Hammond Model A (AV) Organ
Large format photography & Music Sound Samples
High Speed Internet recommended.

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click on each photo above for a larger full size photograph

Detailed technical photo page of the Model A & DR20 tone cabinet.

Click the play button (right facing arrow) to listen after the file begins to download.

A Perfect Song

performed on the Hammond Model A organ with PR40 tone cabinet.

by Donnie Rankin

Recorded February 11, 2010.

Hammond Model A. An important note: the AV has been "re-homed" at the Nathan Wilcox residence.

The Hammond Model A is a older organ, but has been refitted with percussion & really rocks. It is connected to a Leslie 122 & PR40 Tone Cab:

"Silent Night" - performed by Donnie Rankin

Sleighride - performed by Donnie Rankin

"It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" - performed by Donnie Rankin

Hammond Model AV & PR40 tone cab recordings:

Aba Daba Honeymoon - performed by Donnie Rankin

Donnie Rankin video recordings:

Aba Daba Honeymoon - performed by Donnie Rankin

A Perfect Song - performed by Donnie Rankin

J. Rust recordings:

Claire De Lune - Debussy, played by J. Rust

Arioso - J.S. Bach - played by J. Rust

Demonstative Audio Samples - performed on the Hammond Model A

VIDEO demo (very incomplete, but perhaps of interest). - performed on the Hammond Model A right after I first plugged it in.

VIDEO of Claire de Lune by Claude Debussy - performed on the Hammond Model A
November 19, 2007

Leslie 31H "Tallboy" speaker
Recordings and photographs of this vintage speaker connected to the Hammond AV are at The Tallboy Page

iPhone video version of Claire de Lune

Click on link to open in a new window to download.
iPhone required presumeably (I don't have one but if you do and this works on it ok let me know!!!!!!

History of the Hammond A

This particular Hammond Model A has been upgraded at somepoint to a model AV which means a scanner vibrato chorus was added which is demonstrated in the various files above.

Model A organs did not come with the scanner vibrato, instead either using a rotating baffle that went around a speaker in the original tone cabinet to produce a tremulant affect or via a Tremulant affect that was made by amplitude adjustment (rapidly raising and lowering the volume of the organ to a varying degree adjusted by a knob on the console.

There are photos of the Chorus Vibrato on the detailed photo page link above.

Laurens Hammond

In January 1934 American engineer and inventor Laurens Hammond, filed a US patent (number 1,956,350) for a new type of 'electrical musical instrument' that recreated a pipe organ-type sound. The invention was unveiled to the public in April 1935, and the first model, the Model A, was available from June of the same year. A number of models were developed over the next twenty years, but none were as well-known and widely used as the models that came out in 1955: the B-3 and C-3 models. Along with the A-100, produced in 1959, this trio of Hammond Organs all share similar sound-producing mechanics inside slightly different shells. Over the five decades since these classic organs were originally sold, Hammond Organs have undergone many changes to the original design, both cosmetically and in their tone generation methods.

Laurens Hammond

The Hammond Organ was widely used in United States military chapels and post theatres 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 intended his invention to be a substitute for pipe organs, a replacement for the piano in middle-class homes, and for use by radio stations. For the first few years this was what happened, but by the 1950s, jazz musicians such as Jimmy Smith began to use the organ's distinctive sound. In the 1960s the Hammond became popular with pop groups and was used on the British pirate station Radio 390. In Britain 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 1960's and 1970s rock and early heavy metal bands such as Procol Harum, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin.

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. As in Thaddeus Cahill's earlier Telharmonium, the Hammond organ's individual waveforms were made by mechanical tonewheels which rotated beneath 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.


The component waveforms can be mixed in varying ratios by using drawbars mounted above the two keyboards. The drawbars are small sliding bars with knobs that are literally drawn and pulled toward the organ's console. They operate like the faders on an audio mixing board, allowing the performer to vary the volume of each note's fundamental tone, the octave below it, and some of the octaves and harmonics above it. The player can modify their settings in real-time, that is, while playing a song. The resulting combination creates a unique timbre. Famous organ players are often associated with particular combinations, which become their signature sound, such as Jimmy Smith's 88800000 registration.

Percussion and "Key Click"

Another facet of the distinctive sound of the Hammond is the harmonic percussion effect, in which the 2nd and 3rd harmonic tones can be added to the attack envelope of a note. On most Hammond organs, particularly the B3 and its cousins (C3, RT3, A series etc....) the percussion harmonic settings were a "one-or-the-other" choice (you could only choose 2nd or 3rd harmonic, but not both). Some later models allowed the player to activate both harmonics simultaneously. Those harmonics then quickly fade out leaving the tones which the player has selected using the drawbars. Older Hammond models such as those produced before the B-3 do not have the harmonic percussion feature. Popular examples are the B2 and C2. Aftermarket percussion can be added using devices from Trek II. 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, some 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.


Main article: Leslie speaker

The classic way of amplifying the sound of a Hammond organ is to use a rotating speaker, originally called a 'Crawford' speaker, but subsequently known as a Leslie speaker or cabinet. Hammond originally marketed their own line of amplified speakers (called tone cabinets) which did not feature rotating speakers, but even though some well-known Hammond players used them. Hammond originally disapproved of the Leslie speaker, and tried to prevent dealers selling them for use with their organs. Eventually Hammond relented and the now classic combination became 'official'.

In a Leslie speaker, sound is emitted by a rotating horn over a stationary treble driver and a rotating baffle beneath a stationary bass woofer. The resulting sonic characteristics are likened to a small-scale Doppler effect, but were intended by Leslie to simply resemble the constantly shifting source of sound among a large group of pipe organ ranks. The rotation speed can be toggled by a console-based manual or pedal switch between fast or slow to provide tremolo or chorus effects, respectively. Many Leslie cabinets used a tube (also known as valve) amplifier, which gave the Hammond's tone a warm, naturally overdriven sound, which could be varied from a mild 'purr' to a heavy 'growl'. Other features added to Hammond organs included an electromechanical vibrato and, by the late 1950s, a "spring reverb" effect which simulated the reverberation of a large church hall.

Keyboards and pedalboard

The lightweight construction of the waterfall-style keyboard for the upper manuals allows for very rapid passages to be executed with more ease than on a weighted keyboard, such as a piano or pipe organ. The shape of the keys makes effects such as palm glissandos possible.

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 of the bass clef) as the top note (see AGO pedalboard). Instead, to reduce the cost of the instrument, or the size of the bass pedalboard, 25-note (with a C on the 1st leger line of the bass clef as the top note) or 30-note (with an F on the 2nd leger line of the bass clef as the top note) bass pedalboards are 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."

Types of Hammond organs

The model B-3 was - and remains - the most popular Hammond model amongst musicians. Its popularity was such that many customers refused to buy anything but a B3. Traders would often tell customers, who usually could not tell the difference from one organ to another, that the organ they were selling them was a B3, regardless of whether or not it actually was. The C-3 and A-100 models are similarly popular, as they have same internals in different cabinets. In addition, the A-100 has built-in speakers. In categorizing Hammond organ types it is useful to divide them by the way their sound generation mechanisms; the three categories are electromechanical, electronic, or both. Tonewheel organs use a series of toothed wheels which spin near an electromagnetic pickup to generate sound. Electronic tone generation uses solid state oscillator circuits.

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 that have two 44 note manuals such as the M, L, and T series. The production of tonewheel organs stopped in the early to 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.

Hammond tonewheel organs are preferred among most enthusiasts, the most popular models also having tube amplifiers. Some of the later Hammond models combine tonewheel generation with solid state amplifiers, with the latest models of that era being fully solid state. Hammond is now owned by Suzuki Company. Hammond-Suzuki now makes organs using digital technology that very closely replicate the tonewheel organ sound. (See "Clones" below)

The "V" series such as the Hammond "Cadette" were starter organs. They were made for first-time organ players, and as such, had no drawbars. The theory was that beginning organists could learn on it and buy a better organ later. Like a spinet organ, there were two offset manuals with an octave range pedal board and an expression pedal. The sound produced by these organs was different than 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 was located at the far left), Synchro Start, and a volume and tempo knob. There were two tabs for vibrato (Light and Full). This series was not built by Hammond but by Yamaha for Hammond.


The Hammond B-3 organ (often referred to simply as "the B-3") is the most famous of the Hammond Organs. While it was originally produced to be a portable alternative to permanently-installed types of church organs, it was widely used in non-church settings. In the first decades after its introduction, the B-3 was used as a theatre organ, to provide live music between feature films or perform music at ice rinks. 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 was widely used in rock bands ranging from Latin-rock groups such as Santana to progressive rock groups such as Procol Harum, Yes, Styx, Kansas, and Pink Floyd, to blues-rock groups such as The Allman Brothers Band and Deep Purple.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the B-3 continued to be used by bands from a range of styles, including 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, the latter having his tuned by Goff Professional. 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 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 recreation 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 argues that it would be difficult for even an experienced B-3 player to distinguish between the old and new B-3 organs. Hugh Robjohns' review in the recording magazine 'Sound on Sound' called the New B-3 "a true replica of an original 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 Jimmy's death. Hammond-Suzuki went on to release a portable version of the New B-3 (pictured) as well as a new version of the C-3 model.

Performance techniques

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 specific 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 your 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 Z...who thought that getting organ-ized would be a snap...Z realized that the Z... B-3 required not only a strong left hand, but killer coordination on those [bass] foot pedals to really get the bass groove percolating."[2] 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 in the bass pedalboard. Currently, jazz organists such as Ken Clark and Barbara Dennerlein are able to perform fast-moving basslines on the bass pedalboard.

Many jazz organists from the 1950s/1960s era and from more recent decades 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. Some early emulation devices were criticized for their unrealistic imitation of the Hammond sound, particularly in the way the upper harmonics were voiced, and in the simulation of the rotary speaker effect. Refinements to Hammond emulations eventually led to the development of relatively light electronic keyboard instruments such as the Roland VK-7 and the Korg BX-3 and CX-3 (and even Hammond-Suzuki's own XB-2/XB-5 models) that 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 an accurate 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 of the characteristics of the vintage Hammonds, such as the "crosstalk" or "leakage" between the tonewheels, and digital simulations of the rotating Leslie speaker cabinet's sound.

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." In between are numerous models, most of them excellent, 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, leakage of tonewheels, dirty contacts, type of tubes- just about any variable can be accommodated, though many aficionados consider them (whether rightly or wrongly) inferior to a real Hammond. An article entitled Clonewheel Heaven in Keyboard Magazine that reviewed electronic simulations of the traditional Hammond sound claimed that some aspects of the vintage electromechanical Hammonds' sound are not accurately reproduced by clones and emulation devices.

Pop Culture

The sound of 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 also a key part of the mystical soundscape of the great 1967 Procol Harum classic, "A Whiter Shade of Pale" , in the famous Bach like introductory measures contributd by organist Matthew Fisher (who actually played an M-100 on the famous recording). 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. Hammond organs are also widely used in 1970s progressive rock music bands such as Pink Floyd's Rick Wright (First on a Hammond M-100, and later on a C-3); Emerson, Lake and Palmer's Keith Emerson; Genesis's Tony Banks (a Hammond L-122 and later a Hammond T-100); and Yes' Rick Wakeman. The Hammond C-3 essentially was used to deliver vocal-style melody lines on albums like Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

In several sketches by Monty Python's Flying Circus Terry Gilliam plays a nude Organist who provides a fanfare on a Hammond L100 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 insisitng on first spending some time serenading them with a selection of tunes played on said organ.

Arnold Rimmer (from the BBC TV series Red Dwarf) is a big fan of Hammond Organ music; he is particularly fond of an artist by the name of Reggie Wilson, whose Hammond Organ albums include "Lift Music Classics" and "Funking up Wagner". Rimmer has also taught the Skutters to play the Hammond Organ; every Wednesday night is "Amateur Hammond Organ Recital Night". It should be noted that none of the other crew of the Red Dwarf particularly enjoy Rimmer's taste in music.


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