Carlo de Wijs

World of Hammond organ



In this part I’d like to show you my Modular Hammond hybrid instrument which was developed with Sjaak van Oosterhout from Musifix and several other partners. 

From the beginning I loved the expression capabilities of the Hammondorgan, it’s such an inventive instrument even it was designed in the first decades of the 20th Century.

You could say that the Hammond was the first succesfull synthesizer and it inspired a lot of new designers in music industry to introduce new ways of making music with new sounds. I just have to mention the Moog or Arp synthesizers, digital technology, sampling and software based innovations. At this moment there are so many ways the explore your creativity and my interest is to use the original Hammond craftmanship and ways of play the instrument to interact with this technologies.

What will it bring us? Just sounds? New music and interdisciplined art? More colors and expression? Time will tell us, but in the meantime I take you with me on the trip I call New Hammond Sound.

People like the French organist Eddie Louiss and keyboardist Joe Zawinul from Wheather Report were a big inspiration for me. They developed a non traditional approach to their music, bands and instruments by integrate high quality craftmanship, original composing and live performance. Their sound will be recognized immediately.

How did we design this instrument and what’s still in development?

In origin it’s still a Hammond tonewheel organ like a B3 or A100. The instrument was fully stripped by Hammond maestro technician Sjaak van Oosterhout at Musifix and rebuilt from the ground. The tonewheels are separated from the furniture to generate some room for new technology. All the sounds you’ll here are realtime based on the original Hammond tonewheel sound and combined with the modified sound. The combination of those is routed back through the tube pre amplifier inside the organ and to the Leslie speaker. An extra midi keyboard is added and all keys, drawbars and other controllers will send midi data.

The audiosignals are divided into individual channels and routed to a audiomatrix engine in which programs can make combinations of routings. For instance upper and lower keyboard are separated, 6 lines of audio inserts are added and controllers like wah wah pedal, an extended Leslie effect and vocoder are implemented. The fx outboard can be analog, like all this beautiful Moogerfrooger stuff or digital like this warm Eventide harmonizer. A Mac computer controls via Max software the scripts which can be pre designed in which the routings are programmed. The Hammond preset keys send the command to the computer.

The setup is also connected to an analog modular synth and modifier rack and also here the Hammond tone base is used for modifing the sound. On the other side the world of tech comes in with a Macbook Pro driving Ableton Live software and their Push2 controller. Ableton is used to play samples from my original Hammond B3 which I recorded in this studio. It can be combined with the live Hammond sound per manual. Ableton is also the digitalclock master for the whole setup and generates scripts for the Modular setup if I want. Of course it’s possible to record into Ableton and play along with loops or interact with pre produced content. It’s also capable of using all kinds of plug ins to manipulate live sounds I record.

Last but not least ther’s the organ bass section played by my feet. The Hammond pedals are midified and I use a Moog Voyager synthesizer to play the basic bass sounds. These are amplified through a high end bass amp and speaker. This because of not drivinging the bass sound through the Leslie and have the musical ability to play independent bass lines. A Moog Mother 32 semi modular synth with sequenser is added and tempo controlled by the main Ableton system.

You see also a lot of pedals to control the dynamics of the Hammond, wah wah and specific controls of the other outboard gear.

Where does it bring us? All these possabilities, all these controllers, all these distracting elements?

I can easily understand that you think I’m a Hammondsound fan, but please play the instrument as original as possible!

My answer will be: I’m still playing the Hammondorgan, but with a lot more ways to explore the sound, to control it’s spectrum, to find unusual combinations, to inspire myself and others. Will this change the way we look at the instrument? I don’t know, but think it’s an intesting way to search for answers and at last the design a sound combined with my musicianship to do it my way. Without comparing myself with true innovators of music like Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Joe Zawinul, Björk and others: I believe they also were open minded and did all kinds of experiments which not were understood by their fanbase immediately.

Next stories will zoom in into several topics of music, the instrument, the sound and more.

A great deal of support I welcome in development of my hybrid Hammond Instrument concept by Sjaak van Oosterhout (Musifix), Jeroen van Iterson (MusicTech), Bart Hilberink (Amptec, Moog), Ake Danielson (modular synthesis), Menno Keij (Ableton setup design), Jan van der Gaag (Ableton Benelux), Ad & Bram Bouwens (transport system), Maarten's Sound & Vision (Lammert, Jasper and Jelte), Theo Janssen (Tjamp), Job van Nuenen (StudioBeneden).

The making of Modular Hammond (2012 - 2017) and B3 (2016 - 2018)