists' legs while playing in a skirt, often a consideration when a
church organ was placed in front of the congregation. The model C did
not contain the chorus generator, but had space in the cabinet for it
to be fitted. The concurrent model D was a model C with a prefitted
chorus. Development of the vibrato system took place during the
early 1940s, and was put into production shortly after the end of
World War II. The various models available were the BV and CV (vibrato
only) and BCV and DV (vibrato and chorus).
The Concert Model E was designed for the church and features a full
The B-2 and C-2, introduced in 1949, allowed vibrato to be enabled or
disabled on each manual separately. In 1954, the B-3 and C-3
models were introduced with the additional harmonic percussion
feature. Despite several attempts by Hammond to replace them,
these two models remained popular and stayed in continuous
production through early 1975.
To cater more specifically to the church market, Hammond introduced
the Concert Model E in July 1937, which included a full 32-note
pedalboard and four electric switches known as toe pistons, allowing
various sounds to be selected by the feet. The model E was
replaced by the model RT in 1949, which retained the full-sized
pedalboard, but otherwise was internally identical to the B and C
models. RT-2 and RT-3 models subsequently appeared in line with the
B-2/C-2 and B-3/C-3, respectively.
The H-100 was an unsuccessful attempt to replace the B-3
In 1959, Hammond introduced the A-100 series. It was effectively a
self-contained version of the B-3/C-3, with an internal power
amplifier and speakers. The organ was manufactured in a variety of
different chassis, with the last two digits of the specific model
number determining the style and finish of the instrument. For
example, A-105 was "Tudor styling in light oak or walnut", while the
A-143 was "warm cherry finish, Early American styling". This model
numbering scheme was used for several other series of console and
spinet organs that subsequently appeared. The D-100 series, which
provided a self-contained version of the RT-3, followed in 1963.
The E-100 series was a cost-reduced version of the A-100 introduced in
1965, with only one set of drawbars per manual, a reduced number of
presets, and a slightly different tone generator. This was
followed by the H-100 series, with a redesigned tonewheel generator
and various other additional features. Unfortunately, the organ
was not particularly well made, and suffered a reputation for being
unreliable. Hammond service engineer Harvey Olsen said, "When they
[H-100s] work, they sound pretty decent. But die-hard enthusiasts
won't touch it."
The L-100 spinet was particularly popular in the UK.
Though the instrument had been originally designed for use in a
church, Hammond realized that the amateur home market was a far more
lucrative business, and started manufacturing spinet organs in the
late 1940s. Outside of the United States, they were manufactured
in greater numbers than the consoles, and hence were more widely used.
Several different types of M series instruments were produced between
1948 and 1964; they contained two 44-note manuals with one set of
drawbars each, and a 12-note pedalboard. The M model was produced from
1948 to 1951, the M-2 from 1951 to 1955, and the M-3 from 1955 to
1964. The M series was replaced by the M-100 series in 1961, which
used a numbering system to identify the body style and finish as used
on earlier console series. It included the same manuals as the M, but
increased the pedalboard size to 13 notes, stretching a full octave,
and included a number of presets.
The T-402 was one of the last tonewheel organs manufactured and
included a built in drum machine
The L-100 series entered production at the same time as the M-100. It
was an economy version, with various cost-cutting changes so the organ
could retail for under $1000. The vibrato was a simpler circuit than
on other consoles and spinets. Two variations of the vibrato were
provided, plus a chorus that mixed various vibrato signals together.
The expression pedal, based on a cheaper design, was not as
sophisticated as on the other organs. The L-100 was particularly
popular in the UK and sold well, with several notable British
musicians using it instead of a B-3 or C-3.
The T series, produced from 1968 to 1975, was the last of the
tonewheel spinet organs. Unlike all the earlier Hammond organs, which
used vacuum tubes for preamplification, amplification, percussion and
chorus-vibrato control, the T series used all-solid-state, transistor
circuitry, though, unlike the L-100, it did include the
scanner-vibrato as seen on the B-3. Other than the T-100 series
models, all other T-Series models included a built-in rotating Leslie
speaker and some included an analog drum machine, while the T-500
also included a built-in cassette recorder. It was one of the last
tonewheel Hammonds produced.
Hammond started making transistor organs by the mid-1970s
In the 1960s, Hammond started making transistor organs. The first
organ that bridged the gap between tonewheel and transistor was the
X-66, introduced in May 1967. The X-66 contained just 12 tonewheels,
and used electronics for frequency division. It contained separate
"vibrato bass" and "vibrato treble" in an attempt to simulate a Leslie
speaker. Hammond designed it as the company's flagship product, in
response to market competition and to replace the B-3. However, it was
considered expensive at $9,795 and it sold poorly. It did not sound
like a B-3.
Hammond introduced their first integrated circuit (IC) model, the
Concorde, in 1971. The company had stopped manufacturing tonewheel
organs entirely by 1975, due to increased financial inefficiency,
and switched to making IC models full-time. Console models included
the 8000 Aurora (1976) and 8000M Aurora (1977), which contained
drawbars and a built-in rotating speaker. Spinet organs included the
Romance series, manufactured between 1977 and 1983. In 1979, a
Japanese offshoot, Nihon Hammond, introduced the X-5, a portable
solid-state clone of the B-3.
Hammond-Suzuki produced the XB-3, a digital emulation of a tonewheel
organ, during the 1990s
Laurens Hammond died in 1973, and the company struggled to
survive, proposing an acquiring of Roland in 1972, which was turned
Ikutaro Kakehashi did not believe it was practical
at that point to move the entire manufacturing operation from Chicago
to Japan, and also viewed Hammond's declining sales figures as a
In 1985, Hammond went out of business, though servicing and spares
continued to be available after this under the name of The Organ
Service Company. In early 1986, the Hammond brand and rights were
acquired by Hammond Organ Australia, run by Noel Crabbe. Then in
1989, the name was purchased by the Suzuki Musical Instrument
Corporation, which rebranded the company as Hammond-Suzuki.
Although nominally a Japanese company, founder Manji Suzuki was a fan
of the instrument and retained several former Hammond Organ Company
staff for research and development, and ensured that production
would partially remain in the United States. The new company
produced their own brand of portable organs, including the XB-2, XB-3
and XB-5. Sound on Sound's Rod Spark, a longtime Hammond enthusiast,
said these models were "a matter of taste, of course, but I don't
think they're a patch on the old ones".
In 2002, Hammond-Suzuki launched the New B-3, a recreation of the
original electromechanical instrument using contemporary electronics
and a digital tonewheel simulator. 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 states 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 instrument project nearly stalled after
a breakdown in negotiations between Japanese and United States staff,
the latter of whom insisted on manufacturing the case in the United
States and designing the organ to identical specifications to the
The Hammond SK1 included emulations of electric pianos and other
keyboard sounds in addition to organ.
The company has since released the XK-3, a single-manual organ using
the same digital tonewheel technology as the New B-3. The XK-3 is part
of a modular system that allows an integrated lower manual and pedals
to be added. In response to some clones, including a variety of
vintage keyboards in a single package, Hammond released the SK series
of organs, which include grand piano, Rhodes piano, Wurlitzer
electronic piano, Hohner clavinet, and samples of wind and brass
instruments alongside the standard drawbar and tonewheel
emulation. Keyboard Magazine's Stephen Fortner praised the single
manual SK1, indicated that it gave an accurate sound throughout the
range of drawbar settings, and said the organ sound was "fat, warm,
utterly authentic". The XK-1c model was introduced in early 2014,
which is simply an organ-only version of the SK1. An updated
flagship organ, the XK-5, was launched in 2016.
In the US, Hammond manufactures a number of dedicated console organs,
including the B-3mk2 and the C-3mk2, and the A-405, a Chapel Console
Organ. The company has a dedicated Church Advisory Team that provides
a consultancy, so churches can choose the most appropriate
The authorized loudspeaker enclosure to use with a console organ was
the Hammond Tone Cabinet, which housed an external amplifier and
speaker in a cabinet. The cabinet carried a balanced mono signal
along with the necessary mains power directly from the organ,
using a six-pin cable. Spinet organs contained a built-in power
amplifier and loudspeakers, so did not require a tone cabinet. The
tone cabinet was originally the only method of adding reverberation to
a Hammond organ; reverb was not fitted to older organs. The most
commercially successful tone cabinets were probably the PR series,
particularly the 40-watt PR40.
Main article: Leslie speaker
A simple chord sequence played on a
Hammond organ through a Leslie
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Leslie speaker with a transparent case
Many players prefer to play the Hammond through a rotating speaker
cabinet known, after several name changes, as a Leslie speaker, after
its inventor Donald J. Leslie. The Leslie system is an integrated
speaker/amplifier combination in which sound is emitted by a rotating
horn over a stationary treble compression driver, and a rotating
baffle beneath a stationary bass woofer. This creates a characteristic
sound because of the constantly changing pitch shifts that result from
Doppler effect created by the moving sound sources.
The Leslie 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 half-moon or pedal switch, with the most distinctive
effect occurring as the speaker rotation speed changes. The most
popular Leslies were the 122, which accepted a balanced signal
suitable for console organs, and the 147, which accepted an unbalanced
signal and could be used for spinet organs with a suitable
adapter. The Pro-Line series of Leslies which were made to be
portable for gigging bands using solid-state amps were popular during
A "half-moon"-shaped switch for changing the speed of a Leslie speaker
Leslie initially tried to sell his invention to Hammond, but Laurens
Hammond was unimpressed and declined to purchase it. Hammond modified
their interface connectors to be "Leslie-proof", but Leslie quickly
engineered a workaround. The Leslie company was sold to
1965 and was finally bought by Hammond in 1980. Hammond-Suzuki
acquired the rights to Leslie in 1992; the company currently
markets a variety of speakers under this name. As well as faithful
reissues of the original 122 speaker, the company announced in 2013
that they would start manufacturing a standalone Leslie simulator in a
The tonewheel rotates beside an electromagnetic pickup.
Although they are sometimes included in the category of electronic
organs, the majority of Hammond organs are, strictly speaking,
electric or electromechanical rather than electronic organs, because
the sound is produced by moving parts rather than electronic
The basic component sound of a
Hammond organ comes from a tonewheel.
Each one rotates in front of an electromagnetic pickup. The variation
in the magnetic field induces a small alternating current at a
particular frequency, which represents a signal similar to a sine
wave. When a key is pressed on the organ, it completes a circuit of
nine electrical switches, which are linked to the drawbars. The
position of the drawbars, combined with the switches selected by the
key pressed, determines which tonewheels are allowed to
sound. Every tonewheel is connected to a synchronous motor
via a system of gears, which ensures that each note remains at a
constant relative pitch to every other. The combined signal from
all depressed keys and pedals is fed through to the vibrato system,
which is driven by a metal scanner. As the scanner rotates around a
set of pickups, it changes the pitch of the overall sound
slightly. From here, the sound is sent to the main amplifier, and
on to the audio speakers.
A prototype light-weight tonewheel generator, produced at the Hammond
Organ Company's factory in Antwerp
Hammond organ makes technical compromises in the notes it
generates. Rather than produce harmonics that are exact multiples of
the fundamental as in equal temperament, it uses the nearest-available
frequencies generated by the tonewheels. The only guaranteed
frequency for a Hammond's tuning is concert A at 440 Hz.
Crosstalk or "leakage" occurs when the instrument's magnetic pickups
receive the signal from rotating metal tonewheels other than those
selected by the organist. Hammond considered crosstalk a defect that
required correcting, and in 1963 introduced a new level of
resistor–capacitor filtering to greatly reduce this crosstalk, along
with 50–60 Hz mains hum. However, the sound of tonewheel
crosstalk is now considered part of the signature of the Hammond
organ, to the extent that modern digital clones explicitly emulate
Some Hammond organs have an audible pop or click when a key is
pressed. Originally, key click was considered a design defect and
Hammond worked to eliminate or at least reduce it with equalization
filters. However, many performers liked the percussive effect, and it
has been accepted as part of the classic sound. Hammond research and
development engineer Alan Young said, "the professionals who were
playing popular music [liked] that the attack was so prominent. And
they objected when it was eliminated."
Clones and emulation devices
Main article: Clonewheel organ
According to journalist Gordon Reid, the
Korg CX-3 "came close to
emulating the true depth and passion of a vintage Hammond."
Hammond organ was never designed to be transported
regularly. A Hammond B-3 organ, bench, and pedalboard weighs 425
pounds (193 kg). This weight, combined with that of a Leslie
speaker, makes the instrument cumbersome and difficult to move between
venues. This created a demand for a more portable and reliable way of
generating the same sound. Electronic and digital keyboards that
imitate the sound of the Hammond are referred to as "clonewheel
The first attempts to electronically copy a Hammond appeared in the
1970s, including the Roland VK-1 and VK-9, the Yamaha YP45D, and the
Crumar Organiser. The
Korg CX-3 (single manual) and BX-3 (dual manual)
were the first lightweight organs to produce a comparable sound to the
original. Sound on Sound's Gordon Reid said that the CX-3 "came close
to emulating the true depth and passion of a vintage Hammond,"
particularly when played through a Leslie speaker.
Nord Electro emulated drawbars using buttons and a light-emitting
The Roland VK-7, introduced in 1997, attempted to emulate the sound of
a Hammond using digital signal processing technology. An updated
version, the VK-8, which appeared in 2002, also provided emulations of
other vintage keyboards and provided a connector for a Leslie.
Clavia introduced the
Nord Electro in 2001; this used buttons to
emulate the physical action of pulling or pushing a drawbar, with an
LED graph indicating its current state.
Clavia has released
several updated versions of the Electro since then, and introduced the
Nord Stage with the same technology. The Nord C2D was Clavia's first
organ with real drawbars. Diversi, founded by former
Hammond-Suzuki sales representative Tom Tuson in 2003, specialises in
Hammond clones, and has an endorsement from Joey DeFrancesco.
Hammond organ has also been emulated in software. One prominent
emulator is the
Native Instruments B4 series, which has been praised
for its attention to detail and choice of features.
Emagic (now part
of Apple) has also produced a software emulation, the EVB3. This has
led to a
Hammond organ module with all controls and features of the
original instrument in the
Logic Pro audio production suite.
List of Hammond organ players
List of Hammond organ players and List of jazz organists
Jimmy Smith's use of the
Hammond organ in the 1950s gave him
commercial success and influenced other notable organists
Early customers of the Hammond included Albert Schweitzer, Henry Ford,
Eleanor Roosevelt, and George Gershwin. The instrument was not
initially favored by classical organ purists, because the tones of two
notes an octave apart were in exact synchronization, as opposed to the
slight variation present on a pipe organ. However, the instrument
did gradually become popular with jazz players. One of the first
performers to use the
Hammond organ was Ethel Smith, who was known as
the "first lady of the Hammond organ".
Fats Waller and Count
Basie also started using the Hammond. Organist John Medeski
thinks the Hammond became "the poor man's big band", but because of
that, it became more economical to book organ trios.
Jimmy Smith began to play Hammond regularly in the 1950s, particularly
in his sessions for the
Blue Note label between 1956 and 1963. He
eschewed a bass player, and played all the bass parts himself using
the pedals, generally using a walking bassline on the pedals in
combination with percussive left-hand chords. His trio format,
composed of organ, guitar, and drums, became internationally famous
following an appearance at the Newport
Jazz Festival in 1957.
Medeski says musicians "were inspired when they heard Jimmy Smith's
Jack McDuff switched from piano to Hammond in
1959, and toured regularly throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Keith
Emerson was inspired to take up the Hammond by hearing McDuff's
arrangement of "Rock Candy".
"I took to riding the L100 like a bucking bronco. It weighs
350 lb; when it's on top of you, you need the adrenalin rush you
get onstage to chuck it around."
Booker T. Jones
Booker T. Jones is cited as being the bridge from rhythm and blues to
rock. British organist James Taylor said the Hammond "became popular
[in the UK] when people such as Booker T. & the M.G.'s and artists
Stax Records label came over to London and played gigs."
Matthew Fisher first encountered the Hammond in 1966, having heard the
Ian McLagan playing one. When Fisher asked if he could
play it, McLagan told him, "They're yelling out for Hammond players;
why don't you go out and buy one for yourself?" Fisher went on to
play the organ lines on Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale", which
topped the UK charts in the summer of 1967. Steve Winwood
started his musical career with the
Spencer Davis Group
Spencer Davis Group playing guitar
and piano, but he switched to Hammond when he hired one to record
"Gimme Some Lovin'".
Gregg Allman became interested in the Hammond after
Mike Finnigan had
introduced him to Jimmy Smith's music, and started to write material
with it. His brother Duane specifically requested he play the
instrument when forming the Allman Brothers Band, and he was
presented with a brand new B-3 and Leslie 122RV upon joining. Allman
recalls the instrument was cumbersome to transport, particularly on
flights of stairs, which often required the whole band's
assistance. Author Frank Moriarty considers Allman's Hammond
playing a vital ingredient of the band's sound.
Jon Lord put his Hammond C-3 through an overdriven
Marshall stack to
fit in with Deep Purple's hard rock sound.
Jon Lord became inspired to play the Hammond after
hearing Jimmy Smith's "Walk on the Wild Side". He modified his
Hammond so it could be played through a
Marshall stack to get a
growling, overdriven sound, which became known as his trademark
and he is strongly identified with it. This organ was later
acquired by Joey DeFrancesco. Van der Graaf Generator's Hugh
Banton modified his Hammond E-100 extensively with customised
electronics, including the ability to put effects such as distortion
on one manual but not the other, and rewiring the motor. The
modifications created, in Banton's own words, "unimaginable sonic
Joey DeFrancesco has achieved critical success in the jazz genre using
both original tonewheel Hammonds and the "New B-3".
The Hammond was a key instrument in progressive rock music. Author
Edward Macan thinks this is because of its versatility, allowing both
chords and lead lines to be played, and a choice between quiet and
clean, and what Emerson described as a "tacky, aggressive, almost
distorted, angry sound." Emerson first found commercial success
with the Nice, with whom he used and abused an L-100, putting knives
in the instrument, setting fire to it, playing it upside down, or
riding it across stage in the manner of a horse. He continued to play
the instrument in this manner alongside other keyboards in Emerson,
Lake and Palmer. Other prominent Hammond organists in progressive
rock include the Zombies' and Argent's Rod Argent, Yes's Tony Kaye and
Rick Wakeman, Focus's Thijs van Leer, Uriah Heep's Ken Hensley, Pink
Floyd's Rick Wright, Kansas's Steve Walsh, and Genesis's Tony Banks.
Banks later claimed he only used the Hammond because a piano was
impractical to transport to gigs.
Ska and reggae music made frequent use of the Hammond throughout the
1960s and 1970s.
Junior Marvin started to play the instrument after
hearing Booker T & The MGs' "Green Onions", although he complained
about its weight. Winston Wright was regarded in the music scene
Jamaica as one of the best organ players, and used the Hammond when
performing live with Toots and the Maytals, as well as playing it on
sessions with Lee "Scratch" Perry, Jimmy Cliff, and Gregory
Isaacs. Tyrone Downie, best known as Bob Marley and the Wailers'
keyboard player, made prominent use of the Hammond on "No Woman, No
Cry", as recorded at the Lyceum Theatre, London, for the album
Barbara Dennerlein has been praised for her work on the Hammond's bass
Hammond organ was perceived as outdated by the late 1970s,
particularly in the UK, where it was often used to perform pop songs
in social clubs. Punk and new wave bands tended to prefer
second-hand combo organs from the 1960s, or use no keyboards at
all. Other groups started taking advantage of cheaper and more
portable synthesizers that were starting to come onto the market.
Dave Greenfield was an exception to this, and used a
Hammond onstage during the band's early career. Andy Thompson, better
known for being an aficionado of the Mellotron, stated, "the Hammond
never really went away. There are a lot of studios that have had a B-3
or C-3 sitting away in there since the 70s." The instrument
underwent a brief renaissance in the 1980s with the mod revival
movement. Taylor played the Hammond through the 1980s, first with the
Prisoners and later with the James Taylor Quartet. The sound of
the Hammond has appeared in hip-hop music, albeit mostly via samples.
A significant use is the Beastie Boys' 1992 single "So What'cha Want",
which features a Hammond mixed into the foreground (the instrument was
recorded live rather than being sampled).
Jazz, blues, and gospel musicians continued to use Hammond organs into
the 21st century.
Barbara Dennerlein has received critical acclaim for
her performances on the Hammond, particularly her use of the bass
pedals, and has modified the instrument to include samplers
triggered by the pedals.
Joey DeFrancesco embraced the instrument
during the 1990s, and later collaborated with Jimmy Smith. He is
positive about the future of the Hammond organ, saying "Everybody
loves it. It makes you feel good ... I think it's bigger now than
ever." Grammy-winning jazz keyboardist
Cory Henry learned to play
Hammond organ at age two and used it on 2016's The Revival.
List of Hammond organs
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hammond organs.
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Glen E. Nelson. "History of the Hammond B-3 organ".
The Hammond Organ on '120 Years Of Electronic Music' – includes
original patent diagrams for the instrument
"Electric Pipeless Organ Has Millions of Tones". Popular Mechanics.
No. April 1936. pp. 569–571. One of the first large,
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