Carlo de Wijs

World of Hammond organ




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In this part I’d like to show you my Modular Hammonds, my blue B3 and the A100 that functioned as prototype for all experiments. It’s a hybrid instrument, which was developed together with Sjaak van Oosterhout from Musifix and several other partners. 

I have always loved the expression capabilities of the Hammond organ. It is such an inventive instrument, even though it was designed in the first decades of the 20th Century. You could say that the Hammond was the first successful synthesizer. It inspired a lot of new designers in the music industry to introduce new ways of making music with new sounds.

Today, there are so many more ways to explore creativity. It is my personal interest to use the original Hammond craftsmanship and ways of playing the instrument and see how it could interact with present day technologies.

What will this bring us? Just sounds? New music and interdisciplinary art? More colours and expression? Only time can tell, but in the meantime, I will take you with me on this trip I call New Hammond Sound - or even, New Organ Sound.

So, on this page I will share with you the story of my instrument. Additionally, I will upload vlogs to further explain the Modular Hammond topic by topic, part by part, which you can check out here!


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

Let’s get technical

How did we design these instruments and what’s still in development?

In origin, it is still a Hammond tonewheel organ like a B3. The instruments were fully stripped down 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 real-time 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 audio-signals are divided into individual channels and routed to an audio matrix engine in which programs can make combinations of routings. For instance, the upper and lower keyboard are separated; audio inserts are added; and controllers like the wah wah pedal, an extended Leslie effect and a vocoder are implemented. The fx outboard can be analog, like all this beautiful Moogerfrooger stuff, or digital like this warm Eventide harmonizer. 

The setup is connected to an analog modular synth and modifier rack as well. Here, the Hammond tone base is used for modifying the sound. On the other side of the organ the world of tech comes in via a Macbook Pro, which controls the scripts via Max software and drives Ableton Live software. 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. The Hammond preset keys send the commands to the computer. Ableton is also the digital-clock master for the whole setup and generates scripts for the Modular setup if and when I want it to. Of course, it is possible to record into Ableton and play along with loops or interact with pre-produced content. It is also capable of using all kinds of plug ins to manipulate live sounds I record.

Last but not least, there is the organ bass section played by my feet. The Hammond pedals are modified 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 the not driving the bass sound through the Leslie and having the musical ability to play independent bass lines. A Moog Mother 32 semi modular synth with sequencer and tempo controlled by the main Ableton system are added too. You can also see a lot of pedals that can control the dynamics of the Hammond, the wah wah, filters, delays and specific controls of the other outboard gear.

The big question

The question now is: where does this bring us? All these possibilities, all these controllers, all these distracting elements?

You might think I don’t like the original Hammond sound, as I’m constantly trying to look for ways to innovate it. However, I’m still playing the Hammond organ, but I made room for a lot more opportunities to explore the sound, to control its 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 I think it’s an interesting way to search for answers while I design a sound a combine it with my musicianship, so I can do it my way.

Without comparing myself to true innovators of music like Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Joe Zawinul, Björk and others: I believe they were all open minded as well and did all kinds of experiments, which were not understood by their fanbase right away.

In order to develop this instrument, and still develop it, I got a great deal of support from 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), Akim Moiseenkov, Hidde de Jong, Tim van der Burg (all producers). Thanks all!


The making of Modular Hammond and B3

(2012 - 2017) | (2016 - 2018)