Sign up ×
Music: Practice & Theory Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for musicians, students, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have a keyboard. It can play the basic MIDI sounds. I would like it to have a Hammond organ sound. Since I'm not sure if I can upload new sounds to its MIDI bank, I'm looking for a way to 'effect' my keyboard, so it would sound like a Hammond organ while I'm playing. I do not wish to record what I play, I need this live.

The keyboard has MIDI input/output, so I'm thinking about a setup like this: I connect the MIDI output to my laptop, and the laptop sound output to the amplifier. And as I play, the sound actually comes from the laptop sounding like a Hammond organ. Is there a software to do this, or any other method? (Preferably a free one, but I don't mind paying for it either.)

share|improve this question
I rewrote it to be a little clearer and less like a shopping recommendation, hope that's OK. Welcome to the site! – Matthew Read Aug 15 '11 at 14:47
This question would be better suited to the "Audio-Video Production" site at It is really a question about an application of computer technology, and not a question of "Musical Practice and Performance". I do not have the authority to move this question to another forum site; perhaps there is an administrator here who does. – Wheat Williams Aug 15 '11 at 17:39
Thank you. I was really trying to express myself as good as could. Sorry if it came out wrong! – Tenshiko Aug 15 '11 at 18:24
You may find it worthwhile reading a brief introduction to MIDI – RedGrittyBrick Jul 17 '12 at 13:06

5 Answers 5

Well, one thing to note is that you are planning to use this live and presumably in settings with an audience of less than 1000.

Most answers here focus on getting the best kind of Hammond sound (or actually any) for recordings or a P.A. The least-effort answer for that is to get a keyboard/expander with a good Hammond sound.

But there is another consideration I have not seen mentioned here yet, and that is that an essential part of what is perceived as "the Hammond sound" is a rotating Leslie speaker. "The Hammond sound" on its own is supposed to be a "portable" electromechanic substitute for a church organ. And it looks like one, too, so the Hammond organ players in rock bands tend to look quite out of style with their living-room furniture-style organ.

With regard to the sound, the rotating Leslie speaker makes most of the difference, and here is the main thing: you cannot accurately record and replay a Leslie. Nothing sounds like a live Leslie speaker in reasonable vicinity. You can perfectly replicate a recording of a Leslie speaker. And the sound of a Leslie speaker from far away is also static enough (namely not interacting with the listeners' head movements in complex ways) that you don't lose much by putting it through a recording, mixer, and/or PA.

But for a smallish live audience, the Leslie cabinet will be what you want in order to be in style. The Hammond organ driving it can be reasonably replaced with electronic or digital substitutes without affecting the listeners much (of course, as a player having the full console or not is making things feel different).

Now that's still bulkish and heavy vintage equipment we are talking about, but considerably less so than a genuine Hammond organ itself.

share|improve this answer

Get a cheap MIDI to USB cable, to connect the keyboard to the laptop. Then look for a suitable software synth that will give you the sounds you're after, (amongst other features).

Alternatively (and more costly) get a MIDI "sound module" which has Hammond organ sounds - this is hardware, and you won't need the laptop. The sound module connects directly to the keyboard via a MIDI cable but it will also need some amplification on it's output.

share|improve this answer

I was pretty happy with the organ sounds from the Boss 'Dr. Rhythm-Section'. It only had 4 or 5 organ choices, but they all sound good (and only one was "churchy"). It can be used as a MIDI module (as the sound-generator connected by MIDI to a keyboard controller).

I've also seen drawbar controllers available but I don't know how (well) they work.

More generally, I'd recommend a stand-alone midi sound module. Hardware, all "in the box". A virtual one is cheaper, but it ties you to the computer.

share|improve this answer
Stand-alone MIDI sound modules are good in that they don't have the latency problems you so often get with PC USB based solutions. However PC-based Virtual instruments have the virtue of cheapness (assuming you already have the laptop) – RedGrittyBrick Jul 17 '12 at 13:02

The obvious solution is indeed to use a hammond plugin on a laptop, but you will need a good audio interface to use this live because otherwise you will either not get the latency low enough or risk audio dropouts. The more trouble-free solution is a hardware expander module specialized for hammond organ.

share|improve this answer

This is a deep subject. I can tell from your initial question (before we edited it) that you are unfamiliar with the concepts involved with using a MIDI controller keyboard with a computer, with virtual software instruments, and with interfacing the audio output of a computer with a PA system or amplifier. You need to learn about all these concepts.

You need to purchase a virtual software instrument that emulates a Hammond.

You also need to get an understanding of how MIDI controller keyboards work, a USB MIDI interface, and an external audio interface for a computer. Then there's the question of Mac versus PC, and whether or not your computer has the necessary hardware specifications to support virtual software instruments and professional-quality audio output.

Meanwhile, back to the Hammond question. There are many software programs that can do this, far too many to mention.

Apple Logic Studio has a tremendously accurate re-creation of a Hammond organ, among many, many other features. Of course it costs money.

LinPlug Organ 3 just does Hammond sounds.

Native Instruments Vintage Organs might suit your needs.

share|improve this answer
The Garageband "Hammond" isn't too bad, either. – Joe McMahon Sep 1 '11 at 23:04
The GarageBand Hammond is pretty good, but you can't control individual drawbar settings, which is what a real Hammond player requires. – Wheat Williams Sep 2 '11 at 0:04
I may be reading too much into the original poster's question, but I got the impression that the request was for a B3-ish organ sound, with the percussive attack and Leslie, not that the poster was thinking drawbars at all. Agreed that if you want to be able to really tweak the sound in a Hammond-like way, you really need the drawbars! – Joe McMahon Sep 5 '11 at 2:32

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.