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One More Rock Organ Lesson from Keyboard Magazine

Rock Organ Credibility on the B-3

Here’s another lesson I did for Jon Regen and Keyboard Magazine back in 2011 about my favorite topic, the mighty Hammond B-3. I play so much rock organ on “Conan”, and these are some of my tricks, as best I could describe them–so much of this style is by feel and hard to explain. I think I recorded the audio examples on the set during a union break. (click here for the original article)

3 Steps To Rock Organ Cred

By Scott Healy
Sun, 1 May 2011

As a working keyboardist, sooner or later you’ll be called to strut your stuff on the mighty Hammond B-3. Blues, R&B, and rock are where much of the Hammond organ’s history began, so here’s a quick B-3 primer on getting your drawbars, Leslie (or rotary simulation), and expression pedal into high gear.

1. Spin Class

Rock Organ Cred HealyOne note can go a long way on an organ, but you have to make it fit. In Ex. 1, we play a note starting with the expression pedal at minimum, then increase the pedal slowly. Use your ear to judge how the sound mixes with the other instruments in your band or track. In this example, we’re setting up movement to the IV chord, so as your single note starts to build, pop your Leslie or rotary switch to fast, and depress the pedal. The spin of the Leslie adds volume and intensity to the crescendo. When you hit the IV, use a simple voicing and slide off with a quick glissando. This is an effective way to add musical drama without overplaying.


2. Peppered Pads


Rock Organ Cred #1 HealyEx. 2 is all about laying down pads with motion and dynamics, while also staying out-of-the-way. This works well on country or rock ballads. Hold down a note with your fifth finger and play a simple figure under it, alternating between the second and third scale degrees. This technique can often be more effective than playing all three chord notes together, as it imparts clarity. Remember to vary the dynamics using the expression pedal, and be sure to play legato. Next, try holding two chord notes—start a crescendo and flip the Leslie to fast, then immediately flip it back to slow. Now, back off the pedal as the speaker slows down. This will make the sustained pads sparkle and the chord overtones pop.

3. High Octave Octane

Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 2.02.47 PMThe high octave on a Hammond really cuts through a mix, especially when the Leslie is spinning fast. Use this move for funky riffs and rhythmic figures. In Ex. 3, we have a two-bar build into a funky E7 groove. Play the A7 chord (here with no third), and pull the expression pedal back suddenly for a sforzando effect. Then, speed up the Leslie and swell up to full volume. Next, play the groovy E7 riff, accentuating the articulation as long-short (or doo-dat). Remember—an organ isn’t velocity-sensitive, so you need to telegraph your articulation. Finally, slow down the Leslie and play a blues riff over the E7 chord.

Scott Healy is known for his on-air keyboard work with Conan O’Brien. Find out more at bluedogmusic.com. Jon Regen

*Click here if the player below doesn’t load correctly. 3 Steps To Rock Organ Cred by KeyboardMag
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