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Hammond History

Before we enter into a discussion of the organ and its influence on modern music, it is interesting to note the most famous organ of all time, the Hammond (particularly the B3) sound is still found in mainstream pop music, was invented by a man who self-admittedly had no musical abilities and was, in fact, quite tone deaf. 

It is also of interest to note that while the names B-3 and Leslie are almost synonymous, the inventor of the Hammond organ, Laurens Hammond, hated the sound of Leslie speakers and, when asked about them, Hammond's astounding response was, "I never intended for my organs to sound that way".

The sound of the Hammond B3 formed the basis of 60's rock, blues and R&B and, while briefly dying out (or so it appeared) in the 80's,


Laurens Hammond,
sitting at a Hammond B3 organ

The sound of the organ is back in a big way, being used as a featured instrument in bands like the Black Crowes, Phish and many others. Almost every rock/pop tune had Hammond organ (usually a B-3 or some variation) featured or in the arrangement.

The B-3 went out of production in 1975 but that, and its 180-plus kilograms of weight, didn't stop musicians from using it. The sound of the B-3 still garners the attention of technical geniuses who find new and more complex ways to emulate it. Many are hoping to provide that unmistakable sound that pop music can't seem to live without in a more convenient, portable package. Hence the existence of plug-in emulations and modern day organs. Hammond now has an extensive range of these portable organs that finally satisfies the enthusiast and curious young musicians alike. 

Where did it all start?

Early Hammond Organs, invented in 1934, were promoted as "low-cost pipe organ substitutes" for churches. This is where the electronic organ began and, since a pipe organ can cost in the hundreds of thousands, contemporary organs such as the New B-3 and New B-3 portable are found in churches world-wide. In the fifties, the organ, which was previously associated with carnivals, ice-skating rinks, funerals and evangelists, found it's way into the entertainment field. While no single organist was responsible for the instrument's sudden popularity, it would be hard to find one who contributed as much as Ethel Smith. She is no relation to Jimmy Smith, the jazz keyboardist who was the first to treat the organ as a real instrument and has since made it a staple of t
he jazz style.



Jimmy Smith, possibly the most influential Hammond organ player ever

Invented in 1940 by Don Leslie, the Leslie 122 rotating speaker produces a unique blend of sound and acoustical nuance that defined the sound of rock organ, jazz organ and pop music. The Leslie rotating speaker sound also finds itself the subject of numerous emulations in synthesizers, soft synths, and in guitar effect processors, (Thanks to the musical pioneering of Jimi Hendrix). This rotating speaker is still so popular that Hammond has reproduced the classic Leslies of yesterday in their new 122XB, 21 system and the 3300. 

From the Synthesizer to the Organ...

The fertile mind of Laurens Hammond was not stagnant. He dreamed of an instrument that would produce all the sounds of an orchestra from notes generated by radio vacuum tubes. The idea was to make music resembling that of the famous dance bands of the era. From this concept sprang the, “Novachord”, introduced at the 1939 New York World Fair. It was, in essence, the world's first synthesizer. Apparently the public preferred to see a band in action and the instrument never caught on.

Another innovation to the market was the, “Solovox”, introduced by Hammond in 1940. Solovox is an electronic apparatus invented to augment a piano with the accompaniment of orchestral sounds. It generated sound with vacuum tubes, had a three-octave keyboard like the piano but was arranged so that it could be played in six octaves. It has 12 tone selectors that produced a broad range of sound effects instantly popular with piano entertainers and owners. Three models were brought out in the years from 1940-1948, after which it was discontinued.

Interestingly enough, Dr. Robert Moog of Moog Music based his original experiments in synthesizer creation on the Novachord and Hammond's tone-wheel inventions. The rest, as they say, is history.


Hammond Today...

Today, you can experience the full range of organs from the Hammond-Suzuki company here at Bernies Music Land. Hammond-Suzuki in Japan are committed to their extensive research and development department and continue to provide outstanding models. They put particular emphasis on Hammond models for stage, offering a range of keyboards and organs with authentic Hammond sound and incredible durability. The latest B-3 upgraded organ was released at the end of 2009 and still receives overwhelming response worldwide. 

Hammond New VS Old

An article from the Hammond Suzuki Company USA

O.K. You've decided to own a Hammond. Naturally, you would like to pay as little as possible. So wouldn't an older model be less expensive? Yes, it could.

But there are some disadvantages. For one thing, an older model would be at least 30 years old, maybe even 60 years old. It would feature tone wheel technology that is no longer made. So what would happen when the tone wheel or other components fail? Tooling equipment to make the tonewheels and other components of these older Hammonds does not exist. This means that the vibrato and chorus scanners, tone wheel chassis, pre-amp housings, motors, key channels, drawbar wiring, pedal pads, capacitors, contact assemblies and the keys cannot be manufactured. And the Hammond Suzuki factory does not carry any of them in stock.The only way to get a replacement part for an older Hammond is to get it from another older Hammond that still functions. And, in that case, you might as well purchase the entire organ. But that doesn't make much sense, because its components are also old and apt to fail at any time. Besides the problem of finding replacement parts for an older Hammond, you would also need to keep the organ lubricated, as well as regularly clean the busbar and vibrato-chorus scanner.New Hammond organs, on the other hand, require minimal maintenance, are more durable and are backed by limited warranties. So, should any component become defective, it can be easily replaced at no cost to you.

In addition, new Hammonds are the result of over 20 years' digital development and technological innovation. This is why new Hammonds sound, play and feel exactly like the Hammonds of old. New Hammonds also have new features that older models don't have, such as midi capability, velocity-sensitive keys, sequencing and disk drives.Another major advantage you have with new Hammonds is their lighter weight. Our New B-3, for example, weighs some 40% less than the Original B-3. And our Portable B-3 weighs even less than that, and can be set up and taken down in a couple of minutes.

From the standpoint of convenience and economics, you should definitely consider a new Hammond for yourself or your church. You won't be able to detect any difference in sound quality, playability and touch between it and an older Hammond. And you will have an instrument that is lightweight, versatile and will last for many years. And, when you buy a Hammond from Bernies Music Land, you have the exclusive service of our Hammond Technician, who is available to assist with Hammond service, support and maintenance Australia wide. We will make sure you have a lifetime of fun with your Hammond! 

If you would like to compare new Hammond models with our extensive selection of second-hand models, please visit us at Bernies Music Land today or phone (03) 9872 5122. 

The Hammond XK-3c System is a new innovation on the traditional B3 design.