I need advise about creating Hammond B3 parts in rock music. Recently I joined to rock in an rock-n-roll band. And here's the challenge in front of me: I do not know how to arrange and create my Hammond B3 parts to make it fit.

Any advice?

1 Answer 1


First, I suggest you study the organ playing of the keyboardists for classic rock bands, including:

  • Deep Purple
  • The Doors
  • Boston
  • Booker T. and the MG's
  • Spencer Davis Group & Traffic (Steve Winwood playing B3 in both bands)
  • Emerson, Lake, & Palmer
  • A very few Led Zeppelin songs

You might also check out some great B3 players who aren't exactly rock players:

  • Jimmy Smith (IMHO the all time king of B3)
  • Robert Walter
  • Larry Young
  • Richard "Groove" Holmes
  • So many others

Some things I would start off with to just get going right away:

  • Start with the drawbars at 888 000 000 or 808 000 000 or 888 800 000 or something like that. That's a basic sound. I'd also start with percussion on, soft, short/fast, 2nd or 3rd to taste, and the C3 setting on the chorus/vibrato. I like Leslie a lot, but starting without it simplifies things. I would also have just a touch of overdrive if you can get - just enough so that it sounds mostly clean with a little dirt when you play low and/or loud.
  • Start off with power chords (5ths) doubling the guitar and/or bass. If there's a bass player in the band, lay off the bass pedals if you have them. You can figure out how to work them in once you're really grooving with the band, but without careful attention, they will likely fight with the bass guitar player.
  • Once you're comfortable with the chord changes, add flavor to the chords and/or little melody notes or riffs when there's a gap. A gap means when there isn't anything else interesting going on in the music. When the singer is singing, keep it simple. If there's a guitar solo, keep it simple. If the singer sings a line and then there's a pause in the vocals, that's a time to try a little melody (unless the guitarist is playing something interesting there). Make sure you stop playing the melody again before the singer comes back in.
  • Get a volume pedal if you don't have one and learn to use it to keep your level sitting well with the other musicians. Start off playing more quietly than you think you should and ask the band members what they think of your level after a few songs. Constantly pay careful attention to your volume compared with the other instruments and try to keep your instrument sitting well. Sometimes you should be a little louder, like if they dig your little melody notes, kick the volume up a bit when you play them, then dial it back when the singer comes back in.
  • Listen carefully and constantly to both what they other players say about your playing and what they are playing. Sometimes the best thing to do is not play at all. Other times, being barely audible is the right thing. You have to figure out when to play very percussive and fast versus holding long notes (since the organ can do both). Listening to how it's done by the players I mentioned above should give you good ideas.
  • A great answer. The volume pedal is most important. Changing between the various B3 sounds means some are more powerful, and you do need to be able to balance them against each other and the band. Hands are busy enough! A pedal to turn Leslie on/off is also a great boon. +1.
    – Tim
    Dec 24, 2018 at 7:36

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