Defining the Hammond sound – Drawbars and percussion


Hi folks,

In the second part of this series I want to talk about how the way you play the organ, the drawbars, the chorus and Leslie, percussion etc… together with styles and techniques effects the overall sound and perception of the sound that the audience here. As I see it the sound of the Hammond is down to the equipment, the way its played and the way its put across and having explored some of this in part 1 I would now like to look at some of the ways of playing the Organ (particularly in a Rock band style) build upon the base sound that is there.

Some of this is of course obvious, you pull a drawbar and another note feeds in, and some of it may be less obvious.

I thought I would record a couple of tracks with myXK3c, Ventilator and Hard Disk recorder with built-in drum box to illustrate a couple of points. It’s a quick recording warts and all and was done in only the two takes so forgive me but hopefully we will be able to pick up on a couple of the styles and techniques that popped into my head whilst I was in the moment.

So, here goes:

The above track is basically blues in F minor – I have deliberately not moved or moded the solo key around. The backing is an extended version of Deep Purple’s Lazy from Machine Head. All of the sounds except for the four drum patterns were created and played on the Hammond XK3c through a NEO Ventilator Leslie Simulator in the absence of a late night recording facility for my L2101.

The solo is two takes linked together at around 17 seconds and it is all improvised and its as interesting for me to dissect what came out of my brain and into my stubby fingers and why as it is to write this article. On a good day we are all winning.

I am not using a lower manual on the Hammond for this take so I have my live setup which is to split the keyboard into 2 zones with the left hand being the lower manual up to the first C. The drawbars for this are always set to 767000000 allowing me to play the basslines – which affect the sound coming from the right hand. It’s all linked!

The right hand or upper manual starts off quite similar in 887600000 but with percussion on and set to a third. Leslie is on and fast.

Leslie slows down quite quickly and initially the gaps in playing are giving the feel of the solo. The sneaky second take comes in at 16 seconds and then its one take from then on.

The song starts of with an Fminor stab. 5 seconds in and the B incidental is used in the Fminor blues scale and this is me trying to find a groove, specifically a very well-known and reassuring groove that is that of the backing tune, Lazy by Deep Purple (you probably know by now that Jon Lord is a huge influence on me and I hope he gets well and has a speedy recovery).

Nine seconds in and the building chord groove is prompted by DP’s California Jam where Lord teases us with a little bit of Lazy within one of his solos. Mix that with the organ solo from No No No on DP’s fireball where Lord playes a repeating phrase whilst changing the drawbar registrations before flying off into another part of the solo.

For a bit I’m in my own style again, I am very comfortable with F blues and the trick is to keep the feel and not race off at 100miles an hour (which I get 50/50 right!).

33 seconds in and I am holding some chords, this is for effect, waiting for inspiration and also in realisation that in a live environment its hard sometimes to hear the fast twiddly bits as the Organ reverb added with the desk reverb (that shouldn’t be there at all) plus the venue reverb. Sometimes, high chords and very visual stabs albeit audibly worse look and therefore strangely sound better.

Then at the blues turnaround which at 37 seconds what I play is a version of Lord’s huge Hammond rundown featured on his solo album “Before I Forget” particularly the song “Bach onto This”. I remember sampling this riff and then playing it an octave lower to hear what was actually going on. It was then in the late 80’s that I found the gorgeous G# to A trill on the run down, later still i found that you could play the C after, in a Fmajor triad as part of the run. Mixing these two along with hovering around the B Lazy stylee is really effective.

40 seconds in and it’s a straight rip off of Lazy whilst I get comfortable around the groove again, by about a minute in I drop into a minor scale and hold my left hand down on the upper manual to stop the percussion from triggering, this is easier than switching it on and off rapidly.

1:20 and we are into the visual stabs that I described before, looks great. Attack the keyboard and make sure you glide into and out of the correctly timed note. 1:35 similar to 1:20 but now building on it before sweeping down the keyboard with the palm of both hands like violently playing a flat harp allows you to obtain the effect from DP’s “In Rock” song “Living Wreck”. 2:39 guess what, the building riff from California Jam is back, before that was much to do with technique and speed, not always the best skills to show off in a solo (Malmsteen) but I am Hammond for Hire so…..

1:49 and the blues turnaround is a straight homage to Whitesnakes “Hot Stuff ” solo:

Now, at 2:50 another technique is creeping in. Jon Lord used this a lot, its a rhythmical way of playing the Organ. the percussion goes off, as does the dual manual split, the drawbar goes to 888000000 and the key click (which I have assigned to a control knob) goes up to max. the Leslie needs to be ON. This has to be done in a beat as the rhythm dictates that you are on top of it. Now play a drum part with left and right hands on the organ. Its more about the click than the notes. the pattern I am playing is : lrlrrlrlrlrlrr over and over again with the odd fast gliss down or, just to please lovers of DP’s first album, upwards as in Hush.

This is a double take and it plays under the next Organ solo, which is very overdriven and is showing off how good the Ventilator really is.

3:39 and for a lift I bring in the XK3c Clav sound to syncopate the 16’s and the Organ drumming and make the solo motor along. At this point I’m in my element and most of what I am playing is my standard fast blues.

At this point I’d like to say that my internet provider had gone down for 2 hours and I have lost about 200 words so I am going to have to recap.

I did go into a big spiel around 3:47 about a descending riff that works well as a warm up. It goes down the F blues, including the B, from C that drops a note every time and makes a nice little pattern so mail me for that one as it’s getting late now.

Moving on I am building up the No No No build and repeat phrases and allowing the drawbars to come out and get more pronounced and generally riff faster and faster around the three or four influences I have described.

By 4 minutes of solid soloing with only 1 punch-in my fingers are running out and its time for the fade out. So take as your homework Lazy, Hush, No No No, might just take your life, Nobody’s home, a bit of Speed King if you will and a little bit of Colin Towns (ex Gillan now writes inspector morse themes!) and you have it about right.

This is my F blues style and interestingly if it were A blues it would not be the same, there would be a little Tony Carey (ex Rainbow) in there if it was, in E there would be a little Jon Evan (Ex Jethro Tull – think Intro to Locomotive breath or first organ solo actually in C from Thick as a Brick), if it were in C definietly T-Lavitz from Dixie Dreggs and so on. Each key for me has a home and an influence as well as allowing myself to be myself.

This has been a technical blog but then its a technical subject right? I hope its not been too boring or come across like I am the beginning and end of all Hammond playing, I am not. there are plenty of excellent guys out there (and a few stinkers to be fair) so go check them out. This is just how I play and what I think influenced me in the moment to play what I did.

See you soon, the next instalment I have planned for the Hammond sound is the Leslie and mic’ing the damn thing!



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