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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.)

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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.

  • 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. – user1044 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
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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.

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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.

  • 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
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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.

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The EmU B3 module is a pretty good Hammond emulator but of course you don't get the drawbars.
But if you set up lots of your favourite presets you can scroll between them.
This connects to your MIDI keyboard.
Adding rotary speaker and distortion externally can really give good results.

  • Is there not already the Leslie effect already available on an Emu B3? If not, since it's more than just part of the Hammond sound, how to get it? – Tim Jul 30 '18 at 9:49
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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.

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ORGANIZED TRÍO is the best VST, use it with your DAW (i use it with FL Studio), it comes with a demo mode window but after a few minutes playing its disappears and you can review the program and save your preset.

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Plug your keyboard into a Leslie/tremelo guitar pedal (100 bucks) or a dunlop univibe for speed control on the leslie effect. Also a guitar volume pedal, most organ players play a chord or lick and then roll off or on the volume for effect. What you won't get is drawbar settings which is like half the thing, like John medeski will hold a chord and mess with drawbars continually. But a univibe and a volume pedal will help. It will still sound like a casio organ but hey, try it out.

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Rich is right: you can't get a clone that sounds like a Hammond.

However, it only needs to sound as good as the audience's perception of what a Hammond sounds like.

I was and still am a big fan of the B4 and B4mk2 software, which IMHO beat the hell out of VB3 and most of the other software offerings available. As for hardware clones, they fall into either the older Analog keyboards -like the original BX and Cx from Korg and the Roland VK1 which have character but don't sound like a Hammond- Or the Digital Clone Wheel types, which mostly are either remodeled software or sampled. I have tried most of the Nord C2d Vk8 Vk7 Cx3mk2 and even cheaper stuff, like the Viscount DB3. I have yet to get near a HOAX or a Legend, which both look promising. I also recently stumbled across software called Blue3. I tried the demo version, and for $99, it wasn't half bad. IMO, it was better than VB3 and as good as B4 Mk2, if not better. I also tried several clones with Hammond written on them.

For small venue gigs, I use an original ventilator pedal and either B4 on a laptop or DB3, which despite its shortfalls (the vibrato and percussion being wrong) has a good basic tone, and with the Vent, it does the job. I have found that most clones will pass in the middle of the keyboard and fall down badly at the top end. And to be honest, if you're trying to emulate J DeFrancesco, then frankly anything can be passed off as a Hammond, but will come up short if you're trying to do a Stevie Windwood or an Ian Mclagen.

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So sorry, but you can't. NOTHING in the world sounds like a B-3+Leslie. I have heard ALL the so-called "electronic" and "digital" fakers, and anyone who cannot pick out a fake either is not a musician, has no ear, or simply is uninformed about a real, live B-3+Leslie sound.

You might get "close" and that may be good enough for you, but don't fool yourself. Only a B-3+Leslie sounds like a B-3. Kind of like "electronic" drums--they don't sound like drums no matter what you do.

Cheers, and keep the music going!

  • 2
    I don't agree with your assertion that somebody that cannot pick out a Hammond emulation from a B3 is not a proper musician. As such your core argument is diluted with needlessly emotive language. – ABragg May 23 '17 at 12:01

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