Maybe fitting,since we're talking about the birthing of Jesus at Christmas, I was thinking about the organ. Almost every church I know has one, most likely an electronic one in the corner that gets some play on "traditional hymn" Sunday. One of the largest and most famous electronic organ makers, Hammond started to make them in 30's to replace larger traditional organs in churches. Ironic that those same organs then help birth Soul, Jazz and Gospel. Those genres eventually *birthed* Rock & Rock, with groups like Doors and Santana using them heavily.

I find it funny that now as Christian pop music is clearing taking on a rock-style, with many artist picking up electric guitars over acoustics, we don't see many artist picking up organ over the piano. (Or well that was my observation/experience. Feel free to offer you opinion.) Most church already have them there, hooked-up, ready to go in the sanctuary!

Sports venues have long used the organ to rally up the crowd. While I'm saying playing cheesy sports charge to rally up worshipers, I find it an "under-used instrument". Is the organ too intimidating? Too scared? Only allowed to be used for hymns?

(Note: Our church is going to incorporate a new Virtual Analog Synths this Sunday. Some very 80's rock style sounds. It's probably going to be a first for us. Most of the time the synth only gets a dusting if we need some choir-type pads and the odd chords. But we're going to be breaking out some 80's rock synth lines and riffs.)

So, any thoughts? Keyboard/Piano players? Closet Hammond collectors. Any rock organists out there doing rock-style worship with it? Secrets to share?

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Singaporean perspective:

Organs aren't popular over here in Singapore. Think about it, we have at best 2-3 pipe organs in churches, at the most 2 Hammonds on the entire island. That's not a lot. When we talk about organ over here, we are mainly talking about the Yamaha Electones. That's about as organ-ish as we get over here.

And because the electone as an instrument isn't popular overall (very expensive, too difficult to master) we don't have many church keyboardists who can handle the Hammond stuff. Most, I'm sorry to say, can't even do a simple piano + strings without creating a huge muddy wall of sound! At best we have people who play piano using a strings sound, do you get what I mean? :)

So that's why you don't hear much rock organ here in Singapore...

Now i LOVE rock organ! It's like the ultimate sound, you can use it to do pads, rhythmic fills and all that. But because it is so versatile, it requires the player to seriously study all those various aspects and use them tastefully (not overwhelming all the rest of the band).

Quick tips:

1) especially if you are a pianist trying to expand your playing, remember: use the sustain pedal only to hold a pad, not when doing a fill!

2) Look for notes you can keep constant even when the chords change. For example, in a C - Am - F - G chord progression, I may play the two notes C-G as a pad and keep it in the range where people aren't singing.

3) Don't pile up the notes for the pads. A Cadd2 (C, D, E, G) sounds OK on piano because the sound is thinner. But a Hammond is much thicker, so don't play that many notes next to each other. I may at the most play D, E & G (since the C is covered by the bass).

4) Simple fill that works especially for the faster songs: a gliss done with the whole hand, going down and then rising up again to the next chord. Don't try this if you're triggering the organ sound from a keyboard with weighted keys! :D

Ok, that's it from me for now... :)
Great points Jungie.

For #2, I think people under estimate the power of inversions. I found that some more classically trained pianist aren't able to pick-up bass lines as well, and often break-up a good groove by playing a root chord, rather than a inversion that preserves a good bass-line/groove.

So not just droning bass notes, but even simple ascending, descending bass lines. Playing the bass helps pick these types of things up. People should know all their inversions for maj/min chords.
For #3, especially for keyboard/synth is a great point. Some Virtual Analog keys can only handle 4-8 note polyphony. That's actually enough in the case of organ and analog synth. Sometimes it's not a full pad, but a 'lick' or a sound you're trying to get across. You got to know what sound you're going after.

Less is more. =)
For #4, a gliss! That's funny. Seems to "Jerry Lee Lewis".

I've only seen this for a good part of the sound board. Seldom see if for just a octave. That's something I've got to get our guys to try.

Whole hand? Usually think this is done with your thumb (nail) or the last 3 fingers. Do you actually drag your whole hand?
I like the smearing, screaming effect that comes from the palm on the keys. I know thumbnail is the correct, classical piano method, and that is how I'll do it for a piano sound on a weighted-keys keyboard. But when trying to simulate a Hammond? I prefer to just wipe the keyboard!

I know that sounds so off... :D
One of the most important things that you have to remember about rock organ is the Leslie speaker. The rotating speaker (or Leslie simulation in some synths) gives the Hammond B3 or C3 it's distinctive dynamics. It's best to listen to some great players with this in mind to hear what they do. Benmont Tench from the Tom Petty band is a classic example of a great rock organ player. Listen to how the dynamics of the song change as the rotation of the Leslie is speeded up or slowed down. There IS a real art to it.

Good point Al. I just brought up my favorite organ sound on my Korg and pulled out my Line MM4 and tried the Fender VirbaTone/Leslie 145 emulators. Now the samples kind of thin without the Leslie emulations.

I think the Leslie speaker does for organ what tremolo (or vibrato) does for guitars. Definitely gives the sound some '3D/depth' to the sound to thicken it up.

I think it'd be great to have the real thing, but it would suck to carry it around. I've got to pick up a better box with adjustable speed pedal (or get an expression pedal for the MM4).
We use B3-type organ on many of our charts for worship. It is a great supporting instrument. The tone quality can really compliment vocals and really helps to fill out the chords of a song. Additionally, a "screaming B3" can really RIP through an arrangement, particularly when the leslie effect is used well. I love B3's in a band and I think it really adds something to our worship band sound.

There are many times when I have our auxillary keyboardist playing B3 in the same way you would use strings. Sometimes strings are the better choice ... other times, the B3 adds just the right touch.

My favorite applications of a B3 in a worship band are to:
1. Use the screaming upper register (with leslie) during intros and extros
2. In the blank spaces between verses for some adlib just like you would use an electric guitar.
3. Mid range chordal support to help to make the sound fuller. In this application, you don't really hear the organ, but you miss it when it isn't there!

Yes! Gary, we did this last Sunday, where we took turns on songs for solos/lead riffs from the E. Organ (keyboard) or the Guitarist. It's definitely got that 'dirty' tone to it in the uppers to cut through like a guitar. We used a Virtual Analog keyboard and we use their 'distortion' setting to even make it 'grittier'.

(That Sunday set-up only had one electric guitarist (myself), so to keep the rhythm going, I pawned off a few licks and intro to the keyboardist. It's like funk or jazz! Everyone should get their turn to get in the spotlight sometimes...)
I hear plenty of Hammond B-3 sounds in contemporary Christian music. I would like to hear more - nothing beats that leslie sound when you put on the brakes at the right moment or when you accelerate it for emphasis.
I'm more talking about Sunday morning worship service in 'Church', not recorded music. From the churches in our area, while many churches have evolved to playing more contemporary music, the organ itself has been left behind. Many worship teams have incorporated electric guitar, drums and electric bass, but the organ is often left in the corner collecting dust.

This was a thread to encourage people to get new ideas to dust off the organ (which is already there and collecting dust) and 'rock-out'. Recorded artist obviously still use the organ in many songs. It's still used today by some rock groups, and as a I said before it help birth rock music.

Hmm.. sounds like I need to find a leslie emulator that has a variable speed, brakes, etc.
I have a friend that plays the organ and is awesome! He travels with it and plays in churches. It is not a huge thing either. it looks loike a large keybord with organ pedals and a moderate size piano amp. Then he instaled an electronic "gizzmo" off to the side. (it is the size of two small matchstick boxes with a toggle switch.) I asked him wat it is and he said that is is a "Leslie Emulator" and the switch controlls the speed of the emulator. It goes slow and fast bassed on the switch. I saw him messing with but never new what it was. Then I got to play with him and asked him what it was.
It sounds awesome !!! He is an outstanding player!


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